2020 Lexus IS

2020 Lexus IS
2020 Lexus IS Rear Angle View
2020 Lexus IS Steering Wheel

2020 Lexus IS Review: The Velvet Sweatsuit Of Sport Sedans

To paraphrase an old adage, the Lexus IS's body writes checks its powertrain can't cash. It certainly looks the part of a sport sedan with its aggressive styling, especially when dressed up in its F Sport apparel. But even with three engines on offer, ranging from a 241-horsepower turbo four-cylinder to a 311 hp V6, the sedan doesn't have the power of more performance-oriented competitors in the US like the BMW 3 Series M Performance sedans. Nor does it have the same level of handling, although the F Sport models can still be quite fun around the odd bend in the road. Still, the Lexus offers quite a decent list of features, especially when it comes to safety. While it may not be the high-performance thriller it tries to be, the new Lexus IS is still an enjoyable luxury sedan with a well-appointed and comfortable interior that should earn it some consideration from buyers who value luxury with a smattering of adventure.

Read in this review:

  • Exterior Design 8 /10
  • Performance 7 /10
  • Fuel Economy 7 /10
  • Interior & Cargo 7 /10
  • Infotainment & Features 6 /10
  • Reliability 10 /10
  • Safety 9 /10
  • Value For Money 7 /10
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2020 Lexus IS Changes: What’s The Difference vs The 2019 IS?

The 2020 Lexus IS is available in a limited (900 units) Blackline Edition. On these custom models, the grille and wheels received Black accenting, while the steering wheel, door panels, and dashboard elements receive Indigo Blue accenting. After February 2020, Liquid Platinum and Redline will be dropped from the available color palette.

Pros and Cons

  • Head-turning aesthetic
  • Refined driving dynamics
  • Comfortable ride quality
  • Plenty of driver-assistance features
  • High-quality interior
  • Clumsy infotainment
  • Middling fuel economy
  • Unenergetic acceleration
  • No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto

What’s the Price of the Lexus IS?

The price of the Lexus IS is pretty high, most likely because of its long list of standard features, but its top-most trims are cheaper than those of most luxury rivals. Getting behind the wheel of the entry-level IS 300 will cost you a somewhat hefty $38,560, while the AWD model adds $2,450. The IS 300 F Sport will set you back $41,755, while its AWD variant adds $2,050 to the MSRP. The standard IS 350 asks for $42,180, and the F Sport variant hikes the pricing up to $45,375. The most expensive standard option is the IS 350 F Sport AWD, at $46,710. These prices exclude the Lexus IS's cost for tax, registration, licensing, and the manufacturer's destination charge of $1,025.

Best Deals on 2020 Lexus IS

2020 Lexus IS Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
IS 300
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
IS 300 AWD
3.5L V6 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
All-Wheel Drive
3.5L V6 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
All-Wheel Drive
IS 350
3.5L V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
See All 2020 Lexus IS Trims and Specs

Handling and Driving Impressions

The Lexus IS advertises itself as a sports sedan, but it simply cannot live up to the promises its aggressive styling makes. That's not to say it's a boring drive, but you'll never be fully satisfied like you would be in a more refined performance vehicle like the BMW 3 Series.

While it may not be overly quick, the IS sedan is quite composed on the road. It handles well enough, even at speed, but you'll push up against its limits a lot sooner than you would in rivals. However, those boundaries broaden quite a bit when you opt for one of the trims equipped with the F Sport kit.

Handling is significantly improved with the addition of an F Sport adaptive suspension and a limited-slip rear differential, which allows power to be redistributed to the wheel with the most grip, making high-speed maneuvers around sharp bends much safer and more enjoyable. The fact that these improvements don't negatively impact ride comfort much is impressive. And ride comfort is one of the Lexus' strongest points, showing its deference to luxury over pure performance.

Wind and road noise are minimal, thanks to a well-dampened, well-built cabin, and the V6 engine actually sounds quite nice when put through its paces.

Verdict: Is the 2020 Lexus IS A Good car?

There isn't anything particularly wrong with the Lexus IS. It is a luxurious sedan with an upscale interior, plenty of advanced driver-assistance features, and impressive ride comfort. However, the IS advertises itself as a BMW 3 Series alternative, and it simply doesn't live up to those claims in terms of power and handling dynamics. In fact, the 3 Series, and other German rivals like the Audi A4, offer better fuel economy, utility, and reliability, too.

Dressed in its F Sport guise, the Lexus aspires to compete with performance variants of luxury sedans like the BMW 3 Series M Performance models, but it is sorely lacking in power with a 311-hp V6 engine being its most powerful option. And while the F Sport accouterments do improve handling quite a bit, they do not uplift the Lexus to the same level as the German road royalty.

It's true that a fully decked out Lexus IS won't cost you as much as a high-tier BMW or Audi, but a test drive will quickly enlighten you to the fact that you get what you pay for. So don't expect the Japanese sedan to offer the same levels of performance or fun. And, if you're looking at the luxury segment, don't you want to get your money's worth? You may be better off looking at a European brand if you want a high-performance luxury sedan.

What Lexus IS Model Should I Buy?

If looks and comfort are more important to you than performance, then the base IS 300 F Sport should do the trick. It receives all the features that come standard on the base IS 300, as well as upgraded front seats, and a more attractive exterior. However, you will be stuck with one of the lower-power engines. But the Lexus IS only really impresses when equipped with the 311-hp V6 engine, so we suggest aiming for the top, if you're not concerned about how much you spend and purchasing the fully-loaded IS 350 F Sport. This model gets all the available F Sport upgrades that allow it to make good on the high-performance promises its appearance espouses - at least, in part.

2020 Lexus IS Comparisons

BMW 3 Series Sedan BMW
Lexus ES Lexus

2020 Lexus IS vs BMW 3 Series Sedan

The Lexus IS advertises itself as a sport sedan, but when placed beside a car from the manufacturer that basically set the benchmark, it falls horribly short of that line. The 3 Series from BMW is the very definition of what a sport sedan should be; it is powerful with either a 255-hp turbo four-cylinder or 382-hp turbocharged inline-six, offers peerless handling dynamics, and outfits itself with a high-quality luxury interior. It also has a more spacious interior, with better rear seats and a larger trunk and better fuel economy. Overall, there is no area where the Lexus IS really beats the German sedan. Yes, its base price may be a bit cheaper, but you get a lot more bang for your buck from the BMW, so we really can't recommend it over the 3 Series.

See BMW 3 Series Sedan Review

2020 Lexus IS vs Lexus ES

The Lexus ES is the larger brother the IS, and it doesn't try to be anything other than what it is: a large, luxurious cruiser. It offers a single engine option well-suited to its needs: a 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V6 engine that develops 302 hp and 267 lb-ft paired with a front-wheel drivetrain only. The larger sedan is all about powerful cruising, jetting down highways without even feeling like you're moving, but it can't handle curves the way the IS can. It has a much more spacious and opulent interior, a larger trunk, and even gets better fuel economy. If you want a bit of a thrill out of your drive, the IS will appeal to you, but if you want to arrive at your destination feeling like you never left the comfort of your lounge, the ES is the sedan for you.

See Lexus ES Review
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