2018 Lexus IS 350 new car reviews

Despite some manufactures shifting away from sedans (hello, Ford?) Lexus has been fleshing out their IS line. Here, we’re going to crib from their official media site:

“The 2018 IS 300 and IS 350 are available in RWD and AWD. Both offer an F SPORT model that further revs up the bold style and handling agility.

“The IS 300, in RWD form, features a 2.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine with intercooler. This super-smooth powerplant produces 241 hp and quickly builds up a wide torque plateau of 258 lb.-ft. from 1,650-4,400 rpm. Variable Valve Timing intelligent – Wide (VVTi-W) allows the engine to switch between the Otto and Atkinson combustion cycles to maximize efficiency. The D-4ST fuel injection system combines a high-pressure direct fuel injection system with a low-pressure port-injection system.

“The IS 300 RWD comes equipped exclusively with the eight-speed Sport Direct Shift (SPDS) automatic transmission that integrates advanced G-force Artificial Intelligence (G-AI) system to choose gears intuitively. Steering wheel paddle shifters are also available for those who prefer to shift for themselves.

“For those seeking all-season grip, Lexus offers the IS 300 AWD model with a 260 hp, 3.5-liter V6 producing 236 lb.-ft. torque at 2,000-4,800 rpm. The electronically controlled all-weather drive system, also available for IS 350 models, is designed to help enhance traction and grip under most driving conditions by automatically varying front-to-rear torque distribution from 50:50 to as much as 30:70. The AWD models use a six-speed automatic transmission. The IS 350 delivers dazzling performance from a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 311 hp and 280 lb.-ft. of peak torque. The RWD model uses the eight-speed Sport Direct Shift automatic transmission.”

New for 2018:

• Enform Safety Connect Complimentary for First 10 Years of Ownership.
• Enform Service Connect Complimentary for First 10 Years of Ownership.
• Available Comfort Package includes Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert.
• Backup Camera standard on all models.
• Adaptive Front Lighting System Available.
• Five Horsepower Increase (IS 300 AWD, IS 350 RWD and IS 350 AWD).
• Limited Slip Differential (IS 350 RWD with F SPORT only).

Our test car was a rear-drive IS 350. Base MSRP is $41,830, while options boosted it up to $48,509. The biggest ones were the navigation and Mark Levinson audio system ($2835); Comfort Package that included lots of power accessories ($1220); and Intuitive Parking Assist ($500).

Other staff views

David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

I’ve been a fan of the IS since that first one, especially back when you could get one with a stick and as a wagon–not at the same time, however. So, does the IS continue to serve as a BMW 3 Series alternative?

The pluses? Super-smooth, eight-speed automatic transmission that works pretty well in the manual mode. (But, really, how often do people use that mode?) Plenty of power for its class–meaning a family sedan that’s kinda sporty.

What does transform the car, however, is the Sport mode. Twist the knob to the right to liven up things. Really, it became my default setting. On the highway, yeah, you don’t need it. Around town, it should turn on automatically.

If you have spent time with Lexus products, the GPS controls are easy to use. If not, the joystick will take a few minutes to figure out. (It’s not that hard.)

I think the latest IS looks great, too, but the seats felt a little flat. I’d love a bit more side support. The seats look great, but they just felt flat.

The IS isn’t a track car, but it’s comfortable and sporty enough for the masses. So, is it still a worthy alternative to the BMW?

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Vigo
Vigo UltimaDork
6/8/18 3:53 p.m.

I'm sitting here wondering how bad they had to intentionally screw up the 3.5L to make it make only 260hp. That's less than they made when they launched in Camrys 12 years ago. 

Changing the name from IS200t to IS300 probably doesn't change the fact that this car in 2.0T form provides very underpar acceleration compared to everyone else and their mother's 2.0Ts, even Hyundai/Kia (which are also underperformers). 7+ sec 0-60, 89mph 1/4 mile. In a luxury car? $38,000ish? Hmm. An ATS 2.0T is pretty sprightly and i wonder if the Lexus 2.0 gains 100hp with a tune as the BMW 320 does.

I really like the interior on the current IS. I think the temp sliders on the HVAC controls are especially fun.

eastsideTim
eastsideTim UltraDork
6/8/18 3:57 p.m.

Sounds like you got to test the one I’d want if I were willing to spend the money on a new one.  RWD without the F-Sport is my preference (well, I’d skip the Levinson sound system, too).  I really like the IS, but almost every modern one sold near me is either AWD, or has the F-Sport (read way too harsh for a luxury car) suspension.

irish44j
irish44j UltimaDork
6/8/18 5:50 p.m.
Vigo said:

I'm sitting here wondering how bad they had to intentionally screw up the 3.5L to make it make only 260hp. That's less than they made when they launched in Camrys 12 years ago. 

 

Seriously, Nissan's VQ35 cars (Maxima, Altima, Z, G35, etc) were putting out 265-280 reliable horsepower back in 2002....that's 16 years ago~!

In my recent new-car browsing I had thoughts of an IS series as something that is RWD/AWD and figures to be reliable.... I would be willing to overlook the hideous grilles on these things if only they came with three pedals. But none of the new ones appear to, so on to "next brand" I go.

MoshPit
MoshPit None
6/12/18 2:59 p.m.
Vigo said:

I'm sitting here wondering how bad they had to intentionally screw up the 3.5L to make it make only 260hp. That's less than they made when they launched in Camrys 12 years ago. 

That's the AWD IS300 model.  The regular IS350 makes 311 hp.

Duke
Duke MegaDork
6/12/18 3:19 p.m.
Vigo said:

I'm sitting here wondering how bad they had to intentionally screw up the 3.5L to make it make only 260hp. That's less than they made when they launched in Camrys 12 years ago. 

Changing the name from IS200t to IS300 probably doesn't change the fact that this car in 2.0T form provides very underpar acceleration compared to everyone else and their mother's 2.0Ts

Cheebus, DW's middle-age-mobile S60 makes 240 hp out of a 2.0T, with almost 260 lbs of torque to match, from 1500 rpm.

[edit] Missed that part of the original post.  That's in line with what Lexus's 2.0t makes.  But the Volvo is about 6.2 seconds 0-60.

 

The Lexus identity styling is cleaned up a lot here, but they still need to lose that goblin shark face and get the proportions under control.

Kreb
Kreb UberDork
6/12/18 9:12 p.m.

Hasn't some detuning been necessary to meet smog regs? I remember someone talking about how the powerhouse NA Honda 4 cylinders of a few years ago wouldn't make the cut right now.

Also, peak figures never tell the whole tale. On a luxury sports sedan like the IS I could see tehm tuning for broader, flatter curves over max outputs. 

Vigo
Vigo UltimaDork
6/12/18 10:52 p.m.

I remember someone talking about how the powerhouse NA Honda 4 cylinders of a few years ago wouldn't make the cut right now.

 Funny you should mention that. The current Accord has a 2.0T as well.. it hits 0-60 in 5.7. The base engine is a 1.5L turbo that runs the 1/4 mile at... 89mph.  So the base Lexus is as fast as an Accord with a Civic engineblush. A 4cyl  Camry is slightly faster in a 1/4 mile even with no turbo. That list could probably go on.

Accord's previous non-turbo 4cyl Accord base model was as fast as the old Prelude (top dog 4cyl honda when launched), which coincidentally also means it was as fast as a new $38,000 Lexus. 

I get that speed isn't everything, but I also feel like a truly premium product shouldnt be so objectively underpar when compared with much cheaper products that have even less sporting pretensions.

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
6/13/18 7:29 a.m.
Vigo said:

I'm sitting here wondering how bad they had to intentionally screw up the 3.5L to make it make only 260hp. That's less than they made when they launched in Camrys 12 years ago. 

Changing the name from IS200t to IS300 probably doesn't change the fact that this car in 2.0T form provides very underpar acceleration compared to everyone else and their mother's 2.0Ts, even Hyundai/Kia (which are also underperformers). 7+ sec 0-60, 89mph 1/4 mile. In a luxury car? $38,000ish? Hmm. An ATS 2.0T is pretty sprightly and i wonder if the Lexus 2.0 gains 100hp with a tune as the BMW 320 does.

I really like the interior on the current IS. I think the temp sliders on the HVAC controls are especially fun.

I'm going to guess that there has been NO CHANGES in emissions regulations in the last 12 years?

daiheadjai
daiheadjai
7/12/18 3:47 p.m.

In all likelihood, they detuned the engine to allow it to play nicely with the AWD system.

Toyota did this with the Matrix' 1ZZ also (130hp in FWD, 123hp in AWD). Likely the drivetrain isn't able to withstand the full power of the 3.5L

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