The 2019 Lexus IS Delivers Thrilling Performance

Sedans and hatches might not be as popular today, but there’s still interest in sports sedans like the Lexus IS. And the one thing SUVs and crossovers don’t offer is thrilling performance. That’s where sports sedans excel, and the 2019 Lexus IS fits into that category.

Here’s how the 2019 Lexus IS stacks up as a sports sedan.

Exterior Styling

Producing a good-looking sports sedan shouldn’t be too difficult, but Lexus sometimes appears to struggle. The 2019 Lexus IS isn’t unattractive by any means, but it could appeal to a wider audience.

To some, the IS is one of the most stylish, contemporary and edgy cars in its segment. The futuristic design with angles, edges, and a huge open-mouth front grille is a bit “out there.”

Basically, you’ll probably either love or hate the way this Lexus looks. Either way, Lexus has dared to be different from its German rivals. And if you do like the way the IS looks, things only get better when you dive in deeper.

Engines and Performance

There are three engines in the 2019 Lexus IS lineup, but there isn’t much difference between them. They’re all solid, but it would be nice to see more of a difference between the standard and top-of-the-line options.

The standard unit is a 2.0-liter turbo-four that develops 241 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. It comes mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel-drive in the IS300 and the IS300 Sport. This impressive inline-four gets the IS from a standing start to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds.

Next up is a 260 hp 3.5-liter V-6 with all-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission that’s to be found in the IS300 AWD and the IS300 AWD F Sport models. This combination gets the Lexus from 0 to 60 mph in just 6.1 seconds, but it’s a shame it doesn’t come with the eight-speed auto. The same engine and transmission combo can be found in the IS350 AWD and IS350 AWD F Sport, but in these models, it’s tuned to develop 311 hp and gets the IS to 60 mph in just 5.7 seconds.

If you want to forgo AWD, the 311 hp version of the V-6 can be had with rear-drive and that excellent eight-speed auto in the IS350 and IS350 F Sport. You can get from 0 to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds.

Handling

Though more power in the most performance-focused versions of the 2019 Lexus IS would be ideal, this car’s real strength is handling.

No matter which engine you choose under the hood, the IS delivers a firm, sporty ride and super-sharp handling that’s beautifully composed. Adding to the excellence of the various powertrains are four selectable drivetrain models. The default setting is Comfort, but the driver can also choose between Eco, Sport, and Sport+ modes.

Sport mode is designed for enthusiastically attacking winding roads. The more “extreme” Sport+ mode in the F Sport package encourages the car’s transmission to hold in the lowest gear possible. The F Sport package also adds adaptive dampers and a limited-slip differential, which moves the IS closer to rivals like the BMW 340i or the Mercedes-AMG C43.

Features and Equipment

It’s possibly a stereotype to expect a Japanese car to come with a generous helping of the latest features, equipment, and cutting-edge technology, but such things become stereotypes because they’re usually true. It certainly is here, as even the entry-level IS 300 comes standard with a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, synthetic leather upholstery, and a moonroof.

For more features, the Premium Package adds options like heated and cooled front seats, blind-spot monitors, auto-dimming exterior mirrors and rain-sensing wipers. Beyond that, other packages allow buyers to upgrade the infotainment and audio systems and the upholstery.

Safety

Like its lesser Toyota cousins, the Lexus IS comes standard with an impressive array of safety features. Every model gets the usual complement of airbags, active lane control, adaptive cruise control, and automatic emergency braking. Blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alerts are an optional extra.

The NHTSA gives the 2019 Lexus IS a full five-star rating for overall safety, and the IIHS names it a Top Safety Pick.

The Last Word

The 2019 Lexus IS offers exactly what drivers want from a sports sedan: performance and handling. With a wide array of add-ons and extra options, you can customize and even level up the IS. And if buyers stick to a rear-wheel drive IS300 and only add the extras they really want, the Lexus has its nose out in front of its European competition.

tomas devera photo / Shutterstock

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