The 2018 Lexus IS is the brand's offering for the popular compact sport sedan category. While the IS series isn't the sportiest of the type on the market, it still offers an interesting style, a couple of engine choices, and a plethora of packages and options. This combined with the legendary Lexus reliable helps to make the IS lineup into a competitive offering.
What's New for 2018
The Lexus IS receives a bit of a name change for 2018. The IS 200t is now known as the IS 300 RWD, although it keeps the same 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder as last year's model. The IS 300 AWD continues to be powered by the same V6 as last year, but it gets a power increase of five horsepower. The IS 350 gets available adaptive headlights and a new Comfort package with blind spot monitoring, and rear-wheel drive IS 350s with the F-Sport trim get a Torsen rear differential.
On both models a rear camera is now included, as is a ten year subscription to Lexus Enform Safety Connect and Enform Service Connect.
Choosing Your Lexus IS
The IS series can be had with a choice of several engines. The base engine found in the IS 300 RWD is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder attached to an eight speed automatic transmission that puts out a 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque and is able to return 22 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. The all-wheel drive variants of the IS 300 get a 3.5-liter V6 with 260 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. This engine is paired with an older six-speed transmission, and while it does have a slight horsepower edge, it isn't appreciably faster due to the dumber transmission and extra weight. It certainly isn't more fuel efficient either with a city rating of 19 mpg and highway rating of 26 mpg.
IS 350s also get a 3.5-liter V6, but it comes with 311 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. Like the IS 300 the rear drive variants get an eight-speed automatic and the all-wheel drive models get a six-speed auto. The IS 300 RWD gets 20 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway, while the AWD is slightly worse (19 mpg city/26 mpg highway).
The IS 300 and IS 350 can be had in two primary guises, the base trim or the F-Sport trim. The Base level comes well equipped at both levels with dual-zone automatic climate control, a power sunroof, Bluetooth, push button start with hands-free entry, and a host of driver assistance features like adaptive cruise control, lane-departure alerts, and automatic high beams. Option Packages include the $790 Premium Package, which give the IS heated and ventilated front seats, and is required if you want any other packages. Other available packages for the base trims are the $620 Comfort Package with blind spot monitoring, rain sensing wipers, and the Lexus memory system and the $1,735 Navigation package for enhanced navigation features, with a few extra goodies like Lexus Enform Destination assist, the Enform app suite, and voice navigation. If you want to go a bit further with the infotainment system, there's the $2,835 Navigation/Mark Levinson Premium Audio Package that includes everything from the Navigation package, but adds in a larger 10.3 inch screen and premium speakers from the eponymous brand.
The biggest changes brought about by the F-Sport trim are aesthetic in nature. The package makes the already aggressive exterior look even more so with new trim and wheels, while the interior gets a unique look that is inspired by the Lexus LFA supercar, including heavily bolstered front seats with heating and ventilation, a sporty gauge cluster, aluminum pedals, silver trim, and some leather for the steering wheel and shifter. Performance upgrades are limited however to a sport-tuned adjustable suspension to improve handling along with a couple of extra drive modes that increase throttle response and the way the transmission thinks to be a bit sportier.
The IS line is best when you spring for the IS 350 in rear wheel drive. Skip the mostly aesthetic F-Sport package (unless you really like the way it looks), and definitely spring for the Premium and Comfort packages. This way, you'll have a comfortable and somewhat sporty sedan that is well worth what you're going to spend on it.