Power is a mixed bag. The 2020 Lexus IS is available in two trims: IS 300 and IS 350 – both of which also get an F Sport variant.
The IS 300 gets a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 241 horsepower (rear-wheel drive), or a 3.5-liter V6 with 260 hp (all-wheel drive). Neither matches the driving inspiration of its European competitors, including the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
On the other hand, the IS 350 makes a better argument for this sedan. Its 3.5-liter V6 is tuned to deliver 311 hp, which is the same as the larger Lexus GS. Choose the available F Sport, and the adaptive dampers reduce lean on the corners and manage choppy surfaces with ease.
The IS is also a rarity for the brand, as you won’t find a hybrid variant. The Lexus ES and Lexus LS sedans both offer hybrid models.
Tech falls short. The IS was last updated in 2014, and its age is showing. In the technology department, we found the infotainment interface frustrating, to say the least. The base 7-inch display seems small these days, but the available 10.3-inch screen brings the IS in line with the segment’s best.
What’s troubling is the interface itself, which utilizes a sloppy controller. The recently available Amazon Alexa compatibility helps matters, but we’re at a loss for why you still can’t get Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration.
We’re guessing Lexus is waiting to overhaul the IS’ technology when a new model arrives next year. That is if Lexus decides to keep the slow-selling IS in the first place.
A safe choice. One redeeming feature of the IS is its safety offerings. Lexus has long been ahead of the driver-assist safety curve, which benefits the IS.
It comes standard with automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and more. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are available, and will likely be found in most vehicles on dealer lots.
On the crash testing front, the IS earned a five-star overall safety rating from the NHTSA.
Difference-making F Sport. Despite its many weaknesses, the IS does shine in F Sport guise. We already mentioned why from a performance standpoint, but it does so in other areas.
The F Sport includes several important embellishments that clean up its appearance. Those details include a more distinctive front bumper along with upper and lower grille inserts.
This year, there’s also an F Sport Black Line edition, which is limited to 900 models and features blacked-out touches inside and out. The F Sport is already a $3,195 upgrade on the base model. The Black Line adds several thousand dollars more, so we can’t justify the extra cost.
Final thoughts. The 2020 Lexus IS is clearly outclassed in a shrinking segment and it shows. Its canvas dates to 2006 and not much has changed since a refresh in 2014. Competing models are much further down the road in design, engineering, and technology.
For Lexus faithful, the F Sport is the conciliation prize. It adds handling attributes that pair best with the IS 350. Save money by avoiding the Black Line upgrade, as its cost doesn’t justify the expense.
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