If you are looking for one of the best first cars, which is sporty and stylish, consider exploring the 2019 Lexus IS 300. Featuring an aggressive design, it offers a comfortable and smooth ride in different driving conditions. However, if we pit it against its rivals, it struggles to give BMW, Audi, and Mercedes a tough time. This five-passenger small luxury variant sits below the IS350 and does not have any trim levels. However, customers can opt for F-sport package for exterior add-ons and some hardware for better acceleration.
What’s new for 2019
The 2019 Lexus IS 300 now gets a turbocharged four-cylinder and rear-wheel-drive option in its lineup. The all-wheel-drive variant still comes with a V6 engine; however, there is a slight bump in the power (5-horsepower to be exact).
Engine and Performance
The 2019 Lexus IS 300 gives you two engine options including a 2.0-liter turbo-four generating 241 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque (the IS 300 RWD) and a 3.5-liter V-6 pumping out 260 hp and 236 lb-ft (the IS 300 AWD). The same engine offers more power in the IS 350 (311 hp and 277 lb-ft). The rear-wheel-drive is assisted by an eight-speed automatic transmission while the all-wheel drive comes equipped with a six-speed automatic. In most of the road tests, the eight-speed transmission did not fare well; however, paddle shifters work effortlessly to find the right gear.
The entry-level sedan from Lexus offers Eco, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ driving modes where Sport+ is only available in F Sport models. The Eco mode is slow, so do not expect an inspiring drive in this mode. The Comfort is appropriate for daily commutes. Those who are looking for an adrenaline rush should select Sport or Sport+. Keep in mind, the Sport+ is not suitable for daily driving and should only be used if you really want to hit a road course.
The standard facilities encompass 17-inch wheels, LED headlights, a sunroof, heated side mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable front seats, premium vinyl upholstery, 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks, Bluetooth, a 7-inch color display, and a 10-speaker sound system with dual USB ports and an auxiliary audio input.
In the tech and safety departments, the car offers a rearview camera, automatic high beams, lane departure warning and intervention, adaptive cruise control, and a forward collision warning system with pedestrian detection and automatic braking.
Optional facilities consist of navigation with a 10.3-inch screen, a Mark Levinson premium audio system, leather upholstery, adaptive headlights, parking sensors, heated/ventilated front seats, memory for the front seats, and a heated steering wheel.
Customers who are looking for more can select among different packages, which include Comfort, Premium, F-Sport, and Navigation. For instance, with Comfort package, the car gets automatic wipers, a power-adjustable steering wheel, driver-seat memory settings, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. The F-sport offers unique 18-inch alloy wheels, F Sport suspension, F Sport seats, an LFA-inspired gauge cluster, limited-slip differential and an adaptive F Sport suspension with a Sport+ mode and aluminum pedals.
Talking about the driving, we learned from Edmunds that the turbo is better than the V6 but the acceleration is not as quick as its rivals are. The car can achieve 60 miles per hour in 6.8 seconds. The braking pedal is rigid and requires more power to stop the car. The steering lacks the road feel, which means you should not accept it to cut corners quickly. Although power is adequate, the eight-speed transmission is slow to respond at times.
When it comes to comfort, the 2018 Lexus IS300 provides a comfortable and quiet ride. The back seats are okay but they can be hard on your lower back on a long journey. Lexus improved the wheelbase in 2014 but it is still shorter than the BMW 3-series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The front seats are spacious but you cannot call it generous. The headroom is not bad either with the sunroof. The lateral seat support is adequate and the lumbar support is adaptable, however, you cannot change position and it sits too high. The ride comfort is extraordinary. The automaker worked hard to prevent noise and vibration. Furthermore, the climate controls work flawlessly. The optional heated and ventilated seats are exceptional. All the controls are within easy reach of the driver but they are not fun to operate. The infotainment system is especially not easy to operate with the mouse-like controller. However, you will find real buttons and knobs to use main functions. It only offers 13.8 cubic feet trunk space; however, you can expand it through the 60/40 split-folding rear seats.
The EPA fuel economy ratings stand at 22/32 mpg city/highway for the IS 300 rear-wheel-drive, and 19/26 mpg for the IS300 all-wheel-drive. These figures are lower than what its rivals are delivering.
When it comes to safety, NHTSA gives it a five-star overall safety rating. The IIHS still could not test the 2018 Lexus IS, however, the last year score was not bad. It got a Good score on side impact, roof strength, and moderate front overlap crashes, and an Average score on the small front overlap and headlights test (Good is the best you get from the institute). Testing it for the front crash prevention, the luxury car took a Superior rating, as it was successful in evading a 12-mph and 25-mph crash (Superior is the best you get in the front overlap crash test).
All the variants in the 2018 Lexus IS come equipped with Lexus Safety System+ suite of active driver assistance and safety features. These include forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, and lane departure warning with steering assist. The blind spot monitors are optional.
The 2018 Lexus IS 300 is not bad to drive by any mean but when we pit it against the Audi A4, Jaguar XE, and Cadillac ATS, it falls short.
Edmunds gives it 7.2 out of 10, calling it a smart pick for a small luxury sedan. The USNews gives it 8.2 overall and ranks it on number 12 in Luxury Small Cars. The 2018 Lexus IS 300 (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 8A) carries a price tag of around $40,000.