By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 7.5
While it has a tendency to fly under the radar, the 2013 Lexus IS continues to be a formidable contender in the ultra-competitive luxury sports-sedan category. With the standard IS250 and sporty 306-horsepower IS350 at its core, the IS lineup also offers a hardtop convertible and a high-performance IS F variant designed to compete head-to-head with BMW's M3. Class-leading resale values and a reputation for exceptional long-term reliability make the Lexus IS a smart choice for value-conscious buyers. But, despite its sleekly-styled exterior and high value quotient, the Lexus IS has struggled to draw market share away from the Mercedes-Benz C Class, Audi A4 and the benchmark among sport sedans, the BMW 3 Series.
If you appreciate the aggressive styling of contemporary sports cars, but crave the refinement and comfort of a luxury sedan, the 2013 Lexus IS is tough to beat. It may lack the athleticism of a BMW 3 Series and trail the Mercedes-Benz C Class in terms of prestige, but the Lexus IS remains a well-rounded performer with exceptional reliability and value.
If interior volume and rear-seat legroom are at the top of your list, you may find the Lexus IS less accommodating than its larger European rivals. In addition, drivers who prefer a generous helping of sport with a side of luxury should consider the BMW 3 Series, Infiniti G37 or the Audi A4.
With an all-new model due out next year, the Lexus IS has only a few upgrades for 2013. IS models equipped with navigation now include Lexus' latest Enform infotainment system with automatic phonebook downloading via Bluetooth and HD Radio with iTunes Tagging. Additionally, the IS250's optional 6-speed manual transmission has been discontinued.
Driving Impressions If the BMW's 3 Series serves as the definition of "sport sedan," then the 2013 Lexus IS 250 and IS 350 might be seen as the "Grand Tourers" of the...category. While the Lexus IS isn't as engaging or nimble as its sportier rivals, all iterations provide a level of compliant composure the Germans rarely deliver – at least in this size category. Of course, what's under the hood will determine, in large part, where you peg the smile meter. The entry-level IS 250 focuses on practical characteristics such as fuel efficiency and ride quality, while the more powerful Lexus IS 350 borders on the visceral. As Lexus' first super sedan, the V8-equipped IS F makes a credible run at BMW's M3, and does it without earning the costly gas-guzzler tax. Given its mission, the hardtop convertible – with either V6 powertrain – is little more than a boulevard cruiser.
AVAILABLE ALL-WHEEL DRIVE (AWD)
In a segment offering all-wheel drive as an all-season prerogative, Lexus' approach delivers 70 percent of the engine power to the rear wheels under normal operating conditions. With that proportional distribution, little of the sport orientation is lost on dry pavement, while traction is enhanced on wet or slickened pavement.
F SPORT PACKAGE
While the well-tuned standard suspension will please most buyers, Lexus' F Sport Package incorporates firmer springs and shock absorbers along with a recalibrated electric power steering system to elevate the performance of any rear-drive IS model to near-BMW 3 Series levels of agility and fun.
As BMW and Audi interiors continue to gravitate toward mid-size, the smaller Lexus remains, well, small. The driver and front-seat passenger are well accommodated, and all seating positions are well appointed, but this is best regarded as a "personal" 4-door sport sedan, one which will never be confused with a family hauler. Of course, if you're in a Lexus showroom shopping for the family, the dealer has roughly a half-dozen better choices from which to choose. We like the personal feel of the IS, and the convertible hardtop offers unlimited headroom – with the top down, of course.Exterior
The Lexus IS 250/350 body shell shown in March, 2005 was remarkable for its utter lack of adornment or distraction. A softened wedge profile, short overhangs and a raked windshield created a sporting 4-door that was almost coupe-like in its design. Opt for the IS F (or F Sport package) and things get more enthusiastic. The IS C hardtop convertible strikes, to these eyes, the only discordant note; in order to accommodate the folding hardtop, Lexus designers added an unsightly slab of bulbous sheet metal to the rear end.
The term "bang-for-the-buck" is seldom associated with luxury vehicles, but with an attractive base price and long list of standard features, the Lexus IS offers perhaps the best value in the category. At its about-$36,000 starting price, the Lexus IS includes leather seating, smart access with push-button start, 10-way power front seats, power moonroof and a 13-speaker premium audio system. Opting for the IS 350 gets you xenon headlights that emit up to three times the light of standard halogen systems, a 306-horsepower V6 and beefed-up brakes. On the safety front, every Lexus IS includes eight airbags, built-in telematics with emergency services and hill-start assist, which prevents the vehicle from rolling backwards when starting off on a steep grade.
Buyers looking to bridge the performance gap between the mainstream IS and the race-inspired IS F will find the available F Sport Package up to the task. Upgrades include 18-inch alloy wheels with a dark graphite finish, aggressively-tuned electric power steering, firmer suspension and a host of cosmetic adornments for both the interior and exterior. Technophiles will rejoice at the newly-available Lexus Enform 2.0 infotainment system comprised of HD Radio with iTunes Tagging and in-vehicle mobile applications such as Bing local search, OpenTable, MovieTickets.com, Yelp and Pandora Internet radio.
Two technology-intensive, all-aluminum V6 engines provide clean and comparatively fuel-efficient motivation for the IS line. Both powertrains use dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) and direct fuel injection. The 2.5-liter develops 204 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque, sufficient to take a rear-drive IS 250 from zero to 60 mph in under eight seconds. The 3.5-liter V6 in the IS 350 adds secondary port injection and cranks out 306 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. Backed by a multi-mode automatic with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, it propels the fleetest member of the standard IS family from zero to 60 mph in about 5.5 seconds. If a zero-to-60-mph time of less than six seconds isn't quite quick enough, consider the IS F's 5.0-liter V8, and then go cruising for pink slips – or tickets. The all-aluminum 8-cylinder engine produces 416 horsepower and 371 lb-ft of torque, and is capable of launching the IS F from zero to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds with a top track speed of 170 mph. All engines require premium unleaded fuel.
204 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
185 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/30 mpg, 21/27 mpg (AWD)
306 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
277 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/27 mpg (rear-wheel drive), 19/26 mpg (AWD)
416 horsepower @ 6,600 rpm
371 lb-ft of torque @ 5,200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/23 mpg
By GPR on Monday, March 09, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 74,325overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Power, handling, luxury"
Cons: "several minor recalls"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I bought the car new, as a gift for my wife, and got all the options. I felt that it was a good combination of power and luxury. At the same time, my brother bought a BMW 335i, so I have been able to do a lot of continual comparing as our cars age. I bought the Lexus because of comfort, power, and handling (pretty much in that order). Lexus did an outstanding job in this car in that they are all equal. The interior details are better than any other vehicle I've driven then and now. It has super-soft tight leather, bright clear instrument cluster, and a very quiet ride. The car is very quick with about as much useable power as can be used on-highway. The traction control is super smooth at all speeds and most average drivers would never know it was actually engaging. The handling is amazing for a sedan (as I recall, it beat the BMW 330 in the slalom by 1 mph, 66/65). The navigation still works nicely, but is not as intuitive as modern systems, of course. In comparison of the 2007 Lexus IS350 to the 2007 BMW 335i, the Lexus is a far superior car. It is equally powered, handles the same, but is way more comfortable (quiet, amazing sound system, supple leather, bright instrument cluster, etc.). Additionally, reliability has been much better for the Lexus. Tire life is about 25K per set, vs 15K for his 335 (he has had terrible problems with inner rear tire wear). Final (disappointing) thought... The newer Lexus IS's do not have nearly the quality of leather as our 2007. I have driven the new Lexus', BMW's, and Audi S4 (my top contenders for power, handling, luxury), but none of them impress me more than my 2007 IS350. I guess I'll be keeping it until someone steps up and makes a better car."
2 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By Smores on Wednesday, February 11, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 122,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Driveability, Gas mileage"
Cons: "Quirky, Expensive upkeep"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"If this car were more dependable or less expensive to repair, it would be a perfect 10. Handles like a dream. Steering, stopping and maneuvering, as well as, pick up are what you dream a car could be. The recalls and quirks were a pain to deal with but although expensive, fairly convenient since the dealership provides a loaner. Moved from So. Cal. to Pacific NW and now need an AWD vehicle. I will miss this car but need something larger now."
2 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By Jon on Monday, February 09, 2015
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 51,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I own a 2010 is 250 and i can say that owning it and driving it always puts a smile on my face.the interior is flawless with all the creature comfort that you can imagine plus an addition of some f-sport upgrades like exhaust system, air intake and f sport springs all around.all in all i rate the car as 10 for everyday driving with luxuries."
4 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By baby blue on Monday, December 29, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 110,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Design, reliability, overall quality"
Cons: "Parts for maintenance can be expensive."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"My Lexus has never shown a flaw. I've driven Mercedes, BMWs, and Alfa Romeoes. None come close to the Lexus. I would not consider selling or trading my car for less than $18,000. It's worth at least $18,000. May drive the car another 10 years."
17 people out of 37 found this review helpful
By Sam Pal on Friday, December 12, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 17,600overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "extremely fun to drive"
Cons: "rear legroom is reduced"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I'm in love with my 2013 IS250! This car is quick, fun, and easy to drive. The cabin is so smooth, makes you want to drive all the time. What I love about this car is that it's gas efficient and very luxurious in many way. I wish they would have never changed the body style on it, if not I would definitely buy another one in a couple of years."
9 people out of 23 found this review helpful
By swcjlc on Sunday, October 19, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 54,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Bought car after leasing it for 2 years and only problem was a battery that needed replacement. great looking, fast and pretty good gas mileage. The IS does go thru tires in the 20-25000 mile range."
32 people out of 53 found this review helpful