- Powered by the RC F and LC 500's 5.0-liter V8
- Larger brakes and IS 350's Dynamic Handling package are standard
- New Launch Edition model limited to 500 units
- Part of the third Lexus IS generation introduced for 2014
The third-generation Lexus IS has been on sale for nearly a decade, making it by far the oldest vehicle in the small luxury sedan class. Before it fully redesigns its entry-level sedan, however, Lexus is giving the IS a proper send-off by fitting it with the V8 that also gives life to the RC F coupe and GS F midsize sedan. Officially, this new model is called the 2022 IS 500 F Sport Performance. Besides the V8, the IS 500 gains some additional performance hardware that's otherwise optional on the IS 350, plus a few other goodies to make the most of its ample power.
Performance enthusiasts with a decent memory might remember that Lexus offered a V8-powered version of the previous-generation IS too. That was the 2008-2014 IS F. This 2022 IS 500 is the first time a V8 finds its way into the current-gen IS.
At its core, the 2022 Lexus IS 500 is a comfortable and stylish sport sedan powered by a naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8. It's a rare combination since most competitors use turbocharged engines these days. The moment you turn on the ignition and hear the V8 roar to life is enjoyable, and putting the throttle down becomes habit-forming because it sounds so glorious.
Alas, there's more glory in the sound than actual performance. The V8 is rated for a competitive 472 horsepower and 395 lb-ft of torque. And at Edmunds' test track, our test IS 500 accelerated from 0 to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds. That's a little better than most four- or six-cylinder-powered luxury sedans but off the pace of full-on performance sedans such as the BMW M3 (4.1 seconds) or Mercedes-AMG C 63 (3.9 seconds). On the upside, the V8 is supremely smooth. When you're not on the gas, it is as quiet and easygoing as the rest of the IS line.
With all this talk about the engine and horsepower, it becomes easy to forget that the IS 500 is quite capable on twisty roads as well. The IS chassis is tuned for sporty handling but it also has adaptive dampers, so it's good at softening out rough roads as well as helping you carve around corners. The Torsen limited-slip rear differential, which is part of the V6-powered IS 350's Dynamic Handling package, also helps the IS 500 harness the extra power through the twisties by providing the grip necessary to feel planted and secure.
Stopping power in the IS 500 is also upgraded compared to the IS 350 thanks to upsized brakes. In our testing, the IS 500 stopped from 60 mph in 107 feet. That's good for a luxury sedan but not up to full performance sedan standards.
The IS 500's ride is comfortable overall. However, you can dial in a bit more stiffness for more aggressive driving thanks to the different drive modes. The adaptive suspension helps to tune out a lot of road imperfections but you're also reminded that this is a sport sedan with a firmer suspension every now and then. Front passengers will like the roominess, while rear passengers may be left wanting a little more space.
While the IS 500 boasts a plethora of aerodynamic and visual improvements to the exterior, the cabin is pretty much identical to that of the IS 350's. The interior is replete with upscale materials and lacks hard plastics, which really drives home the impression of luxury. The front seats are very supportive and comfortable for a wide range of body types.
Small luxury sedans aren't known for their exceptional amount of interior room, and the IS feels tighter than most. The wide center console reduces shoulder space for those up front, and a low roof means tall passengers will struggle to find a comfortable position in the back seat.
Though primarily aimed at the sport sedan segment, the IS 500 comes with an array of driving aids designed to make the mundane moments less irksome. Standard features include forward collision mitigation, lane departure warning, lane-centering assist and blind-spot monitoring. The adaptive cruise control system even has a nifty feature that accelerates the vehicle when you tap the turn signal in preparation for a pass.
The IS 500 does build on some tech updates Lexus implemented for 2021. For example, there's a touchpad controller for the infotainment system; it's marginally more effective than the previous mouse-like controller knob. The center display screen has touchscreen capability, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration is standard.
In one sense, it's grade A word salad, but in another, truer sense, it's a special trim introduced for the first year of production. Limited to just 500 units in the U.S., the Launch Edition receives a number of unique upgrades to set it apart from the standard IS 500. The standard Enkei wheels are swapped for a set of forged BBS wheels, while the cabin is treated to black and gray imitation suede covering the seats, door trim and center console. You also get a plaque denoting the production number and a special startup sequence in the digital instrument panel.
It took Lexus long enough, but we're glad to finally be able to get a V8 in the current-generation IS. The charm of the V8's boisterous exhaust note helps make up for the relative lack of power compared to rival sport sedans.