2018 Lexus IS 300 Review
2018 Lexus IS 300 Review
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Edmunds' Expert Review
Dan spent many years covering the go-fast, look-good, get-loud corners of the automotive universe. First, he served as editor of enthusiast magazines AutoSound and Honda Tuning, then as executive editor at SEMA News, the publishing arm of the trade group that produces the annual SEMA Show (yes, that show). As a contributor to Edmunds, he now likes to keep the volume low and the speed limit legal, providing expert car-shopping advice to drivers looking for the perfect match.
- Smooth and comfortable ride on bumpy roads
- Cabin is well isolated from noise
- Offers more features for the money than German rivals
- Handling capabilities do little to create driver excitement
- V6 power compares to smaller turbo engines, but isn't as efficient
- Optional Remote Touch infotainment system is distracting to use
For 2018, the Lexus IS 300 gains a four-cylinder and rear-wheel-drive version in its lineup. In actuality, though, this is just last year's IS 200t renamed. The all-wheel-drive version still has a V6 engine, and it gets a 5-horsepower boost (to 260 hp). A few revisions to standard and optional features round out the changes to this year's IS 300.
Seeing a 2018 Lexus IS 300 at rest, you might take its aggressive style — the pinched grille, prominent air intakes and sweeping body lines to the back — as the sign of an uncompromising performance car. But don't let its looks fool you. The IS 300 is foremost a cruise and comfort machine, with a well-honed ride, hushed cabin and generous feature set.
Calculate my fuel costs
Cost to DriveCost to drive estimates for the 2018 Lexus IS 300 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 8A) and comparison vehicles are based on 15,000 miles per year (with a mix of 55% city and 45% highway driving) and energy estimates of $3.92 per gallon for premium unleaded in Virginia.
Monthly estimates based on costs in Virginia
$185/mo for IS 300 Base
IS 300 Base
Avg. Midsize Car
For 2018, the IS 300 lineup gains a turbocharged four-cylinder engine with rear-wheel drive. This isn't entirely a new development, however; Lexus has simply renamed last year's rear-wheel-drive IS 200t as a 300. The rear-wheel-drive IS 300 uses an eight-speed transmission while the all-drive-wheel model retains the smooth, if outdated, V6 engine and six-speed automatic.
The V6 puts out 260 horsepower this year, although this still pales in comparison to the IS' European six-cylinder rivals. The IS 300's overall handling capabilities also fail to deliver the robust driving excitement of some other sport luxury sedans. But overall we think you'll like the IS 300. The interior stands out in both design and quality, the standard features included on the base level trim are generous by any measure, and the convenience and safety tech is top-notch.
Edmunds' Expert Rating7.2 / 10
The 2018 Lexus IS 300 is a small luxury sedan that offers an appealing combination of comfort and style. You'll like the IS 300's hushed cabin and smooth ride. It's not the sportiest car in its class, but overall value and daily livability are impressive.
Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions, although trim levels share many aspects. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2016 Lexus IS 200t F Sport (turbo 2.0L inline-4 | 8-speed automatic | RWD). Note that the IS 200t has since been renamed the IS 300. The 2018 Lexus IS 300 V6 model produces slightly more power and has all-wheel drive, but our findings remain applicable.
|Overall||7.2 / 10|
The highlight of the IS 300 is the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, which is better than the V6. Handling dynamics aren't this car's strongest suit, though you can still have fun whipping this luxury compact around a bend or two.
This IS is not as quick as the class equivalents, but the turbo four-cylinder makes good power and sounds more refined than BMW's 2.0-liter engine. The 0-60 mph sprint is achieved in 6.8 seconds.
Brake pedal travel is surprisingly short and stiff for a Lexus and lacks a sense of stopping power. In our emergency panic-braking test, the IS stopped from 60 mph in 117 feet, which is longer than average for a car on summer tires.
The steering feels natural and direct when you turn the wheel but lacks road feel, which is important if your front tires ever lose grip. The IS 300 fails to provide confidence in this area, and that's critical for spirited driving.
Even with the stickier optional 18-inch summer tires, the IS 300's grip and balance around turns don't really impress. Quick directional changes are more to its liking than long, sustained corners.
Power is more than sufficient, but the eight-speed automatic transmission's shifting can feel languid at times. It takes about a second to select the right gear if you mat the gas for a big downshift, which is too slow if you're trying to get out of the way.
Excellent ride comfort and the serene quietness of the IS 300's cabin are the big standouts in this area. We are also happy with the seats, though sitting in the saddle for a few hours can take a small toll on your lower back due to some mismatched lumbar ergonomics.
There's adequate lateral seat support, and the optional ventilation and heating work well. The amount of lumbar support is adjustable, but the position is fixed and sits too high to provide long-distance comfort for an average-size driver.
The IS delivers solid body control with smooth compliance at all the right times. Bumps and impacts are absorbed without issue, yet there's no hint of a marshmallowy ride or overly soft suspension tuning. Very good.
Noise & vibration8.5
Great attention went into the IS cabin's soundproofing. Road and wind noise is sufficiently silenced, and you don't hear much of the engine. Quiet cabins are more comfortable and can promote calmer reactions in emergencies.
Lexus managed to make the climate controls easy to use while adding cool touch sliders that adjust the temperature flawlessly. The system had no problems maintaining a comfortable cabin temperature, and the optional heated and ventilated seats are stellar.
The IS struggles with finding a balance between innovation and complication. The infotainment system interface lacks user-friendly qualities, and basic cupholder ergonomics seem like afterthoughts. This is a cabin with mediocre usability.
Ease of use8.0
Lexus' haptic joystick interface for the infotainment system is cumbersome to use, and it snags smartphone charger cords with ease. The touch sliders for the climate control — which look cool and work well — are the best cabin features.
Getting in/getting out6.5
Even with the easy-entry retracting steering wheel, it's not difficult to graze a knee against the column while climbing into the driver's seat. The rear door openings are on the smaller side and could prove difficult for less flexible passengers.
Cabin space is not abundant. For an average-size driver, the center tunnel console seems needlessly wide, and the armrests can feel intrusive. The rear bench offers less legroom than you'll find in some competitors, and the center seat has marginal headroom.
Forward visibility is great. Rear headrests don't impede the view directly rearward, but the huge rear pillars and a high body slope create blind spots when reversing. The optional parking sensors and rearview camera are recommended.
Other than the steering-wheel leather that looks and feels like wrinkled skin by the thumb holds, this interior is done well, with tight panel fit and solid door seals. The seats have quality stitching, and all contact surfaces are soft.
The smallish trunk (10.8 cubic feet) doesn't fold flat. The unevenness limits what you can carry with the seats down. Small-item storage up front is limited to the armrest bin, the door pockets and the glovebox.
Which IS 300 does Edmunds recommend?
The IS 300 now offers a punchy turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It's the one we'd take. The turbo-four makes less horsepower than the V6, but its additional torque makes for better acceleration off the line. It also gets better gas mileage. To that we'd add the Comfort package for its, well, additional comfort and safety features. We'd skip the Navigation package since it comes with the frustrating Remote Touch interface; unfortunately for music fans, that package is the only way to get the Mark Levinson premium audio system.
2018 Lexus IS 300 models
The 2018 Lexus IS 300 is a five-passenger small luxury sedan that slots below the more powerful IS 350. The IS 300 is available with a four-cylinder engine and rear-wheel drive or a V6 engine with all-wheel drive. There are no actual trim levels, only stand-alone options and trim packages, although the F Sport package adds exterior elements and hardware that improve the IS 300's performance.
The IS 300 rear-wheel-drive model starts with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (241 hp, 258 pound-feet of torque) and an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Standard features include 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.
Standard tech and safety features include 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.
The IS 300 all-wheel-drive model substitutes a 3.5-liter V6 engine (260 hp, 236 lb-ft of torque) and a six-speed automatic transmission. Heated front seats also come standard.
The IS 300 offers a few options packages, among them the Comfort package, which adds automatic wipers, a power-adjustable steering wheel, driver-seat memory settings, and blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. A Premium package includes heated and ventilated front seats.
The Navigation package replaces the standard infotainment control dial with Lexus' Remote Touch mouse-type controller and adds a navigation system with a larger 10.3-inch display. A 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system is also available, but only when bundled with the navigation system.
For those who want to dial up the sporting factor, the F Sport package adds a full-mesh front grille, a revised front bumper, twin-projector LED headlights, staggered-width 18-inch wheels (with either summer or all-season tires), a sport-tuned suspension, upgraded brake pads, an intake sound generator that amplifies engine noise during acceleration, heated and ventilated front sport seats and a special sport-oriented gauge cluster.
Other stand-alone options include 18-inch wheels, adaptive headlights, a power rear sunshade, and front and rear parking sensors.
4.1 out of 5 stars
Most helpful consumer reviews
4 out of 5 stars
Fun 2 drive, poor technology
Jason burgos, 08/08/2018
2018 Lexus IS 300 4dr Sedan AWD (3.5L 6cyl 6A)
Only 3,000 miles in but the navigation and Lexus Enform is terribly unreliable. I wasted money upgrading to this option. Seat cooling and heating has a mind of its own.
5 out of 5 stars
IS300 F Sport - stylish, fun, upscale
Alex R., 10/28/2016
2016 Lexus IS 300 4dr Sedan AWD (3.5L 6cyl 6A)
This IS 300 F Sport has been an absolute pleasure. While sport sedans today, including some of the others I tested before acquiring an IS, are somewhat watered-down for the most part, this one doesn't make compromises. It's a very comfortable place to be while still offering high levels of driver engagement, and it looks the part, too. Starting off, the sedan is pretty low to step into, … which lets both driver and passenger know this is not a family sedan. It took me a couple of days to adjust to the step-in height, but it's certainly easy to live with. The seats hug you quite nicely and have soft Nuluxe upholstery - my example's seating is finished in Rioja Red, which contrasts nicely with the black surfaces on the dash and headliner. I love the analog clock and brushed-aluminum accents, which are sort of retro-looking. After starting the car the first thing you notice is the awesome F Sport instrument cluster, which is mostly a digital display. It looks sharp and is reconfigurable to show lots of trip data and even glows red when your RPM reaches a configurable threshold. The steering wheel is also fantastic and one of my favorite features of the car - it's wrapped in soft leather and is fairly chunky. The steering feel, too, is quite good for a modern car, providing enough resistance at speed to give me confidence around corners. Speaking of corners, this thing stays pretty flat and drama-free even at turning speeds I wouldn't dare attempt in my old Camry. And despite the V6 being detuned to 255 HP compared to the IS 350's 306 HP, this thing still has plenty of power and is satisfying to drive quickly. The intake sound amplifier also means the V6 really comes alive at higher RPMs - and it sounds quite nice! My only real gripes with this car have to do with the infotainment, which seems to have a lot of menus. The mouse-like controller can also take some getting used to - and I bet your passengers won't want to learn it. In addition, this thing rides well over most roads, but sometimes more broken pavement transmits some noise into the cabin than you might expect. The handling benefits of the suspension tuning as well as the composure on the highway far outweigh the slight downsides on crappy roads, for my taste - not to mention this thing is near-silent on any decent road anyway. All that said, this is a great small luxury car that seems designed to appeal to the enthusiast without overdoing it. If you're buying this car for a fun, engaging driving experience with some luxury touches, you won't be disappointed.
4 out of 5 stars
IS 300Fsport FUN FUN
John Eversole, 07/13/2018
2018 Lexus IS 300 4dr Sedan (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 8A)
There are only a few nagging issues but in the big scheme of things, they may be minor to many. First, the car is very nimble, quick steering, brakes and acceleration. I could get better than 19.5 mpg but I drive it very fast and hard. A little hard to get in, but once in, very comfortable. But a car at this level should have memory seats! Very little storage in the large (on the … outside) console. I did not order, or want, the navigation. One of the reasons I bought this model was the fold down rear seats, and most Lexus models do not and I did not want another SUV. It is a fun car that feels very solid and safe and would be close to perfect if these few areas were corrected.
5 out of 5 stars
Capable, Fun, AWD Alaska Sedan
2016 Lexus IS 300 4dr Sedan AWD (3.5L 6cyl 6A)
It is NOT a sports car BUT it is quick enough for everyday. It has been impressive to drive in snow and ice. It holds the road very very well. Granted one must take the time to invest in high quality snow tires... That being said though, I've driven many AWD/4WD cars and trucks here in the Great White North and this performs as well as any of them most times better outperforming most … but the Cayenne S. Bluetooth is a pain in the a$$ but seems to get better with usage disconnecting less often. *Update..seems to have settled down and rarely disconnects anymore.* Really Lexus you could do so much better on the infotainment. The car is solid and well built. Materials are high quality. It purrs right along. Update: I've taken temporary job that requires commuting and really added the miles. the original tires were out and I put some inexpensive ones on from Amazon. They are quiet and competent but this is not a store review. I am still quite content with the little sedan. The AWD does not like dry pavement tight turning. Highways are fine. Update 2.. Super cold winter this year with plenty of snow and ice. Car still moves nicely. the Federal Himalaya II that are on it are phenomenal...even at -23F they've remained pliable and sticky. Very few cars are ultimately worth the money...this one is still stellar. Final update I put 100,000 miles on it. Fantastic car. Recently sold so I could go back to a Cayenne. The grandkids are getting to big for extended rides in the little Lexus. If you you get a chance and it fits your lifestyle you can't go wrong with this little wonder car. Keep good tires on it and change oil and brake pads. Thatall I had to do in 100 thousand miles. Happy motoring.
We have a limited number of reviews for the 2018 Lexus IS 300, so we've included reviews for other years of the IS 300 since its last redesign.
2018 IS 300 Highlights
|Combined MPG||26 MPG|
|Cost to Drive||$185/month|
|Cargo Capacity |
All Seats In Place
|Drivetrain||rear wheel drive|
|Warranty||4 years / 50,000 miles|
Our experts like the IS 300 models:
- Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist
- Monitors lane markings, warns if you are drifting, and can even actively help steer the vehicle back into the lane of travel.
- Dynamic Radar Cruise Control
- Helps drivers maintain a preset distance by adjusting the vehicle's speed in relation to the vehicle directly ahead.
- Intelligent High Beam
- Switches between high and low beams automatically by using cues from a camera that helps detect when other vehicles are present.
NHTSA Overall Rating5 out of 5 stars
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
- Frontal Barrier Crash RatingOverall4 / 5Driver4 / 5Passenger4 / 5
- Side Crash RatingOverall5 / 5
- Side Barrier RatingOverall5 / 5Driver5 / 5Passenger5 / 5
- Combined Side Barrier & Pole RatingsFront Seat5 / 5Back Seat5 / 5
- RolloverRollover5 / 5Dynamic Test ResultNo TipRisk Of Rollover9.5%
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
- Small Overlap Front Driver-Side TestGood
- Small Overlap Front Passenger-Side TestNot Tested
- Moderate Overlap Front Test – OriginalGood
- Moderate Overlap Front Test – UpdatedNot Tested
- Side Impact Test – OriginalGood
- Side Impact Test – UpdatedNot Tested
- Roof Strength TestGood
- Rear Crash Protection / Head RestraintGood
2016 Lexus IS 300 Sedan
- 85,003 miles
- Empire Auto Imports
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