2018 Lexus IS 300

2018 Lexus IS 300 Review

Sharp style and attractive value make the 2018 Lexus IS 300 a smart pick for a small luxury sedan.
3.5 star edmunds overall rating
author
by Dan Frio
Edmunds Editor

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.

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 The rear-wheel-drive IS 300 uses an eight-speed transmission while the all-drive-wheel model retains the smooth, if outdated, V6 engine and six-speed automatic.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.



what's new

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.

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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.




trim levels & features

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.



trim tested

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.

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall3.5 / 5.0

Driving

3.0 / 5.0

Braking2.5 / 5.0
Steering3.0 / 5.0
Handling3.0 / 5.0
Drivability4.0 / 5.0

Comfort

4.0 / 5.0

Seat comfort2.5 / 5.0
Ride comfort5.0 / 5.0
Noise & vibration4.5 / 5.0
Climate control4.5 / 5.0

Interior

2.5 / 5.0

Ease of use2.0 / 5.0
Getting in/getting out3.0 / 5.0
Roominess2.5 / 5.0
Visibility3.0 / 5.0
Quality4.0 / 5.0

Driving

edmunds rating
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.

Acceleration

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.

Braking

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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.

Steering

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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.

Handling

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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.

Drivability

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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.

Comfort

edmunds rating
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.

Seat comfort

edmunds rating
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.

Ride comfort

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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 & vibration

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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.

Climate control

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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.

Interior

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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 use

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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 out

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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.

Roominess

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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.

Visibility

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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.

Quality

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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.

Utility

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.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.