The 2019 Lexus IS 300 and IS 350 still bring to the premium-compact-sedan world the same commendable characteristics they always have: a superb reputation for build and materials quality, ever-dependable reliability, high customer-satisfaction scores, strong resale values, and pleasant dealership experiences. They’re also enjoyable to drive.
You'll Like The 2019 Lexus IS If...
Do you believe (quite reasonably) that an expensive car should be as reliable as it is luxurious? The 2019 Lexus IS will not disappoint. In general, Lexus dealers also have great reputations.
You May Not Like The 2019 Lexus IS If...
Your aesthetic inclinations may pull you instead toward Audi and/or Jaguar designs. Given the huge number of Lexus vehicles on the road, it seems a lot of people don’t mind that gaping grille, or can look past it. They’re also fine with Lexus not being particularly sporty.
The IS 300 has an upgrade of its engine management for sharper throttle and turbocharger responses, along with optimized transmission shifts. Options now include triple-beam headlights, plus smartwatch and Amazon Alexa integration. And the Silver Lining Metallic paint choice is replaced by Liquid Platinum.
Like every Lexus, the 2019 IS has a tranquil cabin where the loudest thing is either the excellent optional Mark Levinson audio system or the easily apparent high build quality. In keeping with the current Lexus interior design approach, the center stack sits flush with the rest of the dash, optimizing accessibility and aesthetics. The infotainment screen makes full use of the room it is given in the dashboard, but the mouse-like controller remains frustrating to use at times. The F Sport has a digital instrument cluster, adding to the overall high-tech feel.
Lexus calls it a “spindle grille” and it’s the most prominent feature on the majority of its vehicles. But since one person’s brave styling is another person’s mistake, we’ll leave subjectivity out of this particular discussion. The main point is that the 2019 IS is unmistakably a Lexus and that is clearly enough for many buyers.
Yes, we mentioned earlier that Lexus cars tend to let luxury be a dominant trait rather than sportiness. However, although the 2019 IS can be serene in traffic and cruising, find a set of curves or a fast, sweeping freeway onramp and there’s a more playful character just below that calm surface. The steering is quick and precise, while either engine choice is capable of serving up a thrill or three. The F Sport versions have bigger wheels and firmer suspensions, but don’t offer any more power.
The 2019 Lexus IS range starts with the rear-drive IS 300, which has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $38,310. Factor in the $1,025 destination charge and that comes to $39,335. The IS 300 AWD starts at $41,785. The 2019 IS 350 begins at $42,955; add $2,165 for all-wheel drive. Pricing for the F Sport package varies from model to model, but puts approximately $3,000 on the final tally. In the bigger picture, the 2019 IS is generally less expensive than the Mercedes-Benz and the upcoming BMW 3 Series, roughly in line with the Audi A4 (but with more standard equipment), yet costlier than the Acura TLX and Genesis G70 (both well-equipped cars). Check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area paid for their new Lexus IS. Resale values follow the same pattern as virtually every other Lexus vehicle -- among the best out there.
As well as the aforementioned safety features, the 2019 IS comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, power moonroof, HID headlights, LED daytime running lights and fog lights, keyless entry/ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, 10-way power-adjustable front sport seats, simulated-leather upholstery, rearview camera, 7-inch infotainment display, USB port, auxiliary audio input, Bluetooth, HD radio, and an 8-speaker/293-watt audio setup. Although Siri Eyes-Free accommodates integration with the infotainment system and Apple's iPhones, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren't available; we expect them to be available in the upcoming generation. Lexus Enform Safety Connect consists of emergency-assistance button, roadside assistance, automatic collision notification and stolen-vehicle notification, and is complimentary for the first 10 years.
As well as the choice of engines and the number of driven wheels, the options list includes a navigation bundle that brings a 10.3-inch display, HD radio, upgraded Bluetooth, and the Lexus Enform suite of various apps. A luxury package brings leather upholstery and wood trim, heated steering wheel, and dynamic guidelines for the rearview camera. The comprehensive F Sport package consists of a sportier suspension, stronger brakes, digital instrument cluster and some cosmetic additions. There’s also a 15-speaker/835-watt Mark Levinson audio system available, which is pricey but sounds great.
STANDARD LEXUS SAFETY SYSTEM+
This array of advanced safety features includes forward-collision mitigation with automatic emergency braking, active lane-keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams. We like the fact that Lexus makes these standard, in effect forcing the competition to do the same.
2.0-LITER TURBOCHARGED ENGINE
There’s nothing wrong with the V6, it’s just that this 4-cylinder unit (in the rear-drive IS 300) employs forced induction (turbocharging) to generate a punchy 241 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, enable a standstill-to-60-mph sprint in under seven seconds, yet still achieve 30 mpg on the highway.
Under the Hood
The rear-wheel-drive (RWD) 2019 IS 300 has a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder developing 241 horsepower. All-wheel-drive (AWD) variants of the IS 300 use a 260-horsepower 3.5-liter V6. The IS 350, with RWD or AWD, has a more muscular version of that V6 tuned to make 311 horsepower. In all rear-drive IS models, the transmission is a refined 8-speed automatic that can be controlled with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. When AWD is present, so is a 6-speed automatic transmission. Performance-wise, the most powerful V6 is always a joy, but the turbo-4 still feels pretty lively, as well as achieving higher fuel economy. That’s useful information since all IS cars run on premium gasoline.
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 (IS 300, RWD)
241 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
258 lb-ft of torque @ 1,650-4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/30 mpg
3.5-liter V6 (IS 300 AWD)
260 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
236 lb-ft of torque @ 2,000-4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/26 mpg
3.5-liter V6 (IS 350 RWD, AWD)
311 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
277 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/28 mpg (RWD), 19/26 mpg (AWD)
The 2019 Lexus IS premium-compact sedan belongs to a generation that’s approaching the twilight of its existence. This model debuted for the 2014 model year and the competition is much fresher. For example, the BMW 3 Series (a perennial class benchmark) is all-new for 2019. The Audi A4 debuted in 2017. And the Mercedes-Benz C-Class receives a mid-cycle update for this model year. Meanwhile, the 2019 Lexus IS has the all-new and well-received Genesis G70 snapping at its tires. The positive aspects that still make the IS worth considering, though, are the ones it has always enjoyed -- such as an unassailable reputation for quality, reliability and high resale values, along with a generous amount of luxury and safety features.