The Lexus IS was the classic example of age before beauty. Lexus wanted to bring the fight to the Germans, but in the end, there was no hiding the fact that the IS was too old, clunky, and unpolished for it to pose any serious form of threat to the established benchmarks (even the Cadillac CT4 managed to outshine it). This time though, Lexus went back to the drawing board for the 2022 IS, and while some of the old bones carry over from the outgoing model, there’s still plenty to talk about here.
New IS Styling Is Bolder And Sleeker
A prominent example of what’s new is the exterior styling of the 2022 IS (2023 models carryover with minimal updates). While the previous generation IS was styled with blunt hammers, gardening shears, and perhaps Windows XP-era clipart angles, this new one is sleeker and has more polish. The spindle style front grille is still present, but it now benefits from reworked headlights that help it mesh better with the rest of the styling, while flowing fenders and a reworked hood amp up the aggression that this model is trying to project.
The side profile is defined by a main upswept design line that runs along the lower portion of the doors while the roofline slopes downward for a more aggressive appearance. The taillights are arguably our least favorite part of the car, with the awkward-looking lightbar clashing with the trunk and the lower rear bumper. Lexus claims that it was trying to appeal to a variety of personalities with the exterior styling (including gamers.) However, perhaps it was a good idea not to let professional Rocket League players influence that particular design detail. Range-topping IS 500 models get their own share of exclusive styling tweaks, but overall we like what we see here, and we think that Lexus is on to something with the new look (minus the rear end).
Mixture Of Old And New Defines IS Interior
Slip inside the IS’s interior, and you will be forgiven if you notice some familiar items blended in with the new updates. The infotainment system, for example, is still operated by the annoying touchpad. Still, the 10.3-inch screen has been moved closer to the edge of the dashboard, and Lexus claims it also benefits from updated software. The air vents are now rounded, and the cupholders have also been relocated.
The front seats have been tweaked a bit, and they offer revised bolstering for improved comfort. However, while you still get usable amounts of head and legroom in the front seats, rear passengers still suffer from tight knee room, especially if they have to sit behind taller front-seat passengers. While the changes on hand are not nearly as extensive as some buyers might have wanted, they do just enough to help this version of the IS feel crisper than before. That said, the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes C-Class, and Audi A4 still have more technology and have benefited from a more extensive suite of updates, which might sway buyers that are cross-shopping the IS between those three benchmarks. Trunk space is commendable for the segment, and the Mark Levinson stereo in our example provided excellent sound quality. Ultimately, we would like to see Lexus go all-in on revamping the interior, especially in light of recent efforts like the Lexus NX and the Lexus LX flagship SUV.
A Trio of Performance Options For Any Occasion
The 2022/2023 Lexus IS offers buyers a trio of engines to choose from, with the base model featuring a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 201 hp as well as a 5.0-liter V8 in the IS500 that makes 472 hp. Our tester arrived with neither of these engines, and we were instead treated to the naturally aspirated 3.5 liter V6, which is the middle-ground option for performance. It still makes 311 horsepower, and while RWD models get an eight-speed automatic, AWD examples like our tester get a six-speed automatic instead. Lexus reps that we have spoken to in the past say that it’s due to the all-wheel drive system not being compatible with the newer eight-speed but we find that explanation interesting since many of its rivals also offer AWD capability but don’t require customers to give up any gears in their unchanged transmissions.
That aside, the V6 is actually the engine that we would go for if we were given the opportunity to buy an IS for ourselves. The IS500s V8 delivers the goods on raw power but makes you pay for it in both fuel economy and overall sticker price, while the 2.0 liter is too breathless for some of the sporty driving that buyers are looking to do with their IS on twisty roads. The V6’s age is noticeable, but it still delivers strong acceleration, a 5.6 second 0 to 60 time, and copious amounts of torque when asked to do so. Handling in our tester is still not quite up to snuff with the segment’s best, but the F-Sport’s firmed up suspension did allow our tester to have slightly more poise than what we are used to seeing in other IS models.
Braking in our tester was strong and stable with our tester having very little drama when it came time to bring the festivities to a halt. Fuel economy is roughly on par with its segment rivals with the EPA rating the IS350 F-Sport at 19 mpg city and 26 mpg freeway.
Pricing for the 2022 Lexus IS350 starts at $45,410 with our lightly optioned tester ending up just under $50,000. That pricing puts it in the thick of it with segment rivals but the main issue that hampers the IS is that it simply does not do enough to take full advantage of all the updates that Lexus could’ve provided. The interior’s strange mixture of old and new additions makes us wonder why Lexus didn’t go all in on a outright revamp while the performance hardware (V8 excluded) is in serious need of an overhaul.
Despite that, this latest iteration of the Lexus IS does do a good job fixing the styling missteps that defined the older model and on that front, the updates here are a welcome improvement. We look forward to seeing what’s in store for the IS especially when Lexus goes full circle in bringing updates to key areas that would heavily benefit from the upgrades.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.