Touring-ready comfort, pleasing performance, decent fuel economy, and a high-quality interior.
Luxury Compact RWD/AWD Sedan
The latest-generation Lexus IS hit the road in 2013, representing a total do-over of one of the brand’s most popular sedans for model year 2014.
Numerous models, trim grades, option packages and powertrains ensured plenty of selection. Available F Sport packages dialled up the IS’s presence and performance, and value-bundled equipment groups made it easy for shoppers to tailor their IS to any need, taste, or budget.
Look for feature content including navigation, a top-line Mark Levinson audio system, climate-controlled leather, power sunshades, Bluetooth, radar cruise control, adaptive performance lighting, wood trim, a sunroof, a pre-collision warning system, and plenty more.
Key competitors include the BMW 3 Series, Acura TLX, Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4, and others.
Engine choices originally included two V6 powerplants, with 2.5 or 3.5 litres of displacement. The Lexus IS 250 got the smaller V6, and the IS 350 got the larger unit, with up to 306 horsepower. All models came with an automatic transmission, and paddle-shifters were available. All-wheel drive (AWD) was standard or available on most trim grades, depending on the year. Note that Lexus’s AWD system is invisible, and requires no driver input.
A 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine joined the IS lineup for model year 2016, offering 241 horsepower and creating the IS 200t model variant. A new IS 300 model also launched for 2016, running a lower-output version of the 3.5-litre V6 engine.
What Owners Like
The IS is easily enjoyed by drivers after a blend of touring-ready comfort, pleasing performance, decent fuel economy, and a high-quality interior that fully supports its promise of premium motoring. Many owners note excellent interior build quality, and a feeling of solid durability.
Models with AWD are confidence-inspiring in challenging weather, too. Feature content favourites include the up-level stereo system and keyless engine start. Driving enthusiasts all seem thrilled by the performance and sound of the higher-output V6 engine, too.
What Owners Dislike
Gripes are few and far between for this model, with common complaints centering around an interior that may be cramped for some, and limited rear-seat space for larger adults. Note that models with up-sized wheels and thin tires may ride more harshly than some luxury car fans will appreciate. If you find the IS you’re considering too harsh in the ride quality department, try a model with smaller wheels and thicker tires.
Here are a few Lexus IS owner reviews on autoTRADER.ca.
The Test Drive
We’ll start with a few general tips when buying a used luxury car like the Lexus IS, and then look at a few potential model-specific issues to look out for.
Remember that the way the vehicle was maintained, serviced, and cared for by past owners is a better indicator of long-term reliability than the badge on the vehicle’s hood. Though Lexus has a well-earned reputation for building reliable luxury vehicles, failure of past owners to properly care for the vehicle you’re considering can compromise this. As such, a model with full service records sold through a Lexus Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) program is your best bet for peace of mind, as Lexus CPO models meet a high standard of quality and care before being sold.
If the model you’re set on is being sold privately, or through a non-Lexus dealer, a pre-purchase inspection (PPI) by a Lexus technician is a good bet against buying a used IS that may be concealing problems or issues.
Do not assume that the IS you’re considering will be trouble-free simply because it is a Lexus. Professional assessment of your potential used IS, before you buy, is highly advised. Also, do not underestimate the tendency of the average driver to prolong and skip maintenance intervals, to the detriment of their vehicle’s long-term reliability. You can familiarize yourself with the service schedule of the Lexus IS you’re considering here, but you’ll need the vehicle’s VIN number.
The average shopper should confirm that the IS they’re considering has never been modified with non-factory parts or engine management software, which can cause durability issues and void any remaining warranty coverage, even if the parts or software in question are removed before making a warranty claim.
Shoppers should also confirm that the battery and charging system on the IS they’re considering are healthy and in good shape. Ask a professional for help, if required. Note that a weak or dying battery can cause a plethora of potential issues with vehicle electronics and other systems in a vehicle like this.
Translation? Ensuring your used IS has a healthy battery and alternator can pre-emptively prevent frustrating problems. A car like this is an excellent candidate for hook up to a battery trickle charger when it won’t be driven for more than a few days. Here’s a 600-plus post thread about surprise battery drain.
If you’re set on a used IS but live in an area without a nearby Lexus dealer, be sure to check the Roadside Assistance section on the Lexus website. Depending on where the vehicle sits in terms of age and mileage, it may still be covered by roadside assistance that includes towing to the nearest dealer in the event of a breakdown.
Inspect the IS you’re considering for signs of rust formation, particularly around the lower edges of the rear door openings, the area where the rear bumper meets the body above the rear wheels, as well as at the inner, lower edges of the doors, the hood, and the trunk lid. Some owners report that Lexus was inspecting and repairing rust-related problems, which affect some models, and not others. If you notice any rust in the areas noted above, talk to a Lexus service department about any applicable repair coverage. Here’s some more reading.
Here’s a discussion about wonky central command systems that can lag, freeze, or crash. Any funny business with the central command system should be addressed by a dealer, who will likely install updated system software to address the issue. Contrary to what numerous owners advise each other in discussion forums, disconnecting and reconnecting the battery to try and affect some reset of the central command system is a very bad idea. Before buying, confirm that you’re able to pair your smartphone via Bluetooth, and make a call with acceptable quality.
Further, check the display screen for signs of scratching or other damage. If you see any, it was probably caused by use of improper cleaning products (like paper towel). Some owners have learned this the hard way and replaced the front surface of the screen to eliminate unsightly scratches.
Spend a few minutes confirming that the climate control system both sets and holds the temperature desired, as selected via the climate control console. Some owners have reported problems with wonky climate control systems, particularly in regards to air conditioning that seems to blow hot air into the cabin at random. If the temperature you select fails to engage, or dramatically changes without input, a Lexus dealer may need to reinitialize the climate control system electronics, or replace some internal climate control components. If the vehicle you’re considering is still under warranty, report any problems with the climate control system to the service department immediately, ensuring they’re documented, which can help speed warranty claims, if needed.
Other checks should confirm proper windshield wiper operation in all settings, and a check for unwelcomed groaning, rubbing, or creaking noises during low-speed steering manoeuvres, which could indicate the need for a new set of upper strut mounts, or the need to adjust the hood bumpers.
Just one recall.
So far, the latest-generation Lexus IS looks to be a fairly solid bet in a used luxury car, with the most commonly reported issues from the owner’s community being relatively easy to detect and address on a simple pre-purchase inspection (PPI). With a thumbs-up from a Lexus technician and all servicing confirmed as up to date, this machine can be bought with confidence.
Crash Test Ratings
IIHS: Top Safety Pick+ (2017 and newer)
NHTSA: 5/5 stars