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Certified Pre-Owned Deals: Lexus IS, ES, and NX

It takes effort to buy a used car from a private party. After poring over listings here on Autotrader, our sister site Kelley Blue Book, or elsewhere, you then have to arrange a test drive, visit a person’s home or business to see the vehicle and arrange for a pre-purchase inspection. You then need to negotiate a price and usually obtain a money order, cashier’s check, or other form of deposit. Sure it can save a few bucks, but in the long run, it takes a lot of time and energy.

An alternative is shopping for a factory-certified used car. In the luxury space, one of the top programs is Lexus L/Certified, the company’s name for its certified pre-owned (CPO) program. These cars all have to pass certain criteria, are subject to rigorous inspection and repair work by factory pros, and are then offered to you with such benefits as an extended warranty, a loaner car, and roadside assistance.

To give you an idea of what’s available, we have chosen three Lexus vehicles to sample: the sporty IS compact sedan, the midsize ES sedan, and the compact NX crossover. We’ve chosen the representatives of each that we think make the most sense, and done some comparisons between the original price, the CPO price, and the non-CPO price.

First, here are more specifics on Lexus L/Certified:

Lexus L/Certified CPO Program

Lexus CPO vehicles must:

  • Not be older than six years or have more than 70,000 miles.
  • Pass a 161-point inspection by a trained technician.
  • Have a clean Carfax report.

Lexus CPO benefits include:

  • Complimentary maintenance for the next four factory services for two years or 20,000 miles.
  • Loaner car if your car is at the dealership for more than eight hours.
  • Warranty of up to six years from car’s original purchase date without mileage restrictions.

Browse Certified Lexus IS listings near you

2018 Lexus IS 300 AWD

Original MSRP: $45,145

Target CPO Purchase Price: About $31,985 for average condition and mileage

CPO Price Premium vs. Non-Certified Used: About $1,400

About the 2018 Lexus IS 300 AWD

While Lexus sedans typically value comfort over performance, we like not only the looks but also the performance of the compact IS. Some find its design polarizing, but we think the IS is distinctive looking, with performance to match. The steering is sharp, the suspension is firm without being too firm, and the V6 makes a nice growl.

Inside there’s more good news, with excellent build quality and high-quality materials. We don’t love the mouse controller for the infotainment system, and it’s also worth noting that there is no Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility, although an iPhone can be paired.

Other standard features include a moonroof, keyless entry, an 8-speaker audio system, and Bluetooth, with the previous model year adding the Lexus Safety System+ suite as standard across the board. Find a Lexus Certified 2018 IS 300 AWD for sale

What’s best about the 2018 Lexus IS 300 AWD

Given that the 2018 Lexus IS comes with a choice of three different powertrains, we like the IS 300 AWD, which uses a 255-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 in place of the 4-cylinder turbo in the base 300.

The IS 350 also has the V6 with more output, but we like the price point here. The IS 300 V6 still makes good power and pairs with all-wheel drive for confidence in all weather conditions. The 4-cylinder 300 has a CPO price of about $1,200 lower, but we feel the extra V6 muscle makes the 300 V6 the best choice. If equipped with the F Sport package, the IS will cost more, but it includes a firmer suspension, stronger brakes, and some cool gauges.

Is the 2018 Lexus IS 300 AWD a safe car?

While the Lexus Safety System+ suite of driver-assist features was previously an option, Lexus made it standard for the 2017 model year. It includes pre-collision assist, lane-departure alert with steering assist, blind-spot alert, active cruise control, and automatic high beams.

Also included are driver and passenger airbags, traction control, child door locks, stability control, and a driver knee airbag. NHTSA Safety Rating: 5 Stars

2018 Lexus ES 350

Original MSRP: $39,895

Target CPO Purchase Price: About $34,809 for average condition and mileage

CPO Price Premium vs. Non-Certified Used: About $1,500

Find Certified Lexus ES listings near you

About the 2018 Lexus ES 350

With the ES, Lexus has acknowledged that some luxury sedan buyers simply want a smooth ride and a comfortable interior rather than corner-carving sportiness. However, the ES still is good to drive, with a comfortable ride and ample V6 power for passing and driving on mountain roads. Build quality is impeccable, and materials are top quality, with plenty of soft-touch surfaces.

Standard equipment includes 10-way power-adjustable front seats, dual-zone climate control, and a rearview camera. As with the IS, the multimedia functions are accessed via a mouse-like controller, but it may be just fine for some. Desirable options to look for are a navigation system, leather and aniline-leather seats, and a superb 835-watt/15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system.

What’s best about the 2018 Lexus ES 350

In 2018, the Lexus was offered as either a 4-cylinder hybrid known as the 300h or the V6-powered 350. It is certainly worth noting that the hybrid earned 40 mpg city to the 350’s 21 mpg, but horsepower was down by more than 100, and its CPO price is a bit higher. There’s also more choice with the 350 because there are more available to choose from.

With its 268 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque, the ES 350 in our original testing got to 60 mph in just over 7 seconds. There’s also a Sport mode that offers up more aggressive shifting from the transmission, and flared fenders and twin tailpipes give it a tougher look. The standard wheels were 17-inch aluminum alloys, but 18s were offered as an upgrade. Every 2018 ES 350 is front-wheel drive, as all-wheel drive was not offered.

Is the 2018 Lexus ES 350 a safe car?

Previously only available as an option, the Lexus Safety System+ suite of driver-assist features became standard equipment across the ES line for 2017. This includes a pre-collision system, lane-departure alert with steering assist, intelligent high beams, and high-speed dynamic cruise control.

Also included are 10 airbags and Lexus’ automatic collision notification, as well as stability and traction control and child door locks. NHTSA Safety Rating: 5 Stars

2018 Lexus NX 300

Original MSRP: $39,250

Target CPO Purchase Price: About $26,534 for average condition and mileage

CPO Price Premium vs. Non-Certified Used: About $1,100

Find Certified Lexus NX listings near you

About the 2018 Lexus NX 300

The little brother to the popular Lexus RX, the 2018 Lexus NX is a distinctive-looking, chiseled, compact crossover. While it has a smaller footprint that makes it maneuverable and easy to park, the 5-seat NX is surprisingly large inside, with good passenger room and 54.6 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seat folded. Materials quality is Lexus excellent, with soft and padded surfaces everywhere and nice details like stitching on the dash.

Standard equipment is generous and includes power seats, dual-zone climate control, a 7-inch screen, and a Drive Mode function that makes the throttle more responsive. Unlike some of its family members, the NX has a touchpad controller rather than a mouse-like device.

Desirable options include a navigation package that also adds Bing, Yelp, iHeartRadio, and other apps. There are also Comfort, Premium, and Leather packages, that add such amenities as heated and ventilated front seats.

What’s best about the 2018 Lexus NX 300

There were two available powertrain choices for the 2018 Lexus NX, with the 300 (which replaced the 200t nomenclature and is our preferred model) getting a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder and the 300h hybrid using a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder plus an electric motor. We like the smooth power delivery of the turbo, and its 235 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque work well with either the default front-wheel drive or the optional all-wheel drive. Expect to pay a bit more for all-wheel drive, which also adds weight.

The all-wheel-drive-only hybrid, unsurprisingly, makes less power but earns about 6 mpg more combined fuel economy. However, its CPO price is about $1,000 more than that for the 300. There’s also an F Sport version of the 300, but again, its CPO price is about $4,000 more.

Is the 2018 Lexus NX 300 a safe car?

Like its sedan counterparts, the 2018 Lexus NX 300 is offered with an impressive amount of safety equipment, including front and rear parking sensors, a rearview camera, and stability and traction control. Also included are child door locks, rear side airbags, and a driver knee airbag.

Options to look for include adaptive cruise control, lane-departure alert, blind-spot monitoring, and a frontal pre-collision warning system. The IIHS named it a Top Safety Pick+. NHTSA Safety Rating: 5 Stars

Find a Lexus Certified vehicle for sale

Doug Lloyd
Doug Lloyd is an author specializing in comparison tests. A veteran of the automotive press world, Doug started at Sports Car International and Vintage Motorsport magazines and has worked at both Porsche Panorama magazine and Doug is also a jazz piano player and a composer for television.

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