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2017 Lexus IS: New Car Review

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author photo by Autotrader January 2017

Whether the styling works for you or not, the 2017 Lexus IS is still an exceptional premium compact sedan. And that's saying something, because this class isn't short of star performers. Working out which model to buy is a nice problem to have.

Like its rivals, the IS starts out with features we appreciate every day of the week, such as a comfortable, quiet cabin and confidence-inspiring driving manners. These features also come in a body that can be just the right size -- big enough for people and things, yet compact enough to make life simple in places like parking garages and tight city streets.

Another area where the IS has appeal is the dealership experience. Lexus is a frequent winner of satisfaction surveys such as J.D. Power's, and the brand's build quality is always dependably high.

What's New for 2017?

A minor styling revamp comes to the nose and tail, and there are new designs for the alloy wheels. The interior gets revised switchgear on the steering column, redesigned cupholders and a larger 10.3-inch display available with the navigation package. The whole range receives LED headlights, and the previously optional package of advanced safety features is now standard throughout.

What We Like

Quality; comfort; silky V6 engines; overall level of standard equipment

What We Don't

Remote Touch navigation interface somewhat fiddly to use; 6-speed automatic transmission becoming dated; rearview camera ought to be standard at this level

How Much?


Fuel Economy

The IS 200t has a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that develops 241 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The sole transmission is an 8-speed automatic, and the car is rear-wheel-drive only. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption at 22 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.

The IS 300 has a 6-speed automatic transmission connected to a standard all-wheel-drive system. Propulsion is supplied by a 3.5-liter V6 making 255 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. EPA figures are 19 mpg city/26 mpg hwy.

The IS 350 comes with either rear-wheel drive and an 8-speed automatic transmission or all-wheel drive with a 6-speed automatic transmission. This has a more powerful 3.5-liter V6 that makes 306 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. With rear-wheel drive, mileage estimates are 19 mpg city/28 mpg hwy; with all-wheel drive, we're looking at 19 mpg city/26 mpg hwy.

Standard Features & Options

The 2017 Lexus IS comes in 200t, 300 and 350 models.

Standard equipment in the IS 200t ($38,800) includes 17-in wheels (the IS 350 gets 18-in wheels), LED headlights/running lights/fog lights/taillights, heated side mirrors, a sunroof, keyless entry/ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, a manual tilt-telescopic steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, 8-way power front seats with power lumbar adjustment for the driver, premium vinyl upholstery, Bluetooth connectivity, a 7-in display, voice-command capability, Siri Eyes Free and a 10-speaker audio system with a CD player, HD Radio, satellite radio and two USB ports.

Features are pretty much the same for the IS 300 ($41,175) and the IS 350 ($42,345), except for the engines and a few other details.

A Premium options bundle brings a rearview camera and heated/ventilated front seats. Premium Plus brings a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert, rain-sensing wipers and a power adjustable steering wheel. There's also a navigation package that's eligible for the excellent 835-watt/15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system.

The Luxury package incorporates equipment from the Premium and Premium Plus packages and adds front and rear parking sensors, self-dimming side mirrors, leather upholstery, wood trim, a heated steering wheel and memory settings for the driver's seat.

All three IS cars are eligible for the F Sport package. This includes an all-mesh grille, 18-in wheels with wider tires at the rear (18x8 inches up front, 18x8.5 inches out back) and a choice of summer (high-performance) or all-season tires, plus high-friction brake pads and a sportier suspension. It also entails a different front bumper design that deletes the fog lights.

Interior F Sport features include front sport seats with extra lateral support and heated/ventilated functions, aluminum pedals, a black headliner, perforated leather trim and a dedicated instrument cluster. There's even an engine-sound amplifier (unavailable in the 4-cylinder IS 200t) that brings a sportier V6 snort into the cabin.

The rear-wheel-drive version of the F Sport-equipped IS 350 comes with adaptive dampers. This particular variant can also come with a variable-ratio steering system and power adjustment for the steering wheel.

Trunk capacity is 13.8 cu ft., which is better than the class average. For extra space, the rear seatbacks can also split 60/40 and fold down.


Standard safety equipment includes anti-lock disc brakes with brake assist, traction/stability control and 10 airbags. Lexus Enform Safety Connect is also part of the deal (a free 12-month trial subscription), bringing automatic collision notification, stolen-vehicle location and an emergency-assistance call button.

The Lexus Safety System Plus package becomes standard for 2017. It includes adaptive cruise control, a forward-collision mitigation system that tightens the front seat belts and boosts braking power if necessary, lane-departure warning and intelligent high beams.

Among the options are a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors and a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert.

In government crash tests, the Lexus IS 350 scored five out of five stars overall: four for front impact protection and five for side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the IS the top rating of Good in its main categories and made it a Top Safety Pick+.

Behind the Wheel

Top-notch materials and superb attention to detail distinguish the interior. Every area where arms and elbows come into contact with the cabin is padded, and even the dashboard uses soft-touch materials. Comfort is a major plus point, both up front and in the back, where space is more than sufficient for a couple of adults.

The Remote Touch interface that comes with the navigation system isn't up to the same standard as the rest of the car's ergonomics. It's hard to control the cursor, especially when driving. At least the voice-command function works well.

The turbocharged 4-cylinder engine in the IS 200t is smooth enough to sit behind a Lexus grille, but it also brings a fair amount of punch. A dated transmission, a heavy all-wheel-drive system and only 255 hp don't help the IS 300's case. The IS 350 has more vigor and, in rear-wheel-drive form, the better transmission.

Ride quality earns the IS another gold star. It's refined and relaxed but also precise. The suspension of the F Sport package is naturally firmer, although the adaptive dampers in the rear-drive IS 350 F Sport model mean the best of both worlds.

Other Cars to Consider

2017 Audi A4 -- Ultra-refined and offering plenty of cutting-edge tech, the A4 is all-new for this model year.

2017 BMW 3 Series -- The godfather of compact premium sedans, the 3 Series is superb to drive.

2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class -- Incredibly impressive, the C-Class is like an S-Class but smaller.

2017 Cadillac ATS -- The ATS is well-rounded and world-class.

2017 Jaguar XE -- The XE offers a slinky suspension, sleek looks and great equipment choices.

Used Audi A6 -- The A6 is so good in so many respects that it's almost unfair on the rest of the car world.

Autotrader's Advice

The whole world seems to be going toward turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engines -- they have a fine balance of usable power and fuel efficiency -- so the IS 200t could be a great choice. It might also provide some budget leeway for a few more options, like the Luxury pack.

Find a Lexus IS for sale

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2017 Lexus IS: New Car Review - Autotrader