Lexus is throwing down the gauntlet with an exciting new, ultra-sporty IS 500 model for 2022.
Dubbed the IS 500 F Sport Performance, this newcomer crowns the existing IS range with a no-holds-barred flagship. It goes on sale this fall.
The brawny IS500 also puts the Lexus junior sedan firmly in contention with top European compact performance sedans, such as the BMW M3 and Mercedes-Benz AMG C63.
The enthusiast driver in us likes the concept of a powerful V8 engine in a small, rear-wheel-drive (RWD) four-door sedan. And that’s exactly what the IS 500 provides, with no less than 472 horsepower on tap from its 5.0-liter motor.
At a time when many automakers are dropping sedans in favor of SUVs, it’s gratifying to see Toyota’s luxury division expand its sedan line-up, especially with such a hard-core variant.
For consumers seeking less aggressive IS models, for 2022, Lexus continues to offer the IS 300 and IS 350 trims, with four-cylinder and V6 engines, respectively. These models also come with an all-wheel-drive (AWD) as an option to RWD.
In 2021, Lexus made the F Sport grade standard, rather than optional, on the IS 350. This trim adds a number of sporty exterior and interior features, including larger wheels and more supportive seats. The IS 300 is not available in F Sport grade.
What’s New for 2022?
Changes for 2022 focus on the new, range-topping IS 500. The existing IS 300 and IS 350 models carry over to 2022 with no substantive modifications.
As for the IS 500, it joins the line-up with a V8 engine driving the rear wheels through a sophisticated 8-speed automatic transmission.
To shoehorn the V8 engine into the IS 500, the hood has been raised 2 inches, and the front fenders and front bumper have been lengthened. Exclusive 19-inch alloy wheels further differentiate the IS 500 from the F Sport wheels fitted to IS 350, as does a four-outlet exhaust system and dark chrome window trim.
Inside, there is black F Sport Performance badging on the leather steering wheel and door sill plates. The IS 500 comes standard with the F Sport style accelerator and brake pedals, and footrest.
The instrument screen also has a start-up animation display that is unique to the IS 500. Find a 2022 Lexus IS for sale
What We Like
- Aggressive but stylish design
- Blisteringly fast performance potential
- Well-appointed cabin
What We Don’t
- Cramped rear seat
- Infotainment better but still behind rivals
The 2021 IS 300 was priced from $39,000. The price of the 2021 IS350 F Sport started at $42,900. We don’t expect these prices to increase much for 2022 models.
The 2022 IS 500 price has not been released yet, but we expect the model will be in the same ballpark as key rivals, such as the $69,650 Mercedes-Benz AMG C3 and the $70,895 BMW M3, both of which have similar horsepower output to the Lexus.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the 2021 IS 300 and IS 350 model recorded the following miles per gallon (mpg) fuel economy numbers. The IS 300 RWD city/highway/combined, 21/31/25 mpg, IS 300 AWD 19/26/22 mpg. The IS 350 RWD, 20/28/23 mpg, IS 350 AWD, 19/26/22 mpg. We do not expect these numbers to change for 2022.
EPA fuel economy numbers are not available yet for the 2022 IS 500, but we expect they will be lower than the IS 350 in real-world usage, especially with lead-footed drivers at the wheel.
Standard Features and Options
The IS range starts with the IS300 trim ($39,000). This five-passenger, the four-door compact sedan is powered by a 2.0-liter, turbocharged, 4-cylinder engine.
In the RWD IS 300 version, this engine delivers 241 horsepower through an 8-speed automatic transmission. The AWD IS 300 develops 260 horsepower, which is transmitted to all four wheels via a 6-speed automatic.
Moving up to the IS 350 F Sport ($42,900), the engine is a 3.5-liter V6, producing 311 horsepower in RWD and AWD versions. As with the IS 300, an 8-speed automatic transmission is featured in the RWD model and a 6-speed automatic in the AWD trim.
Wheel size starts with 18-in. rims on the IS 300, while the IS 350 F Sport gets 19-in. alloy wheels. The new IS 500 F Sport Performance model comes with 19-in. alloy wheels that are lighter than those on the IS 350. The RWD-only IS 500 also uses the 8-speed automatic transmission.
The IS trims all feature LED headlights and taillights, rain-sensing wipers and auto-dimming heated outside mirrors.
Inside, the driver can select from three drive modes – Eco, normal and sport – and there are paddle shifters for both 6-speed and 8-speed transmissions. The IS comes with dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats (AWD versions only) and if the navigation system is not optioned, then the rearview mirror has a compass.
The infotainment system has an 8-in. touchscreen with a remote touchpad in the center console. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as is a 10-speaker Pioneer audio system and a backup monitor.
The IS 350 F Sport exterior styling changes include unique front and rear bumpers, rear spoiler and two extra colors, ultrasonic blue, infrared and ultra white.
Inside, the IS 350 F Sport receives a heated and leather-trimmed steering wheel, bolstered heated and cooled front seats and black, red or white trim colors.
Options include triple beam LED headlights, power tilt and slide moonroof, parking assist system and a Mark Levinson 17-speaker, 1800-watt audio system.
There are also several packages available. These include a comfort package with heated and cooled front seats, heated leather-trimmed steering wheel and power moonroof and a navigation package with a 10.3-in. touchscreen and voice command. There is also a F Sport dynamic handling package, which includes the features of the IS 350 F Sport and adds adaptive suspension, a limited-slip differential, lightweight alloy matte black BBS wheels and drive mode select from sport S, sport S+ and custom mode. Inside there is a heated, ash wood steering wheel and ash trim.
The IS 500 comes as standard with the F Sport dynamic handling package and upgrades with extra engine cooling capability and larger brakes than the IS 350 F Sport.
All IS models come as standard with Lexus Safety System 2.5. This suite of driver aids includes pre-collision with pedestrian detection, daytime bicyclist detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, all-speed radar cruise control and blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert.
The Lexus has yet to be crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or other third-party organizations.
Behind the Wheel
As a luxurious, sharp-looking, compact sedan with a sporty persona, the Lexus IS range is an attractive alternative to the established German offerings from Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi.
The IS is unquestionably fun to drive, with decent handling and road manners. But it falls short when compared to the competition in terms of performance, steering response and at the limit handling.
Until now, the IS350 F Sport (with the handling package) has come closest to the state of the art European rivals in terms of driving dynamics. It has a claimed 0-60 mph time of 5.6 seconds and a 143 mph top speed.
The picture changes, however, with the arrival this fall of the IS 500 F Sport Performance model, which promises performance to give the competition a run for its money.
We expect the V8 engine to provide dramatic performance and handling to have been improved over the IS 350 F Sport. But as with most hard-core sports sedans, ride comfort and refinement is likely to suffer.
Check back soon for an update once we have had a chance to drive the 2022 IS 500.
Other Cars to Consider
2022 BMW M3 – It’s hard to argue with the appeal of this iconic sports sedan.
2022 Mercedes-Benz AMG C63 – Blindingly fast and great handling, this AMG model should be high on the shopping list.
2022 Audi RS5 Sportback – Not quite as powerful as its peers, but with AWD capability, the Audi is a serious contender.
If you want a compact Lexus to challenge the best of the German rivals, opt for the IS 500 F Sport Performance. Otherwise, we recommend the IS 350 F Sport, which is much less expensive and still an entertaining driver’s car. Find a 2022 Lexus IS for sale