The Lexus IS has been with us for quite a while, and the current version arrived in 2013. The IS 300 is a new trim for this generation, flanked by the also-new IS 200t on the lower end and the top-trim IS 350.
The front end of the IS has become recognizable by its blinding Nike-swoosh LED daytime running lights, which still get my attention every time one drives down the street. The sculpted headlight pods contain bright bi-xenon HID lights.
If you pick the first-tier F Sport Series 1 package (like the one on my review car), you get the very noticeable love-it-or-hate-it F Sport spindle grille (I love it!), an aero package and the sweet 18-inch F Sport rims, which get bumped up to 225/40- (front) and 255/35-sized (rear) boots. By the way, the F Sport package removes the IS’ fog lights.
As you make your way around the highly aggressive-looking front end, you find a much more laid-back side profile and rear end. The side gets that little character line that swoops up out of the side sills toward the rear wheel well, and the rear end gets wrap-around tail lights that come to a very expressive and sharp tip on the IS’ side. I think the tail light signature looks great in the dark. Frankly, I think the whole car looks great.
The IS interior is a pretty dark place, and the few splashes of metallicized plastic trim bits don’t do much to brighten things up. But the fit and finish is world-class, and the materials are beautiful – there are lots of textured soft-touch plastics and nice touches like stitched trim panels on the dash. The design is getting a little dated, but it still works well for the most part. Personally I really like the Goldilocks-balance between space and intimacy that the IS’ cabin provides.
The F Sport package gets quite a few interior upgrades, the key one being the fantastic heated and ventilated F Sport seats, which offer exemplary bolstering and support while remaining very comfortable. It also throws in stuff like the F Sport steering wheel and shift knob, the fully digital instrument cluster (with the somewhat gimmicky movable gauge in the middle), special door sill/scuff plates and a moonroof.
Further reading: 2015 Lexus IS 350 AWD F Sport
My review car’s media and phone functions were handled by the base system called Lexus Display Audio which gets a decent screen and is managed with a rotary joystick knob rather than the truly awful Remote Touch interface. Considering the eight-speaker audio system is also “base”, it sounded terrific. Other than that, there’s a dual-zone automatic climate control system, universal garage door openers, a remote trunk opener and a smart keyless entry system.
The IS 300’s driver assistance technology was more remarkable for what wasn’t included – it has been a long time since I’ve driven a nearly $50,000 vehicle without a back-up camera or parking sensors, yet my IS came with neither of those. The camera in particular is a surprising omission, since plenty of entry level cars at half the IS’ price come with them as standard equipment.