The 2018 Lexus IS 300 sports sedan is available with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive, and the difference isn’t just which wheels are doing the work. The rear drive version is powered by a four-cylinder engine and the all-wheeler has a V6.
Transmissions also differ, with an eight-speed automatic for RWD and a six-speed automatic for AWD.
My Lexus IS 300 tester was the rear-wheel-drive model, whose 2.0-liter twin scroll supercharged four-cylinder engine makes 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. In partnership with its fluid eight-speed Sport Direct Shift automatic transmission, a speed of 60 mph can be reached from zero mph in 6.9 seconds. This level of performance was much appreciated whenever merging onto a fast-moving but crowded I-5, and then maneuvering among the increasingly sketchy drivers routinely encountered there.
Eco, Normal, Sport and Snow selectable modes are available to accommodate the driver’s personal preferences, moods and road conditions.
Fuel economy ratings for the rear-wheel-drive IS 300 are 22 mpg city, 32 mpg highway, and 26 mpg combined. Premium fuel (91 octane) is required.
Base pricing starts at $39,205 including a $995 destination charge.
The IS 300 exterior is elegantly styled, the interior even more so. There’s seating for five but this car is on the small side, so there’s not much room for rear seat passengers. Putting three adults back there borders on meanness, especially since the driver and front passenger have lots of room and comfort, possibly causing resentment. Whatever the seat assignment, everyone gets to enjoy a cabin free of unwanted noise from the car’s tires and mechanicals.
It’s impossible not to admire the upscale quality and sophisticated design of the IS 300 interior. My tester came with an optional $2,835 navigation and Mark Levinson audio system, fabulous until you want to engage the infotainment system’s touchpad control, which Lexus calls RTI, for remote touch interface. Touchpads in general can be iffy even while calmly seated at a desk, but to deal with one while driving is at best frustrating and at worst, dangerous. Fortunately there are other control options for the system, so the touchpad can be largely avoided if desired.
On Snohomish County’s many rural roads where street lamps are scarce or not at all, the IS 300’s standard LED headlamps greatly illuminate what lies ahead. On all roads, the standard LED daytime running lights provide an extra margin of safety by providing better visibility for the oncoming drivers when our weather conditions are cloudy or rainy.
There are comfort and convenience, safety, and technology standard features galore on the IS 300. The number of available options is also generous. Optional equipment on the tester, in addition to the upgraded infotainment system, includes a Comfort package (memory system for the driver’s seat, outside mirrors and steering column; power tilt and telescoping steering column; blind spot monitor with cross-traffic alert; and rain-sensing wipers), adaptive front lighting, and heated and ventilated front seats.
2018 LEXUS IS 300 RWD
Base price, including destination charge: $39,205
Price as driven: $44,184
Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.