The IS Series is a collection of compact executive cars first introduced by Lexus in 1998. The IS was originally introduced as an entry-level luxury car, below the GS Series in Lexus’s line-up. The IS is still on offer today, and has gone through several generations and numerous models and trims. The designation ‘IS’ is actually an acronym; it stands for Intelligent Sport. Though the cars in this series are considered entry level, they, in every way, live up to Lexus’s commitment to luxury, performance, and high-quality design. Created and assembled in Japan, the IS Series features class-leading technology and impressive handling. Vehicles from across the range can still be found in great condition on the pre-owned car market, and new IS models are still exceedingly popular.
Offering a unique combination of sporty performance and luxury design, the IS Series has proven a big hit for the Japanese luxury automaker, Lexus. Throughout their production run, the cars, at the bottom of Lexus’s line-up, have offered drivers affordable luxury and allowed many people who previously wouldn’t have been able to purchase a luxury vehicle to do just that. Good fuel economy and excellent customer service and warranties, hallmarks of the Lexus luxury brand, contribute to the low running costs for vehicles across the IS Series. What’s more, a wide variety of available models, generations, and trims gives buyers in the market for an IS plenty to consider.
Over the years, the IS Series has gone through three generations, each with their own unique features and attributes. The first generation, on offer from 1999 to 2005, was also known as the GXE10. That particular generation was offered in both sedan and wagon variants. The second generation, codenamed the GSE20 and available from 2005 to 2012, was available in two sedan models, the IS250 and the IS350, as well as in a high-performance range-topper named the IS F, introduced in 2007. Current models include the 250 and 350, as well as performance-tuned IS F variants. Each of the various generations was offered in a wide array of trims and engines.
The stylish design of the IS, featuring clean lines and an elegant profile, belies the car’s high-performance nature. Designed in order to compete with the BMW 3-Series, the first IS Series vehicles featured an emphasis on performance previously unheard of for a Japanese luxury car. However, it wasn’t until the second-generation IS Series emerged that BMW (and other luxury car brands) started to see a real threat from the Japanese automaker. Beginning with the 2006 model year, the IS began to be seen as an automobile on par with BMW’s offerings in terms of performance and handling. Whatever model IS you choose to purchase, you can look forward to quality, solid performance, and of course, Lexus luxury.
Since the beginning, Lexus has always elected to offer each model in the IS Series with a wide variety of engine options. Original versions of the car were equipped with either a 2.0L V6 (the IS 200) or a 3.0L V6 (the IS 300). The former offered 114kW of power and 195Nm of torque while the latter had an output of 162kW of power and 295Nm of torque. Both cars were offered with either a manual or automatic transmission. The second generation of the car came with even broader options under the bonnet. This newer IS 250 was equipped with a 2.5L V6 engine with 153kW of power and 252Nm of torque, while the newer 350 came with a 3.5L V6 with 228kW of power and 375Nm of torque. The high-performance IS F came with serious power and an output of 311kW and 503Nm of torque. It would seem that the new third-generation models, slated for release in 2013, offer similar engine options as the second generation.
These luxury vehicles have always come well equipped with luxury kit. Original models featured all your standard luxury equipment such as an 8-speaker stereo, climate control, power everything, fog lamps, leather trim, heated seating, power steering, a limited slip differential, and safety features, such as an integrated security system, dual airbags, and anti-lock brakes. Newer models got an upgrade kit-wise, with keyless entry and ignition, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, a 6-CD changer and premium audio system, moonroof, and cruise control all standard. Options for newer IS Series models include Bluetooth connectivity, a satnav system, 10-way power seats, and rear park assist.
The IS Series was originally launched in order to compete with the BMW 3-Series. Around the same time as the launch of the IS Series, the 3-Series was in its fourth generation. Those cars featured a range-topping 2.8L V6 engine with 142kW of power and 280Nm of torque. The IS F currently outperforms any offerings from the BMW 3-Series, meaning Lexus’s challenge to compete with BMW was effectively won by the Japanese automaker. Other competition in the field comes from the comparable Mercedes-Benz C-Class of vehicles. Currently the 350 version of the C-Class features a 3.5L V6 engine with 200kW of power and 350Nm of torque. Neither car lives up to the performance of the current Lexus IS Series.