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The Lexus IS is the brand’s entry-level sedan, and it has a few different trim levels to choose from. The entry-level IS 300 presents a great value proposition for anyone looking to step into a luxury car but not wanting to pay over $50,000. The IS 300 F Sport adds a 3.5-liter V6 engine into the mix, and the IS 350 adds a little more power.

But anyone looking to meld muscle-car rowdiness with their Japanese luxury car should check out the Lexus IS 500. It comes with all the options and features you could want, including a large V8 engine. But it’s also $15,000 more than the base IS 300 – so is it really worth the extra cash?

Rear corner view of the 2023 Lexus IS 500
2023 Lexus IS 500 | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

The 2023 Lexus IS 500 uses an engine that’s over 10 years old

2023 Lexus IS 500 engine
2023 Lexus IS 500 | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

The main argument for anyone stepping up to the 2023 Lexus IS 500 is the engine. Under its hood is a 5.0-liter V8 that generates 472 hp and 395 lb-ft of torque. According to Lexus, that’s enough power to send the rear-drive sedan up to 60 mph from a stop in only 4.4 seconds.

Apparently, the 10-year-old engine is still up to snuff when powering Lexus cars. It’s no wonder the Japanese automaker has stuffed into various platforms over the years, including our favorite, the LC 500. In the IS 500, the V8 sounds glorious and very powerful.

Compare that to the Lexus IS 350 that we have tested in the past, and it’s a night-and-day difference. Not just on paper, either. But if you like counting numbers, the IS 350 is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 311 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque. Lexus says this version can reach 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, which is still plenty quick.

But what the numbers don’t tell you is how each car makes you feel when you’re behind the wheel. We have tested both of these cars, and the IS 500’s intoxicating sound, tighter suspension, and a large amount of torque made it feel like a luxurious racecar.

The IS 350, on the other hand, felt more like a comfortable cruiser in comparison. Its throttle response was lackluster, and the softer suspension made it feel like… well, a Lexus.

In addition to the big V8, the IS 500 has more stability in the corners thanks to a set of Yamaha rear dampers and a limited-slip differential that disperses the power through the eight-speed automatic transmission. There are also different drive modes to tailor the experience.

The Lexus IS 500 comes with a few more interior features that the base models do not

A rear corner view of the 2023 Lexus IS 350
2023 Lexus IS 350 | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

Massive powerplant aside, the Lexus IS 500 is a little better equipped on the inside. The IS 500 comes standard with dual-zone auto climate control, NuLuxe leather upholstery, heated/ventilated front seats, and an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment interface.

The IS 300 and 350 lack a few tech features unless equipped with an extra package. Otherwise, the cabin is similar across all of the IS models.

Is the IS 500 worth the extra $15,000 over the base model?

A front corner view of the 2023 Lexus IS 350
2023 Lexus IS 350 | Joe Santos, MotorBiscuit

In a word – yes. The 2023 Lexus IS 500 is worth the extra money over the base version and every other trim due to its engine alone. Although some may see the IS 500 as overkill, we think that it exudes the proper performance levels and everyday driving excitement that’s needed in a true sports sedan.

However, if a more comfortable and sedate driving experience is preferred, the IS 300 and 350 models will not disappoint.