Is the Cheapest Lexus IS Sedan Worth Buying or Should You Select a Pricier Trim?

Lexus is a byword for quality, luxury, and performance. When we look at cars like the LC 500, RC F, and LS, we expect the best of the best. Unparalleled fit and finish, reliability, and performance that can match anything from the major German manufacturers.

What about at the entry-level? The IS sedan is the most affordable point of entry to the Lexus brand, and the IS 300 is the cheapest trim which starts at $39,850. Is the base model IS enough Lexus to satisfy budget-conscious customers, or should it be passed by in favor of a higher trim spec?

2022 Lexus IS 300 performance and efficiency

A 3/4 front view of a red 2022 Lexus IS sedan parked in front of a brick building.
2022 Lexus IS sedan | Lexus

The Lexus IS is an aging car. The current chassis is now seven years old and is past due for a refresh. Despite that, it still performs quite well, and Lexus has done a great job with the chassis to update it in a way that keeps the fun-to-drive factor in line with what BMW and Mercedes are doing. 

The base model is the IS 300 rear-wheel drive. It comes with a  2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 241 horsepower. That is not a lot, and down on its competitors. 60 mph comes up from a standstill in 6.1 seconds, which is about a second slower than the BMW 330i. All-wheel drive is a $2,000 option and gives you a 3.5-liter V6 engine with 260 horsepower.

The aging turbocharged engine has 3,715 pounds of car to move, and as such, fuel economy does suffer. EPA rates the IS 300 RWD at 21 city and 31 highway, which lags behind other cars in its class. The V6 AWD spec is even thirstier, with an EPA rating of 19 city and 26 highway. The four-cylinder engine is the better option if economy is essential to your car-buying decision.

Exterior design and features

A profile view of a gray 2022 Lexus IS sedan parked in front of a building.
2022 Lexus IS sedan | Lexus

The IS 300 is a great-looking car. Despite the platform’s age, it still looks crisp, fresh, and modern. It closely follows Lexus’ design language that is shared across its entire model range.

18-inch wheels are standard with all-season tires, and performance summer tires are a no-cost option. BI-LED headlights and LED taillights are also included. There are four standard paint colors to choose from: Atomic Silver, Caviar (black), Matador Red Mica, and Grecian Water (blue). A dark gray and white are also available as a $500 option. 

Comfort and multimedia

An interior view of a 2022 Lexus IS sedan showing the steering wheel, instruments, dashboard, and infotainment display.
2022 Lexus IS sedan interior | Lexus

Comfort is an area in which you expect Lexus to shine. And in the IS 300, you will not be disappointed in that area. Driver’s and passenger’s seats are eight-way power-adjustable, and all the seating surfaces are NuLuxe, a synthetic leather. Interior trim is black metallic, and the IS 300 has dual-zone climate control.

All of the surfaces have a high-quality feel to them, and as you would expect, the fit and finish are top notch.

Multimedia is handled by an eight-inch touchscreen that can also be controlled by the touchpad in the center console. Navigation is a $1,670 option with a larger 10.3-inch touchscreen, or it can be had with the $2,750 Mark Levinson Premium Audio Package. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Alexa are standard, and Lexus will include three months of onboard WiFi. There are also two USB ports in the front to handle phone charging and connectivity duties.

This is comparable to most of the cars in this class.

Safety features

Lexus includes its Safety System + 2.5 on the IS 300, and its list of features is extensive. Standard features include pre-collision and pedestrian warning, lane departure warning, dynamic radar cruise control, automatic high beams, blind-spot monitoring, and road sign assist.

There are also 10 airbags, a backup camera, traction control, and brake assist.

The NHTSA has awarded the Lexus IS 300 with a five-star overall crash test rating. It performed well in all crash-test areas, which should make safety-conscious buyers happy.

Is the base model IS 300 rear-wheel drive worth buying?

A 3/4 front view of a white 2022 Lexus IS sedan driving on a road with trees in the background.
2022 Lexus IS sedan | Lexus

At $39,850, the IS 300 is in the middle, in terms of price, of the BMW 330i, which starts at $41,500, and the Mercedes-Benz CLA 250, which has a base price of $38,200. The BMW will be the sharper, better handling car to drive, and the Mercedes has slightly better tech features. 

If you want to get into the Lexus brand, the IS is a great place to start. Despite its aging chassis and engines, it still can put a smile on your face. The IS looks stylish, has a solid set of standard features, and is very well-built. The more expensive trims add all-wheel drive and additional creature comforts, but if you’re looking for entry-level luxury, the base model IS is a good buy.

Related: Should You Buy a Lexus IS or a Mercedes-Benz CLA?