When the IS arrived in the U.S. for 2001 it attempted to out 3 Series the 3 Series, providing sporty rear-drive dynamics in a compact sedan package with Lexus' luxury and reliability. That's the formula the IS has followed ever since.
After an extensive update for the 2021 model year, expect the sport sedan to carry over mostly unchanged into 2022 except for the muscular IS500 F Sport Performance model. Here's what we know about that car, and what you can anticipate from the rest of the 2022 Lexus IS lineup.
The recently updated Lexus IS left us somewhat unimpressed. Sure it drove nicely, providing an appealing mix of luxury and performance. The addition of a touchscreen-based infotainment system was more than welcome. But despite the extensive rework, we could tell it's more or less the same IS that's been around since 2013. The luxury compact sedan segment may be dwindling, but still includes some excellent vehicles. The IS isn't quite on that level.
Wait—what's that noise?
For 2022, a new IS model rumbles onto the scene: The V-8-powered IS500 F Sport Performance. A spiritual successor to the IS F of the late 2000s, the IS500 uses an evolved version of that car's 5.0-liter V-8. A slew of other mechanical upgrades aim to give the IS500 a proper dynamic edge. In an era where engines are getting shrunken, turbocharged, and hybridized, the IS500 takes a refreshingly old-fashioned approach: Stuff a big engine in a small car for the sake of having fun. Check out our first test right here.
Although its back seat remains cramped, the updated IS seems like a decent improvement from before. But not much about it captured our hearts. We'd probably go for a Genesis G70 or Alfa Romeo Giulia instead, both former Car of the Year winners. But now that the IS500 is part of the range, our enthusiast interest is most certainly piqued. We can't wait to find out how this modern muscle car performs.
Today's sporty four-doors often employ turbocharged six cylinder or even all-electric powertrains. The IS500 kicks it old school with a burly naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V-8. This engine likes to spin, producing 472 peak horsepower at 7,100 rpm and 395 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm. All that is sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.
If that engine seems familiar, it is. It's the 2UR-GSE, the same designation as the block under the legendary bulging hood of the IS F. In the IS500 it's more powerful and likely produces fewer emissions, but the fact that a 2022 luxury sedan uses a V-8 that's well over a decade old adds to the IS500's muscle car charm.
Engines in other 2022 IS models are expected to carry over from 2021. That means a 2.0-liter turbo-four making 241 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque in the IS300 RWD, or a 3.5-liter V-6 producing 260 hp and 236 lb-ft in the IS300 AWD. A high-output 3.5-liter V-6 should again produce 311 hp and 277 lb-ft in the IS350 F Sport.
Lexus estimates that the IS500 will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds. That seems like a reasonable assumption, considering that our test team has recorded acceleration results within two tenths of a second from the Lexus IS F, GS F, and RC F, which use essentially the same V-8 engine. Count on us to find out for sure as soon as we have access to the IS500.
Some sporty sedans get slapped with air vents or huge grilles to distinguish themselves from their everyday counterparts. The 2022 IS500 F Sport Performance takes a more low-key approach, looking suspiciously like a normal IS with the F Sport package. How to tell it apart? Look for a few key design details.
Perhaps most distinctive are the quad exhaust outlets, which are mounted in an unusual diagonal configuration—a key feature on Lexus F vehicles. Like the IS F, the IS500's hood and front fenders are bulged out to help fit its V-8. Lightweight Enkei wheels with a flower-like pattern are also unique to the IS500. Subtle cues like the rear diffuser and dark chrome window trim are specific to the IS500, but even more subtle are the black side badges exclusive to the F Performance line.
The Lexus F Sport package is available on different models to give them a sportier edge—or, at least, a more sporty appearance. In the case of the IS, the F Sport package adds different bumpers and wheels, and makes more exciting paint choices available. A retuned suspension is the only mechanical change.
With the IS500 comes a new trim above F Sport, called F Sport Performance. As the title implies it adds more actual performance parts. These include a limited-slip rear differential, adaptive dampers and stiffer springs, and lightweight staggered wheels with summer tires. A rear chassis damper developed by Yamaha is said to smooth the ride at low speeds and stabilize it at high speeds. To counter its V-8, the F Sport Performance kit gives the IS500 brake rotors measuring 14.0 inches up front and 12.7 inches out back. As a subtle visual differentiator between F Sport and F Sport Performance, the former wears white F side badges while the latter has them finished in black.
The IS500 is the first Lexus to receive the F Sport Performance setup, but time will tell if it's eventually applied to other models—or, if a full-on IS F will make its return.
The IS500 will include the Lexus Safety System+ 2.5 suite of driver-assist and active safety features; we expect other IS models to continue using the tech as well. Lexus Safety System+ 2.5 bundles features like forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, intersection collision mitigation, rear cross-traffic alert, and automatic high beams. Highway driving is eased by the inclusion of adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, lane-departure warning, and blind-spot monitoring.
Headroom and legroom measurements in the 2022 IS should presumably match those in the 2021 model. That means 38.2 inches of headroom in the first row, and 36.9 in the second. Front-row legroom should be a generous 44.8 inches up front, but a tiny 32.2 inches in back.
Trunk capacity will likely again measure just 10.8 cubic feet, with split-folding second-row seats allowing larger items to fit inside. Although luxury sport sedans aren't known for being particularly spacious, the Lexus IS is more on the snug side of the segment.
Like the 2021 model, the 2022 IS should offer two infotainment display options: a standard unit measuring 8.0 inches, and a 10.3-inch upgrade. Both are touchscreens, but can also be controlled by a touchpad in the center console. Standard connectivity features will likely include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, Bluetooth streaming, and two front-row USB ports. As before there should be a reconfigurable gauge cluster display that can show information and tachometer layouts that change depending on drive mode. A 17-speaker Mark Levinson premium audio system will likely be offered as an upgrade over the standard setup.
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