The Lexus IS badge has evolved over the decades to offer more power, refinement and fun. From the late90s, when it was only being offered in Japan, under the Altezza nameplate, to the IS 250, 300, and 350. Along the way we got a hybrid variant and several F-Sport models. The most exciting IS though was always the IS-F. Unlike the F-Sport, the IS-F meant a track-tuned, purpose built, performance powerhouse. With a big V8, 8-speed transmission and specially tuned suspension. The IS-F was engineered for serious speed. Enter the 2023 IS 500. A more affordable version of the now retired IS-F. With the same powerful V8 and performance focus.
Good for 472 hp, this V8 produces nearly double the power of the base IS 300, and screams all the way up to redline, like only a performance tuned, naturally aspirated V8 can. Silky smooth as it climbs. Intoxicating to listen to and always begging to be pushed hard. Aided by the ultra-responsive 8-speed automatic transmission. The IS 500 is far from just your standard Lexus IS with a larger engine. It also benefits from a collection of other important performance upgrades. The suspension is sport-tuned, adaptive, variable with customizable driving modes and a limited-slip differential. You’ll be grateful for the LSD, and other traction aides when considering the amount of power and rear-wheel drive configuration of the 2023 IS 500.
All the right bits and pieces to accelerate quickly are present. Equally, if not more important, are the larger brakes and performance tires that will help you safely and successfully decelerate as well. They look especially menacing tucked behind the beautiful 19” matte black BBS forged wheels. Other exterior styling highlights are the sharp, triple-beam LED headlights, rear lip spoiler and stunning, stacked quad exhaust poking out of the back.
On the inside, the performance-focused F-Sport theme carries through. From bolstered, yet comfortable heated and ventilated front seats, to the leather-wrapped sport wheel. Which is also heated. F-Sport badging adorns the door scuff plates. The satin, chrome interior ornamentation has a soft luster that invites touch. There’s even a handy power rear sunshade to help keep out the overpowering Arizona sun.
Pretty as it is comfortably parked, full appreciation for the Lexus IS 500 comes when you get behind the wheel and start driving. A naturally aspirated V8 is a bold choice these days, where most manufacturers are looking at electric motors and turbo chargers to supplement big NA engines and raw power. This 5.0 liter V8 will propel you from 0-60 in 4.9 seconds. Fast enough for most, but European rivals, like the Audi S4 and Mercedes AMG C 43 will beat it by half to almost a full second.
In the handling department, it’s a similar tale. While bending the IS 500 through tight turns will reveal nimble, confident handling; it doesn’t excite and engage quite as effectively as its European competitors. The silver lining though, is that the IS 500 is much more comfortable for day to day use. Not as punishing on the spine, hips and buttocks as a true sport sedan. Much like the iconic Lexus LC 500, the IS 500 seems to identify more as a solid grand tourer.
For a manufacturer known primarily for developing soft, luxurious sedans and SUV’s, models like the performance-leaning IS 500 are always a refreshing surprise. Successfully delivering big power, confident, dynamic handling and plenty of safety features and advanced tech for the modern consumer. All while maintaining a level of comfort and ease that makes day-to-day use a pleasure. The 2023 IS 500 easily represents one of the best versions to date.