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Luxury vehicles do not have to be overpriced in order to be luxurious. The 2019 Lexus IS is proof of this. With tweaks made to how the engine on the real-wheel drive models responds and the incorporation of Amazon Alexa voice commands, the new Lexus IS is doing more to try to stand out among the other luxury sedans.
Despite poor acceleration and a simply average handling performance, the IS line-up does have quite a few good things to offer. For example, virtually no outside noise seeps into the well-insulated cabin, and the ride quality is supremely smooth. Sure, the IS does not look terribly chic on the outside and tends to get lost in the crowd at first glance. However, it more than makes up for this drawback with how much comfort it provides on the inside.
Of course, you will have to carefully select between eight different vehicle styles. There are two trim levels (the 300 and 350), each of which has four sub-trims based on their drivetrains: the RWD, AWD, F Sport RWD, and F Sport AWD. For that reason, we will spend the next part of this comparison review comparing each version of the 300 to its equivalent on the 350. By the end of this review, you should have a better idea of which trim (and its sub-trim) is right for you.
Compare the 2019 Lexus IS 300 RWD vs 350 RWD - What is the difference?
The 2019 Lexus IS has the 300 RWD as its base trim. The 300 RWD is, as the name indicates, a rear-wheel drive vehicle. It receives its power from a 2.0-L inline-4 engine that musters up 241 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The 350 RWD has a higher-powered 3.5-L V6 engine that produces a vastly better 311 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. Both vehicles share an 8-speed automatic transmission. While the 300 RWD gets equipped with standard 17-inch alloy wheels, the 350 RWD is boosted up to 18-inch alloy wheels.
With the difference in engine sizes, you should expect the 300 RWD to get a better fuel economy. This engine gets 21 mpg in the city and 30 on the highway while the one on the 350 RWD gets 20 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. It isn't a huge gap, though, and having them both be rear-wheel drive models helps.
As far as luxury features go, both trim levels are somewhat well-equipped. Both come with standard Bluetooth connectivity, a rearview camera, an 8-speaker sound system, and a power sunroof. The steering wheel on both vehicles is trimmed in leather and has multiple controls mounted onto it for the driver's convenience. The steering column is tilt-and-telescoping. Both front seats are power-adjustable, and the rear seats can be folded down flat to expand the cargo area. To regulate the cabin's temperature, dual-zone climate control is included as a standard feature, meaning that the rear seat gets its own climate control vents. Voice-activated controls, real-time traffic data, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, an auxiliary input jack, and telematics system also come standard. The windows are given tinted glass for privacy, and you also get adaptive cruise control and the HomeLink garage door opener as standard features (which is atypical even base trims on other luxury vehicles). Optional creature comforts include a superb Mark Levinson audio system, a DVD system, a rear spoiler, and a rear window shade.
Standard safety features are also pretty similar. Both trim levels have LED headlights, daytime running lights, heated and power-adjustable side mirrors with integrated turn signals, a rear window defogger, electronic stability and traction control, a brake assist system, and a tire pressure monitoring system. An anti-theft system is included as well, which includes an engine immobilizer and a panic button.
Compare the 2019 IS 300 AWD vs 350 AWD Trims. What is the difference?
Up from the base 300 RWD, you get the IS 300 AWD, and the next 350 trim level up is also an AWD. Both vehicles are powered by the 3.5-L V6 engine that also comes on the 350 RWD and have a 6-speed automatic transmission. The 300 AWD's engine gives it 260 hp and 232 lb-ft of torque while the 350 AWD gets 311 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. The 300 AWD has 17-inch alloy wheels while the 350 AWD gets the 18-inch ones.
On the inside, the two trims both come with quite a few standard convenience features but ultimately have most of the same ones as found on their RWD variants. You do also get keyless entry, a smart key system, a multi-functional remote, automatic on/off headlights, and a 12-volt power outlet on both the 300 AWD and 350 AWD. Also, most of the safety features are the same on these two trims as they are on the RWD versions.
Compare the IS 300 F Sport RWD vs 350 F Sport RWD - What is the difference?
Up yet another trim level are the 300 and 350 F Sport RWD models. While their engines are the same as those on the 300 and 350 AWD trims, they both get equipped with an 8-speed automatic transmission. Once again, not a lot else changes on these trim levels. You will notice that the F Sport RWDs do get decent fuel efficiency at a combined 23 mpg (20 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway). For a vehicle that is designed to be sporty, this is not bad. Of course, the fact that they are rear-wheel drive models makes the difference.
Compare the IS 300 F Sport AWD vs 350 F Sport AWD Trims. What is the difference?
At the top of the 2019 Lexus IS line-up, you have the 300 F Sport AWD and 350 F Sport AWD. These all-wheel drive models both come equipped with the 3.5-L engine, and the 350 bests the 300's 260 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque with its 311 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque. Both vehicles are given the 6-speed automatic transmission found on the 300 AWD and 350 AWD. The rest of the mechanical features also remain the same: speed sensitive power steering, a rack and pinion steering system, independent front and rear struts, a stabilizer bar, and 18-inch alloy wheels that come with all-season tires. You do get the sport-tuned suspension that also comes on the RWD versions of the F Sports.
The exterior offers quite a few of the same features. There are eight different body paint colors to choose from: Eminent White Pearl, Liquid Platinum, Atomic Silver, Nebula Grey Pearl, Caviar, Obsidian, Redline, and Nightfall Mica. Of course, you can add any of these on any of the 2019 Lexus IS trim levels.
On the creature comfort side of things, you will see a lot of the same features that come on the lower trim levels. Bluetooth technology, heated front seats, the 8-speaker sound system, power sunroof, leather-trimmed steering wheel with mounted controls, interior air filtration system, in-glass antenna, delayed power retention system, interior day and night electrochromic rearview mirror, adaptive cruise control, Smart Key system, automatic on/off headlights, and 12-volt power outlet can, once again, all be found as standard features. The front seats do get ventilation added. There are sport seats and a specially designed sport gauge cluster that set the F Sports apart from the regular AWD and RWD variants.
As you can see, a lot of the creature comforts are carried over from the lower trim levels. The same can be said for the standard safety features, which echo what you will find on the lower trim levels. Of course, you can still opt for the automatic parking system and front and rear parking sensors.
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Which One Should You Choose?
The 2019 Lexus IS is a luxury sedan with a lot of pros (especially the refined ride quality that you get and the price you will pay) and a few cons (like the fact that there are not a ton of upgrades that come with each successive trim level). Since there are so many configurations, you will have to pick carefully and do so based on which features you consider to be absolute necessities and which ones you can live without.
For most people, the base Lexus IS 300 RWD will do. Sure, the engine isn't as powerful, but it feels a bit more relaxed than the 3.5-L engine. The low-end torque that you get from this turbocharged inline-4 engine is put to use a lot more efficiently than what you get with the V6. This means that the inline-4 gives you better gas mileage and quicker acceleration.
We would also recommend adding the Comfort Package to the 300 RWD. This package gives you the ultra crisp-sounding Mark Levinson audio system, and it is the only way you can get it since the system is not available as a stand-alone. It is more than worth the cost and essentially gives you all the entertainment and safety features you really need.