A mixed bag of good, bad, and ugly

We talk about the latest generation of trucks and their big mouths, or even new BMW products, for that matter. But, what about the brand that literally started the ’big grille is the shizz, bro’ thing? Yes, I’m talking about Lexus and their in-your-face designs. The brand makes some of the most refined cars in the market today and was also one of the earliest adopters of hybrid engines. But Lexus is slowly becoming a neologism for big grilles. Nevertheless, Toyota’s premium brand is going through a paradigm shift and is building cars that are fresh and fun to drive, and one of those cars is the Lexus IS300 F Sport.

The Lexus IS300 F Sport is indeed a wolf in a sheep’s clothing; well, sheep’s fancy clothing. On the onset, this compact sedan looks calm, and sedate - which it is. But once you go hard on the A-pedal, the IS300 F-Sport will unleash its power, and you will be surprised at how capable and efficient this car is. The sedan reeks of luxury and is well-loaded on the inside. However, is the sporty-luxury blend enough to take on the competition?

  • 2019 Lexus IS300 F Sport
  • Year:
    2019
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-4
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    241 @ 5800
  • Torque @ RPM:
    258 @ 4400
  • Displacement:
    2.0 L
  • 0-60 time:
    6.9 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    143 mph
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • size:
  • Purpose:
  • body style:

Exterior

  • Huge Spindle grille with chrome borders
  • Boomerang-shaped DRLs
  • Slim A-pillars
  • Alloy design is quite appealing
  • Rear looks smart, unlike the gaudy face
2019 Lexus IS300 F Sport
- image 823009

Upfront, the IS300 F Sport is unmistakably Lexus.

The signature spindle grille dominates the face with the Lexus badge slapped on it.

While the standard IS300 comes with a chrome grille with horizontal slates, the F Sport trim wears a black spindle grille. The border, however, is finished in chrome. The boomerang-shaped LED Daytime Running Lights sit right below the headlights, and this, for me, is the saving grace on the face. A tow hook with a lid sits on the left hand side of the grille and the fog lamp housing is much different from the standard IS300 as well. It not only wears a different design, but is also finished in piano black at the bottom, and the same spindle filling inside the elements. All-in-all, this face will draw polarizing opinions.

2019 Lexus IS300 F Sport
- image 822998
When viewed from the side, the Lexus IS300 F Sport looks clean and smart.

There is no hint of chrome anywhere on the side profile, and it is also devoid of any sharp cut lines and creases, which is a little surprising given how overdone the face is. Did a different set of designers work on this? There is no quarter glass on the front window and the wing mirrors sit on the door. Thanks to this setup and a slim A-pillar, you don’t have to worry about blind spots being created. What also differentiates the F Sport from the regular IS300 apart from the alloy design is the placement of the side indicator. It sits on the fender here, unlike the standard model’s placement on the ORVM. The Japanese car rides on 18-inch, split five-spoke alloys finished in chrome. Although some of you would have preferred black alloys - which is synonymous with sporty characteristics - this finish actually looks pretty neat irrespective of the exterior shade. The roofline does not slope very sharply, so headroom at the rear should not be a deal-breaker.

2019 Lexus IS300 F Sport
- image 822993
I find the rear three-quarter view to be the best angle to view the Lexus IS300 F Sport from.

The trunk has a small lip that is a subtle, yet effective point. The long eye-shaped taillights slope downwards on the side along the bumper and have unique detailing within the clusters. When the lights are in action, these details are further enhanced and look quite stunning. The number plate is recessed, and the moniker and variant badge sit on either side. The dual exhaust tips are finished in chrome while the bottom part is made up of black plastic cladding. Lexus did try to create a blend of sportiness and luxury, but not all details yield a ’wow’ factor, and this area is one of them. On the roof is the shark fin antenna and the sunroof.

Lexus IS300 F Sport exterior dimensions
Length 184.3 inches
Width 71.3 inches
Height 56.3 inches
Wheelbase 110.2 inches
Cargo Capacity 10.8 cubic-feet

Interior

  • Waterfall-inspired center console
  • Paddle-shifters behind the steering wheel
  • Digital instrument cluster looks stunning
  • Cabin wears a Dual-tone theme
  • Rich feature list
2019 Lexus IS300 F Sport
- image 822989

The cabin is where this blend has hit a bullseye.

The Lexus IS300 F Sport's cabin is one of the best in the segment right now.

Everything is neatly laid out and we don’t need to explain the fit and finish of it - it’s a Lexus product after all. The attention-to-detail is very impressive. Lexus has maintained a dual-color theme here. The dash and the center console wears black, whereas the seats and inserts on the door panel come with a suede finish. The steering wheel is perfectly sized and has a big L logo in the middle. The steering base is embossed with ’F’ to distinguish it from the standard car. The paddle shifted behind the steering wheel and the mounted controls do not feel cluttered. The digital instrument cluster is visible even under sunlight, thanks to the leather cowl at the top. eat and is functional the same time.

2017 Lexus IS High Resolution Interior
- image 673923
The waterfall design of the center console looks great. The HVAC vents are slim but wide enough for sufficient air flow.

Below that are the controls and display for the HVAC unit. The temperature controls for the dual-zone AC are feather touch, which I’m not a fan of. I would have preferred control knobs over this any day. Not everyone gets used to this setup even after months of driving and end up taking their eyes off the road to set the temperature. The gear lever is also finished in leather and is a delight to use. This shows the level of refinement that Lexus has offered on the IS300 F Sport. My favorite thing in this cabin is the simple, analog clock placed in between the AC vents. It completely changes the aura of the cabin and gives it a sophisticated look.

Coming to the infotainment system, the 10.3-inch split-screen display provides simultaneous access to audio and climate controls, and various other stuff like navigation. A trackpad behind the gear lever controls this unit. Lexus has taken a big risk here by not offering a touch screen unit. Why not give the customers an option to choose between touch and trackpad, similar to Mercedes-Benz’s new MBUX system? Anyway, the audiophiles will be interested in the optional 15-speaker, 835-watt Mark Levinson audio system. The display is crisp with high-resolution, but it does not support Android Auto. It is only Apple CarPlay compatible.

2019 Lexus IS300 F Sport
- image 822992

Speaking of comfort levels, the cabin is not very spacious.

At the rear, two can sit comfortably and the third passenger will be a tight fit.

The front seats are sufficiently bolstered and will keep you comfortable during long journeys and when you push it hard around the corners to satisfy the adrenaline rush. The headroom, however, is a luxury here for people over six-feet tall. Not that people will find it bothersome on short drives, but long trips can get a little uncomfortable as your head will keep brushing the roof. The Lexus IS300 F Sport comes with some nifty standard and optional stuff such as:

  • Destination Assist
  • Enform Remote - lets you control your car from your smartwatch
  • G-Force and Turbo Displays
  • Voice Command
  • SiriusXM Satellite Radio
  • Remote Touch
Lexus IS300 F Sport interior dimensions
Headroom (Front/Rear) 38.2 / 36.9 inches
Shoulder room (Front/Rear) 55.9 / 53.4 inches
Legroom (Front/Rear) 44.8 / 33.3 inches

Drivetrain

  • 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbo engine
  • 241 Horsepower
  • 258 pound-feet of torque
  • Rear-wheel-drive setup
  • 3.5-liter, V-6 mill
  • 260 Horsepower
  • 236 pound-feet of torque
  • All-wheel-drive configuration
  • F-tuned suspension
2017 Lexus IS
- image 839528

Lexus offers the IS300 F Sport with two engine options; each one for a different drive configuration. There is a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbo engine that churns out 241 ponies and 258 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. This engine takes 6.9 seconds to touch the 60 mph figure from a standstill and goes all the way to 143 mph before the speed governor kicks in. The other one is a 3.5-liter, V-6 mill that produces 260 horses and 236 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to all the wheels here via a six-speed automatic gearbox. This mill sprints from a standstill to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, before topping out at 130 mph. The car boasts a drag coefficient of just 0.28 for the rear-wheel-drive model and 0.29 for the all-wheel-drive configuration.

2019 Lexus IS300 F Sport
- image 822994

Fortunately, Lexus did not offer a front-wheel-drive setup on this one, unlike the ES350 F Sport. Call me old-school, but if we are talking about a sporty car, it needs to be either a rear-wheel-drive or an all-wheel-drive configuration. Now, the standard models and F Sport models have the same drivetrains under the hood, including the output figures. The difference lies in the other dynamics. The IS300 F Sport is aided by F-tuned suspension and high friction brake pads. The car is offered with three drive modes - Normal, Eco, and Sport. The Sport is the reason to pick the F Sport as it tightens up the suspension and alters the engine for faster gearshifts and more dynamic throttle mapping. Overall, the power feels adequate on both the engines as the torque range on both the engines is quite broad, which gives a strong punch in the mid-range.

2019 Lexus IS300 F Sport
- image 822994

If I were to pick one of the two, I would go for the Rear-wheel drive IS 300 F Sport with my eyes closed. Although it offers less power and a smaller four-cylinder engine, the turbo here kicks in at 1,650 rpm and goes all the way up to 4,400 rpm. It also features a higher torque figure which will help in the initial pull from the standstill, and I don’t have to tell you how much fun that will be when all the power is sent just to the rear wheels. Not to mention, the eight-speed automatic transmission will keep the car in the powerband all the way up to the top speed... well almost.
In terms of safety, the IS300 F Sport comes with -

  • Auto Emergency Braking
  • Forward Collision Warning and Adaptive Cruise Control
  • LED headlights with Auto High-Beam
  • Lane Departure Warning
  • Lane Keep Assist
  • Reversing Camera
  • Front And Rear Parking Sensors
  • Blind Spot Monitoring
  • Rear Cross-Traffic Alert
Lexus IS300 F Sport drivetrain specifications
Engine In-line 4-cyllinder aluminum block and cylinder heads V6 with aluminum block and cylinder heads
Valvetrain DOHC 16-valve with Dual VVT-iW DOHC 24 valve with dual continuously Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i)
Displacement 2.0 liter twin-scroll turbocharged with intercooler (1,998 cc; 120cu. in.) 3.5 liters (3,456 cc; 211 cu. in.)
Bore x Stroke 3.39 in x 3.39 in. 3.70 in. x 3.27 in.
Compression Ratio 10.0:1 11.8:1
Horsepower (SAE) 241 hp @ 5,800 rpm 260 hp @ 6,400 rpm
Torque 258 lb.-ft. @ 1,650-4,400 rpm 236 lb.-ft. @ 2,000-4,800 rpm
0–60 mph Acceleration 6.9 sec 6.1 sec.
Top Speed 143 mph 130 mph
Estimated Fuel Economy (City/Hwy/Combined) 22/32/26 19/26/22

Pricing

2019 Lexus IS300 F Sport
- image 823011

The 2019 Lexus IS300 F Sport is priced at $41,605 for the rear-wheel-drive setup, and $43,655 for the all-wheel-drive configuration. Just for the heck of comparison, the IS350 F Sport rear-wheel-drive comes with a sticker price of $45,225, and the all-wheel-drive is offered at $46,560. There’s not much to choose from the accessories, but if you opt for them, the prices could increase by $4,000-$5,000.

Competition

Audi A4 Premium 45TFSI

2016 - 2018 Audi A4 High Resolution Exterior
- image 635406
Audi A4

The Audi A4 strikes a better brand recall and is a much more respected nametag than its Lexus counterpart. The Audi A4 features a big grille - not as big as the IS300’s - and sleek headlights that give it an aggressive look up front. On the inside, the A4 feels fresh and is loaded to the brim. The A4 is equally spacious as the IS300 F Sport, with only the front legroom being compromised the most. Audi has offered the A4 with a seven-inch touchscreen system that supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, rear view camera, engine start/stop, etc.

My pick of the lot would be the Premium 45 TFSI trim. It is powered by 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that develops 248 horses and 273 pound-feet of torque. It features the Quattro all-wheel-drive system and is mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. The car zips to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds and tops out at 130 mph. It is pretty much on par with the Lexus IS300 F Sport, but the A4 handles much better and sports a better badge value as well. The Audi A4 Premium 45TFSI is priced from $42,000.

Read our full review on the 2019 Audi A4 Premium 45TFSI

Audi A4 Premium 45TFSI drivetrain specifications
Engine 2.0-liter, four-cylinder mill
Power 248 horsepower
Torque 273 pound-feet
Transmission Seven-speed automatic gearbox
0-60 mph 5.6 seconds
Top Speed 130 mph

BMW 3 Series 330i

2019 BMW 3 Series
- image 798250

BMW’s new design philosophy is radically different from what it used to be, but that still doesn’t deter me from pitting it against the Lexus IS 300 F Sport. The 3 Series looks the most aggressive it has till date, and the grille seems to be getting bigger and bigger every generation. It will take a century for the grille to be the size of the Lexus’, but you get the gist. The car is well-proportioned in and out, and the fit and finish inside the cabin is exemplary. An 8.8-inch iDrive system dominates the center console. Other features include Engine Start/Stop, three-zone climate control, moonroof, etc.

Coming to the engine, BMW has plonked the 330i with a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder twin-turbo engine that brings 255 horses and 295 pound-feet of torque to the table. Since the Audi A4 was an all-wheel-drive trim, the BMW I’ve chosen is a rear-wheel drive car for a fair comparison. Power is sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. Just like the A4, the 330i also takes 5.6 seconds to reach 60 mph from a standstill. Power is electronically limited to 130 mph and can be unlocked to 155 mph as well. This trim comes with a starting sticker price of $40,250.

Read our full review on the 2019 BMW 3 Series 330i

BMW 3 Series 330i drivetrain specifications
Engine 2.0-liter, four-cylinder twin-turbocharged mill.
Power 255 horsepower
Torque 295 pound-feet
Transmission Eight-speed automatic gearbox
0-60 mph 5.6 seconds
Top Speed 130 mph

Conclusion

2019 Lexus IS300 F Sport
- image 823000

The IS300 F Sport is an enthusiastic car that Lexus is trying to market as a sporty-cum-luxury model. Honestly, I would choose this car more for its luxury features than its sporty accolades. When compared to its rivals, the Lexus is does not excel in any department per se. Like I mentioned earlier, my pick would be the rear-wheel drive model of the two. I would look at either the Audi or the BMW if that is in the scope, but if I was hell-bent on picking up a Lexus only, then I would chip in another $5,000 and go for the IS350 F Sport. The IS350 is more accomplished as it features an extra Sport+ drive mode, a new multi-link rear suspension along with the Adaptive Variable Suspension, and the driver-adjustable shocks that cover a wide spectrum of damping force, among other things.

  • Leave it
    • Looks, looks, and looks
    • Lexus’ hatred towards Android Auto
    • German rivals offer better propositions

Further reading

2017 Lexus IS High Resolution Exterior
- image 673919

Read our full review on the 2019 Lexus IS.

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