Consumer Guide Automotive 2023 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Premium

Class: Premium Compact Car

Color: Grecian water

Miles driven: 200

CG Report Card
Room and ComfortB+
Power and PerformanceC
Fit and FinishA-
Fuel EconomyA
Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.
Big & Tall Comfort
Big GuyB
Tall GuyA
Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.
Engine Specs360-horsepower 3.0-liter
Engine TypeTurbo Inline six
Transmission 8-speed automatic
Drive WheelsAWD

Observed fuel economy: 17.1 mpg

Driving mix: 60% city, 40% highway

EPA-estimated fuel economy: 17/25/20 (mpg city/highway/combined)

Fuel type: Premium gas

Snow Performance: N/A

Base price: $61,620 (not including $1150 destination charge)

Options on test vehicle: 19-inch black BBS-brand alloy wheels ($2450), rear-bumper applique ($90), carpeted trunk mat ($120), door edge guards ($155), dash camera ($375)

Price as tested: $65,960


Quick Hits

The great: Fun to drive, sporty character 

The good: Classy cabin, mechanical refinement

The not so good: Small door openings, limited rear-seat space, touch-pad infotainment interface


Tom Appel:

It’s cramped, technologically quaint, and quaffs premium-gas at an alarming rate. It’s also a driver’s dream, packing plenty of power, serious handling with great steering, and stout-feeling brakes. I’m talking about the 2023 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance, a premium compact sedan that exudes class and character, even if it’s a little behind the times.

2023 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Premium
2023 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Premium

Still dominated by BMW’s near-legendary 3-Series, the premium compact sport-sedan segment is packed with compelling options for shopper with the money to play in this category. In addition to the 3-Series and the Lexus IS, consumer options in this segment are plentiful, and include, in alphabetical order:

Note that not every trim level of the above listed small sedans is especially sporty, though each can be equipped to scratch the itch of an enthusiast shopper looking for something beyond an average commute.

Note also, and this is important, the IS is the only American-market small sedan that can still be equipped with a V8 engine. And what an engine its. More on that in a moment…

For 2023, the IS lineup is offered with three engine options, a spunky turbocharged 2.0-liter four (241 horsepower), a silky 3.5-liter V6 (311), and a burly 5.0-liter V8 (472). Offered with 4- and 6-cylinder engines is AWD; other models are rear-wheel driven. All AWD models are quipped with a 6-speed automatic transmission, others an 8-speed unit.

The lineup starts around $43,000 for the 4-cylinder IS 300 with rear-wheel drive, and tops about around $60,000 for the V8-equipped IS 500 F Sport Premium. If four doors is two too many for you, the Lexus RC offers a very similar driving experience to the IS, but sports a rakish 2-door hatchback body, and even less useful rear seats. That said, the RC’s cargo area is a nifty convenience for those inclined to move bicycles and the like.

Consumer Guide recently spent a week with the 2023 Lexus IS F Sport Performance Premium, and came away mostly impressed—and very entertained.

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2023 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Premium
2023 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Premium

Note that the IS 500 F Sport Performance, despite its V8 powertrain, is not a reprise of the 2008-2014 IS F, not exactly. Though still V8 powered, the IS F Sport does not feature the dedicated wide-body fenders, unique sport seats, or as aggressively tuned suspension of the F, nor is it as expensive. Despite years of inflation, the 2023 IS 500 F Sport starts about $3000 less than the 2014 F.

That said, the IS 500 F Performance does not disappoint as a driver’s car. Underway, the ride is firm but complaint, returning plenty of road-surface information without transmitting any harshness into the cabin. The steering is rewardingly quick and direct, and the brakes feel strong and certain. As for power, there’s plenty of it, with the 8-speed automatic serving up timely and snappy shifts. As an added bonus, the exhaust system kicks up a healthy but mature burble, one suiting a vehicle of particular breeding, that sounds neither forced nor artificial, just throaty and satisfying.

This editor did note occasionally clunky downshifts when coasting down from speed. The condition was not a regular occurrence, just a bit of disappointment given the IS’s generally polished demeanor.

Inside, the cabin is a classy affair, with leather and top-grade soft-touch materials lining the passenger area. The seats, too, are firm and comfortable. Though not cushy, the chairs will likely provide plenty of long-trip support without much fatigue.

Though no one purchases a small sedan for the cabin space, we need to point out that rear-seat passengers will be seriously pressed for knee space when sitting aft of taller front-row folks. Additionally, the small door openings, front and rear, seriously compromise ease of access to the car. That said, once situated, even this large editor found himself very comfortable.

We griped earlier about the IS being a little behind the times. The primary source of this complaint is the infotainment-system interface, which features a console-mounted trackpad, and dash mounted monitor. While the screen is a little small, which is not a big deal, the trackpad control system is a Lexus feature that never found favor with reviews or owners, and because of its limitations, makes accessing certain functions difficult while underway. Lexus has replaced this system in most of its models, but not the IS, nor it’s hatchback stablemate, the RC.

And though a serious annoyance, the IS is too good to overlook because of the infotainment arrangement. This small Lexus sedan, especially in IS 500 F Sport trim, is well built, fun to drive, clubby and classy inside, and feels as solid and the New Dollar.

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2023 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Premium, Engine, 5.0-liter V8, detail, manifold cover,
2023 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Premium

A few loose ends:

  • The Mark Levinson audio system is excellent, especially when playing back mid-century jazz.
  • The uninitiated will mistake your IS for a BMW (this happened to us several times in just a week).
  • And, feeding your IS a steady diet of premium-grade gasoline will hurt a bit. We saw 17.1 mpg over our 200-mile evaluation. Your mileage will likely not vary much from that figure.
  • Oh, and the world is filled with enthusiast fanboys who know all about the IS 500. They can’t afford one themselves, but they will want to talk to you about your car. Depending on how social you are, that may be a Pro or a Con.

As a classy, rewarding, power-packed sports sedan that’s absolutely refined enough to drive every day, the IS 500 shines. It’s a little pricey—as is every vehicle in this category–it’s also a car with real character, genuine road feel, and the promise of a long, trouble-free, Lexus-typical ownership experience. Maybe the IS is a little dated, but we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

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2023 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Premium
2023 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Premium

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2023 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Gallery

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