For 2018, Lexus – as they did in 2016 and again in 2017 – continued to tinker with there IS small luxury sport sedan line up.  For 2018, they have rebadged the former entry level IS 200t – now calling it the IS 300 and enhanced the product in several areas.

2018 Lexus IS 300 RWD

Across the lineup, for 2018, they have increased horsepower on selected powertrains, made backup cameras standard, enhanced the F Sport Package, added available Adaptive Front Lighting and a Comfort Package with Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert and made Enform Safety and Service Connect services free for the first 10 years of ownership.

Recently they dropped us a brand new 2018 IS 300 RWD F Sport for a week-long drive test and evaluation.  Our last time in the IS was two years ago in the then IS 200t.  We looked forward to seeing what was new.

2018 Lexus IS 300 RWD F Sport

2018 Lexus IS 300 RWD F Sport – as tested

Our entry level IS 300 RWD F Sport came in their bright Redline color with Black NuLux leather interior.  The base MSRP is $38,210 plus the F Sport Package ($3,195) for a total of $41,405 before other options and delivery.

Powertrain

It was powered by their 2.0L Turbocharged I4 engine producing 241 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque through an 8-speed Sport-Direct, paddle shifter equipped, automatic transmission with G-Force Artificial Intelligence system to choose gears intuitively.  A Drive Mode Select System offers ECO, NORMAL SNOW and SPORT Modes to choose from.

Based on our week behind the wheel around town and on the highway, skip the ECO – it’s a slug – NORMAL works well enough but better with the paddle shifters.  We like the SPORT best as it enables the horsepower and torque to perform as it should in a sports sedan, holding the shift points low to get full power at each point before shifting up.  If you are quick with paddle shifters and have a ‘feel’ for the right shift point, the paddle shifters can add to the driving fun.

Lexus IS 300
The road-worthy suspension is Double Wishbone with coil springs and gas-filled shocks front and Multi-Link, coil springs and gas shocks rear. The IS 300 comes standard with 17-inch tires and wheels with 18-inch available. The Electronic Power Rack and Pinion Steering is firm and responsive with braking – bolstered by ABS and Electronic Brake Force Distribution and supported by the Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management System (Stability and Traction Control) – is more than adequate for the vehicle.
2018 Lexus IS 300 RWD
Interior

Though rated a five-passenger, the IS 300 is pretty darn tight for the three unlucky enough to sit in the 60/40 split folding rear row. Front seat room for driver and passenger is good with one ‘caution’ which we discuss at the end of our article.

The IS 300 comes standard with Power Tilt/Slide Moonroof, Pushbutton Start/Stop, Backup Camera, NuLuxe trimmed seating, 10-way power front sport seats, dual zone climate control, steering wheel switches and more.

2018 Lexus IS 300 RWD

Infotainment and related included Lexus Display Audio with 7-inch screen and 8-speaker audio, full color Multi-Information Display, HD Radio with Real Time Traffic and Weather, SiriusXM Radio, Bluetooth Handsfree and Streaming Audio, CD Player, USB integration, MP3 Player and Siri Eyes Free – to name a few.

Control for all is through the Remote Touch Interface (second generation) featuring key ‘Enter’ buttons on either side of the of the RTI and a larger leather-wrapped palm rest for ease of use.   Though often criticized, we find it intuitive and easy to use.

2018 Lexus IS 300 RWD
Options Included

The F-Sport Package on our basic IS 300 included the F Sport styled front bumper and spindle grille, Twin Projector LED Headlamps, F Sport (staggered placement) 18-inch Split Five-Spoke Alloy Wheels mounted with 225/40R18 front and 255/35R18 rear Summer Performance tires, F Sport Tuned Suspension and High Friction Front Brake Pads.

Inside were F Sport Bolstered/Heated and Ventilated Front Seats. F Sport Super Car Instrumentation, Perforated Leather-Trimmed F Sport Steering Wheel with Paddle Shifters and Shift Knob, Aluminum Pedals, Silver Performance Interior Trim Accents, Black Headliner, Backup Camera with Dynamic Gridlines, Park Assist and Intake Sound Generator plus Active Sound Control (aka ‘exhaust noise’).

2018 Lexus IS 300 RWD

The infotainment system was upgraded to the Navigation / Mark Levinson 5.1 Audio System with 17 Speakers, 835 Watts of power, 10.3-inch Color Display, Lexus Remote Touch Interface (updated second generation), Enform Destination Assist and App Suite and Voice Command.

Other adds included Intuitive Parking Assist, Adaptive Front Light System and Power Rear Sunshade plus ‘complimentary’ inclusion of Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

Delivered, our test 2018 Lexus IS 300 RWD F Sport priced at $46,395.

All in all, there is nothing new (other than badging) on the IS 300.  It is not particularly exceptional as a luxury sports sedan, but with the F Sport Package, gives a pretty decent effort.

2018 Lexus IS 300 RWD

A Fixable OOPS

Were we buying this IS 300 F Sport we would add the Comfort Package ($620) that includes a power adjustable tilting steering column (among other features).

During our test drives of the IS 300 F Sport, we found that getting in and out of the driver cockpit was a serious struggle for a tall and hefty driver like myself. The long slide of the seat (front to rear) was necessary for comfortable pedal reach BUT put the driver’s hips squarely behind the ‘B-Pillar’.  Getting in and out, manually adjusting the steering column to its minimum length and maximum height was not sufficient to keep the driver from bashing either a left hip on the B-Pillar and/or the right hip on the steering wheel every time.

We were perplexed as we have tested this car (similarly configured) before – when it was known as the IS 200t (2016) – and did not have this problem.  OK, so maybe we gained a couple of pounds.

2018 Lexus IS 300 RWD

Ignoring that and going back and checking our notes from that review, we found that the test car then had a power adjustable tilting steering column.  Further investigation confirmed that the range of adjustment for the powered unit is greater than the manual unit.

Problem solved – if tall and ‘hefty’, get the Comfort Package on your 2018 Lexus IS 300 F Sport – avoid the entry/exit frustration of what is a pretty decent small sports sedan.

2018 Lexus IS 300 RWD

Rest of the IS Line

The IS lineup is a touch confusing with its multiple power plant and drive train options. The line includes:

  • IS 300 RWD (our test car) with the 241 horsepower 2.0L Turbo I4 with 8-speed automatic, Sport Direct Shift and paddle shifters. MSRP $38,210
  • IS 300 AWD powered by a 260 horsepower 3.5L V6 engine with 6-speed Super Electronically Controlled automatic transmission and paddle shifters. MSRP $40,660
  • IS 350 RWD with the 3.5L V6 amped up to 311 horsepower mated to 8-speed automatic, Sport Direct Shift and paddle shifters. MSRP $41,830
  • IS 350 AWD with the amped 311 horsepower 3.5L V6 mated to the 6-speed Super Electronically Controlled automatic transmission and paddle shifters. MSRP $43,995

F Sport Packages are available for all of the IS 300 and 350 models – FWD or RWD – for an upcharge of $3,195.

2018 Lexus IS 300 RWD

For more information, go here to learn more about all of the IS models http://www.lexus.com/models/IS.