In the late 2000’s and early 2010’s, we were spoiled for V8 powered sedans. The M3 had a V8 for the first time. The Audi RS4 was one of the fastest V8’s on snow & ice. And, as a certain someone famously said, the Mercedes-Benz C63 had a nuclear bomb under the hood. Fast forward to 2023 and all of the car’s I mentioned no longer have V8 engines. These days, if you want a V8, you choose an American car or you choose this Lexus IS500.
Engine – While other compact luxury sedans have gone to turbocharging, the 2023 Lexus IS500 has kept the 5.0L naturally aspirated V8 from the old ISF. But in the IS500, the V8 engine now produces 472 hp and 395 lb-ft of torque (352 kW & 535 Nm). With a curb weight of 1,765 kg (3,891 lbs), the IS500 can accelerate from a stop to 100 km/h in about 4.5 seconds.
Because this engine doesn’t use turbos or superchargers or even electric hybrid motors, the peak power and torque is up in the rev range. That means that you have to rev the heck out of this engine to get the most of it. Thankfully, this engine loves to rev. For everyday driving, it has just enough torque to get the car moving and accelerate up to highway speed limits. But when you find yourself on a twisty road or a race track, this engine comes alive. If it wasn’t for the 7,300 rpm redline, I’m sure that it would want to continue revving well past the 9,000 mark. It is smooth and relentless in its power delivery when the needle goes north of 4,000.
Fuel Economy – Normally, powerful V8 engines do not provide good fuel economy. This one is not as bad as one may think. It is rated for 14.1 L/100km (16.7 MPG) in a city and 9.3 L/100km (25.3 MPG) on a highway. During my time with the IS500, I averaged a respectable 11.6 L/100km (20.2 MPG).
Transmission – The one thing that is holding back this engine, and in fact the powertrain, is the 8-speed automatic transmission. It first saw the light of day in 2007 and while I’m sure it has received updates since then, it’s still not as good as the 8 or 9 speed automatics found in the German rivals. In fairness, this 8-speed does provide smooth shifts when you’re cruising around town. But even with the drive mode in Sport+, the upshifts and downshifts don’t have the sharpness of a more modern automatic transmission. Nevermind a dual-clutch.
Braking – With the added power, stronger brakes are required and the IS500 has just that. The front axle provides the brunt of the stopping force with 14” two-piece rotors and 4-piston calipers. The pedal travel is a little on the long side however, the stopping force is easily controllable.
Handling – Though this may be an F-Performance model, the Lexus IS500 isn’t as hardcore of a sports sedan as something like the BMW M3. Or for that matter, an M340i. The adaptive dampers provide an excellent ride for the type of car that this is. But they do allow a bit more body movement through corners than something like the M340i.
Having said that, the IS500 doesn’t try to scare you when you’re in the driver’s seat. Steering is sharp and decently communicative. The Torsen limited slip differential and chassis allow you to easily control the back end when you ask for more power from the engine. The car feels more relaxed than some other super serious sports sedans. Just about anyone can get in it and have a great time behind the steering wheel without being intimidated by the V8.
Ride Comfort – As I mentioned earlier, the adaptive dampers provide an excellent ride for this type of car. Bumps and potholes in the road are effortlessly absorbed by the suspension. Of course don’t expect the ride to be as smooth as a Lexus LS but you can comfortably drive this car to and from work everyday without any back aches or numb feeling in your backside.
Interior Space – This is not a very spacious sedan compared to other cars in this class. There is just enough space for above average height adults in the front seats but I always found space for my legs around my knees to be a bit tight in the driver’s seat. Also, the knee rest on the right side is really hard and needs more padding. Legroom in the back seats is even worse for someone like myself. The BMW 3-series has almost 3-inches more space than this Lexus IS. So hopefully if you are relegated to the back seats, it’s not for very long. The trunk accommodates just 306 L (10.8 cu-ft) of space. The back seats can fold down 60/40 for more space but there’s an awfully large step between them and the trunk floor. As well, there is a spare wheel under the trunk floor.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – Let me start by saying that the most prevalent noise that you don’t want into the cabin is the road noise from the tires. It can get a bit annoying when cruising on highways.
However, the one noise that you do want in the cabin is the sound of the V8. This is a great sounding engine and it doesn’t have any artificial snap, crackle, & pops that BMW engines are known for. It’s all raw sounds. But some of the intake sounds have been specially tuned by Yamaha and there’s even a little flap on the air intake that opens & closes at certain rpms for more air flow into the engine and more intake noise. As an added bonus, there’s no soft limiter on this engine. You can rev it all the way to redline anytime you want. Just make sure the engine oil is warmed up.
Odds and Ends
Pricing – Unfortunately the 2023 Lexus IS500 doesn’t come cheap. It starts at $75,100 CAD ($59,420 USD) which is significantly more than the starting price of the BMW M340i. In fairness though, it is a fully loaded vehicle (for the Canadian market) with only the paint and accessories as optional extras.
Gadgets – For the price, it’s not really missing anything. A head-up display would be a nice addition but I never found myself yearning for one. It has soft leather seats with heating and ventilating, a heated steering wheel, a power sunroof, surround view cameras (low resolution unfortunately), automatic climate control, front & rear parking sensors, and a pretty good 17-speaker audio system.
One item I was yearning for is the new Lexus infotainment system. This IS500 still utilized the old Lexus interface which is long in the tooth. It still has the touchpad which I found a bit easier to use than the touchpad in Acura vehicles but it’s still not the greatest. Thankfully the 10.3” display is a touchscreen. Apple CarPlay & Android Auto are compatible with this infotainment system but they both have to be wired.
Interior Design – Just like the infotainment, the design of the IS500’s cabin is getting on a bit. More importantly, for me at least, it is all functional thanks to the physical controls. Every button or knob function is clearly visible and where you expect it to be. You can also tell the age of this car by the CD player. Haven’t seen one of those in a while.
Exterior Design – This generation of the Lexus IS received a mid-cycle styling update not too long ago. I think it looks great but you have to be a real gearhead to know that this IS500 is different from an IS350 for example. It receives unique 19” Enkei wheels, a hood bulge, and twin stacked exhaust pipes. Other than that, you can’t tell that this is a very special car. To some, the understated design is a benefit. To others, spending $75,000 on a car that looks like one that costs $55,000 may be a bit of a punch to the gut. What I will say is that this car looks great in the Infrared paint colour.
Safety – Just like the convenience features, the IS500 comes fully loaded with every safety & driver aid that is available on the Lexus IS. It may not have the Lexus Safety System+ 3.0, but the 2.5 version has all of the basic functions covered. Additionally, the Lexus IS received a Top Safety Pick+ from the IIHS in 2022.
Warranty – One other big reason why you may consider this over the BMW M340i or Mercedes C43 AMG is the warranty. Like many other Lexus Vehicles, the 2023 Lexus IS500 is covered by a 4 year / 60,000 km new vehicle and 6 year / 110,000 km powertrain warranty. Plus, this is a Toyota underneath and it doesn’t have any complicated turbocharger or mild-hybrid components to worry about. So it should last a long time. For more information on Canadian Lexus warranty, click here. For information on American warranty, click here.
Conclusion – Although the 2023 Lexus IS500 may not be the fastest sports sedan among its competitors from Germany or America, this car has charm, character, and most importantly it’s fun. Being a Lexus, you can also drive it to work every day and it’ll last longer than the competition. That makes this car a smart choice for those who want a blend of comfort & fun.
Thank you to Lexus Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Lexus.ca