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2017 Lexus IS 300 REVIEW

Edmunds.com logo Edmunds.com 12/8/2016

Con: Optional Remote Touch infotainment system is distracting to use; handling capabilities do little to create driver excitement; short on trunk space and small item in-cabin storage; V6 power is comparable to smaller turbo engines but not as efficient.

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Interior: The IS 300 struggles with finding a balance between innovation and complication. The infotainment system interface lacks user-friendly qualities, and basic cupholder ergonomics were an afterthought to laying out a visually appealing interior. This is a cabin with mediocre functional efficiency.

The smallish trunk that doesn't fold flat and limited interior storage conspire against the IS 200t's utility. Storage up front is limited to the armrest bin, the door pockets and the glovebox. At 10.8 cubic feet, cargo space is on the small side for the class. The rear seatbacks fold forward, but hardly flat. The unevenness limits what you can carry with the seats down.

Body: The 2017 Lexus IS 300 is the midlevel model in the IS lineup, between the turbocharged IS 200t and top trim IS 350. There are no actual trim levels, only packages, though the F Sport package adds exterior design elements and more performance-tuned hardware that would certainly alter the character of the IS 300. The IS 300 comes with a detuned version of the 3.5-liter V6 engine (255 horsepower, 236 pound-feet of torque) in the IS 350, plus standard all-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission. 

Standard equipment highlights for the IS 300 includes 17-inch wheels, LED headlights, a sunroof, keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable front seats, premium vinyl upholstery, 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks, Bluetooth, an 8-inch color display, voice commands and an eight-speaker sound system. Lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and a forward collision warning system with automatic braking are also standard this year.

A number of packages are available for the IS 300. The smaller ones are the Premium and Premium Plus packages. The former includes heated and ventilated front seats and a rearview camera, and the latter adds automatic wipers, a power-adjustable steering wheel and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. The Luxury package, which is one we recommend for this IS model, includes all of the above items plus auto-dimming exterior mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel rim and driver-seat memory functions.

The Navigation package replaces the standard infotainment control dial with Lexus' Remote Touch mouse-type controller and adds a navigation system with a larger 10.3-inch display. A 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system can be specified, but it must include the Navigation package.

Finally, there's the F Sport package for those who want to up the sporting factor of their car. It includes a full-mesh front grille, a revised front bumper, twin-projector LED headlights, staggered-width 18-inch wheels (with either summer or all-season tires), a sport-tuned suspension, upgraded brake pads, an intake sound generator that amplifies engine noise during acceleration, heated and ventilated front sport seats with enhanced bolstering, perforated leather trim and a special sport-oriented gauge cluster. Because the IS 300's primary focus isn't performance, the F Sport package seems a little misplaced here.

A few other stand-alone options, in addition to some of the above items, include a power rear sunshade, and remote vehicle control function (door locking and unlocking, cabin ventilation, vehicle finder, etc.) via a smartphone app through the Lexus Enform system.

Driving: The highlight of the IS 200t is the new 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, which is better in every way than the small V6 it replaces. Handling dynamics aren't this car's strongest suit, though you can still have fun whipping this luxury compact around a bend or two.

The IS delivers combines solid body control with smooth compliance at all the right times. Bumps and impacts are absorbed without issue, yet there's no hint of a marshmallowy ride or overly soft suspension tune. Ride comfort is very good.

Even with the stickier optional 18-inch summer tires and sport suspension from the F Sport package, the IS has a tendency to push over the limits of front tire grip. Quick directional changes are more to its liking than long, sustained corners, so choose your back roads accordingly.

What’s New: On the outside, the 2017 IS 300 sports a revised front bumper, grille, rear taillights and exhaust diffusers. LED headlights are standard this year. Inside, there are minor style and control revisions and a larger display screen for the optional navigation system. The IS 300's formerly optional package of advanced driver aids (Lexus Safety System+) is also now standard.

The IS 300 comes with a detuned version of the 3.5-liter V6 engine (255 horsepower, 236 pound-feet of torque) in the IS 350. This IS is generally not as quick as the class equivalents. Lexus says to expect a 0-60 mph time of 6.1 seconds for the IS 300. That's decent, but many rival sedans with six-cylinder upgrade engines are quicker still.

Pro: Smooth and comfortable ride quality on bumpy roads; cabin is well isolated from noise; more features for your money compared to German alternatives.

Edmunds Say: The 2017 Lexus IS 300 is one of the more aggressively styled luxury compacts, even if performance isn't a primary focus. But considering its all-wheel drive, well-honed ride, ample features and low noise levels, it's got enough going for it to be a convincing choice.

The IS 300 is the midgrade model introduced just last year, slotting in between the turbocharged IS 200t and range-topping IS 350. The IS 300 gets a slightly detuned version of the 350 model's 3.5-liter V6 engine and comes solely with all-wheel drive and a six-speed automatic transmission. There are some drawbacks, such as lackluster performance and a lack of storage and rear legroom. But overall we think the IS 300 will appeal to many shoppers looking for a small luxury sedan.

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