Behind the Wheel

2023 Lexus IS 500 F Sport — Fire-Breathing Luxury

2023 Lexus IS 500Model tested: Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance Premium

Engine: 5-liter V8

Transmission: 8-speed automatic w/paddle shifters

Horsepower: 472

Torque: 398 lb.-ft.

EPA ratings: 17/city, 25/highway, 20/combined

Base price: $64,665

As tested: $65,815

Overview: As part of Toyota’s luxury brand’s ongoing commitment to performance and luxury, the Lexus IS 500 F Sport represents a bold step forward for the Japanese automaker. Lexus has equipped this compact sports sedan with an authoritative V8 powerplant, setting it apart from both predecessors and competitors. With an emphasis on power, design and advanced technology, the IS 500 F Sport delivers an exhilarating driving experience.

Walkaround: The exterior features bold lines and striking accents, emphasizing the car’s aggressive presence. Upfront, Lexus’ prominent signature grille is flanked by sleek LED headlights that convey a sense of authority and purpose. The rear end is equally charismatic, with distinctive LED taillights and chrome quad exhaust tips, hinting at the car’s potent performance.

2023 Lexus IS 500Interior: Inside the cabin, luxury reigns supreme, showcasing high-quality materials and meticulous craftsmanship. The sporty, thick-rimmed, leather-wrapped steering wheel feels just right, and the perfectly placed paddle shifters add to the fun. The heated and ventilated, power leather seats are comfortable and supportive. An intuitive infotainment system that included the optional 17-speaker Mark Levinson premium audio system, a color head-up display and a host of other cutting-edge technology all serve to enrich the overall driving experience. Our only issue is the overly sensitive trackpad used to access most features housed in the 10.3-inch infotainment display. Its sensitivity often forces the driver’s eyes off the road to accurately select the desired feature. The touchscreen, however, offers crisp graphics and intuitive controls. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, as well as everything else you would expect, plus a comprehensive suite of advanced driver-assistance systems including adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and automated emergency braking.

Behind the wheel: The heart of the IS 500 F Sport is its 5-liter, naturally aspirated V8. Delivering an impressive 472 horses to the highway with 395 lb.-ft. of torque, this powerplant accomplishes the 0-to-60 drill in under 4.5 seconds. Power delivery is smooth, with a growling exhaust note. The eight-speed automatic shifts smoothly and seamlessly. Equipped with adaptive dampers and a performance-tuned suspension, the IS 500 F Sport strikes an excellent balance between comfortable commuting and spirited driving on the open road or winding two-lane blacktops. We road-tripped this beast to Spokane and back and found ourselves in three-digit territory several times without realizing it. Whether cruising comfortably or pushing the limits through corners, this sedan maintains composure and confidence, reflecting the extensive engineering invested in its chassis.

Bottom line: The Lexus IS 500 F Sport is a stunning blend of power and luxury that combines the thrill of a high-performance sports car with the sophistication and luxury expected from the Lexus brand. While some competitors offer similar performance, the Lexus badge brings a level of prestige and reliability that’s hard to match, making the IS 500 F Sport a stellar choice in the compact luxury sports sedan segment.