2022 Lexus IS 500: The V8 Isn't Dead Yet

Published on October 7, 2021 in First Drives by Germain Goyer

From 2008 to 2014, Lexus released a particularly radical version of the IS, one gifted with an impressive V8 engine. Alas, all good things come to an end and this model was erased from the catalogue. Last February, Lexus informed us last that the 5.0 L V8 engine was going to be available once more under the hood of the IS.

During our time with the new generation Lexus NX in Arizona, we took the opportunity to get behind the wheel of this specific variant of the IS. Here are our first impressions.

An Exceptional V8

The pièce de résistance under the hood of the IS 500 is a 5.0 L V8 that produces no less than 472 horsepower and 395 lb-ft. Everything is sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. It’s a winning recipe for driving pleasure. We guarantee it. It's also hard not to give in to the temptation to twist the knob to Sport + mode to unleash the beast a bit (or a lot). Of course, we feel that the balance is not optimal because of the considerable amount of weight in the front, but despite this and against all odds, the car can generally handle itself quite well on the road – the rear end doesn’t want to walk out all the time.

Photo: Lexus

In addition to delivering very interesting performance, this V8 emits a sweet melody thanks to its four exhaust tips. We appreciate the purr at low revs as much as the roar at high revs. The IS 500 will fill - almost! - all your senses.

On a side note, the IS also offers a 2.0 L four-cylinder and a 3.5 L V6 in the lineup.

Photo: Lexus

On Board

Lexus rarely sets itself apart with extravagance. However, we appreciate that the manufacturer showed guts when it came to designing the interior. Admittedly, it's not the most modern and you'll have to deal with a darn touchpad to control the entertainment system, but the red and black theme - greetings to Stendhal! – surely invigorated the interior of our test model. The driving position is comfortable and the headroom is sufficient, which is ironically not the case with the ES midsize sedan.

Photo: Germain Goyer

Limited Production

In an era when everything “green” shines like a gold bar, the IS 500 is basically coming out of nowhere. Lexus will not be cramming dealership lots with this IS. In fact, only 500 units of the Launch Edition will be produced, with only 50 examples for Canada. This introductory version stands out with its lighter 19-inch matte black BBS wheels and a series of emblems. It will be priced from $ 77,650.

Photo: Lexus

The regular version has a starting price of $ 72,900. It seems like a good deal, but the again, it’s not easy to clearly identify the competition. When we look at the German side, the Mercedes-Benz C 43 4Matic (385 hp 3.0L twin-turbo V6) starts at $ 71,600. At Audi and BMW, the S4 (349 hp turbocharged V6) is offered at $ 61,100 and the M340i xDrive (3.0L inline-six turbocharged 369 hp) starts at $ 65,852.

The IS 500 can hang around this German trio with an interesting and very different offer, since the other ones don’t offer a V8 – and are less powerful. On the other hand, their transmissions are more advanced and quicker than that of the IS 500. As a result, the power difference is less perceptible on the road.

Another detail to take into consideration is that all three German rivals are equipped with a four-wheel drive system, while the IS 500 is rear-wheel drive only.

Photo: Lexus

In the end, one can only applaud Lexus' audacity in making such a brutal and risky sedan. Let’s take advantage of it while it’s still possible, because this kind of car won’t be around for very long.

Test drive report
Test model 2022 Lexus IS
Trim level 500
Price range $43,400 – $78,500
Price as tested CA$78,500
Warranty (basic) 4 years/80,000 km
Warranty (powertrain) 6 years/110,000 km
Fuel economy (city/highway/observed) 14.5 / 9.8 / N/A L/100km
Options N/A
Competitive models Alfa Romeo Giulia, Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, BMW 4 Series, Cadillac CT5, Genesis G70, Infiniti Q50, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Tesla Model 3, Volvo S60
Strong points
  • Very pleasant V8 engine
  • Foolproof reliability
  • Driving pleasure guaranteed
  • Exclusivity guaranteed too
Weak points
  • Too discreet to be compared to the old IS F
  • Transmission reaction times can be slow
  • Infotainment system touchpad
Editor's rating
Fuel economy N/A The official rating has not been released at this time.
Comfort 4.0/5 While the headroom is a bit tight for the ES, it's generous enough for this version of the IS.
Performance 3.5/5 The V8 engine is quite sublime. Unfortunately, it is sometimes hampered by the eight-speed transmission, which is slow to respond in certain situations..
Infotainment 1.0/5 We hate the touchpad that controls the complex infotainment system
Driving 4.5/5 The IS 500 is a very fun car to drive. But you can easily imagine yourself travelling hundreds of kilometres and still feel comfortable.
Overall 4.5/5 The IS 500 is so charming that we tend to overlook the bad points...
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