Sitting atop of the Lexus IS line-up, the IS 500 F SPORT Performance is a rear-wheel-drive sports sedan with a 5.0L V8 engine that makes 472 hp. We spent some time getting to know this powerful and refined luxury car, which looks especially awesome slathered in a rich Infrared paint.
The exterior styling of the IS 500 isn't dramatically different from the IS 300 and IS 350. Like other current Lexus models, it's got a large spindle grille, angular body sculpting, and sharp modern headlights and tail lamps. The most notable visual upgrades for the IS 500 are the double-weave black grille, dark chrome window trim, and slim black trunk spoiler. Its hood scoop is also significantly more pronounced to accommodate the V8 that growls beneath it.
Around the back, you'll find a black diffuser, flanked by a quad exhaust system. The exhaust note of the IS 500 isn't as loud as you might expect, but it does produce a nice deep rumble, and driver feedback can be beefed up in the cabin via an adjustable active sound system.
The big, naturally-aspirated V8, also found in the RC F, GS F, and LC 500, is one of our favorite engines on the market. It's smooth yet beefy and offers immediate feedback working in concert with an effortless 8-speed automatic transmission. In this application, it's not as ferocious as it is in the RC F or GS F and feels more refined in its tuning. With 161 more horses than the V6 in the IS 350 F Sport, it makes for the quickest IS you can buy.
The side profile of the IS 500 is our favorite view. The body sculpting is sleek and dynamic, and those charcoal grey 19" Enkei alloy wheels look awesome while weighing significantly less than the standard F-SPORT wheels.
Inside, you'll find premium NuLuxe synthetic leather seats, a leather-trimmed heated steering wheel, and aluminum sport pedals. The front seats provide good comfort and sporty side bolstering, along with both heat and cooling. The rear seat isn't terribly spacious but is much more usable than the tiny 2+2 second row of the RC F. Like all Lexus models, road noise and vibrations are very well managed, making for an enjoyable environment to complement the car's ample power. Speaking of power, our vehicle was equipped with an excellent Mark Levinson audio system that kicks out 1800 watts of crisp, studio-quality sound through its 17 speakers.
With a 0-to-60 time of 4.5 seconds, the IS 500 is impressively fast off the line. Steering weight has been tuned to provide a great connection to the road. A Torsen limited-slip differential helps distribute torque between the rear wheels for sharp and predictable cornering. We also found the adaptive variable suspension to be sporty when we wanted it to be but never harsh. This is one sports sedan you can drive every day without feeling fatigued.
There are multiple drive modes available, including Eco, Normal, Sport, and Sport +, each of which gradually changes up throttle mapping, steering weight, suspension damping, and traction control intervention. You can also save a custom mix of settings based on your personal preferences. Indeed, the most fun to be had is in Sport+ mode, but we found ourselves spending most of our time in Sport mode. A digital instrument cluster provides an easy-to-read tachometer that automatically changes colors when approaching the redline, serving as an in-your-face reminder that it's time to shift when you're using the paddles. There's also a gear position indicator.
The Lexus IS 500 F SPORT Performance is both potent and refined, offering drivers a great environment in which to enjoy a tremendous amount of power and a smooth, well-mannered ride. It's a true pleasure to drive and balances deftly between performance and practicality for drivers who still love sedans. Pricing for the IS 500 F SPORT Performance starts at $56,600 for the Base model and $61,000 for the Premium, which gets triple-beam LED headlamps, the Mark Levinson sound system with Navigation, a power rear sunshade, and intelligent clearance sonar with a panoramic view monitor to help with parking. The $67,400 Launch Edition gets black and grey Ultrasuede seats and trim, matte black BBS 19" wheels, and an exclusive paint color called Incognito.