2023 Lexus IS 500 Review: Exactly What You’d Expect

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn

Fast Facts

2023 Lexus IS 500 Premium

5.0-liter V8 (420 horsepower @ 7,100 rpm, 395 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm)
Eight-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive
Fuel Economy, MPG
17 city / 25 highway / 20 combined (EPA Rating)
Fuel Economy, L/100km
14.1 city / 9.3 highway / 11.9 combined. (NRCan Rating)
Base Price
$62,770 US / $77,288 CAN
As Tested
$66,085 US / $77,685 CAN
Prices include $1,150 destination charge in the United States and $2,338 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.
2023 lexus is 500 review exactly what youd expect

The sports sedan, as a concept, once stood for something very different than what we see today. It was a four-door conveyance with a bit more verve than the pedestrian trim of a similar vehicle but generally unadorned with flash and frippery. Subtle differences were a gentle head nod to those enthusiasts of a likewise mind, but an uninformed onlooker knew nothing of the differences between it and a bland family sedan.

No longer. As tastes change and more steer toward lumbering crossovers, the builders of most sports sedans feel compelled to shout both audibly and visually. Roaring, farting exhausts, garish colors, and outrageous fender flares barely covering massive wheels scream “I AM SPECIAL” on behalf of the dwindling dozens of buyers who must announce their arrival among those who can afford the monthly nut. 

Who am I to judge what one buys with the bank’s money? I’ll admit to swooning over some of Germany’s finest at times. But Lexus isn’t typically one to shout. The brand that famously balanced champagne glasses upon an engine in a commercial tends to hew firmly to the old-world belief in subtlety. Thus, this 2023 Lexus IS 500 is perhaps the most Lexus of all sports sedans.

A glance at a spec sheet might betray these notions of automotive maturity. A quad-cam five-liter V8 pumping 472 horsepower at a screaming 7,100 RPM is anything but demure. But while you can - and should - wind out the lovely Lexus at times to let it sing, this car is perfectly happy to trundle along on a commute. The IS 500 does ride a touch more firmly than the four or six-cylinder IS models, but it is never punishing. It is simply sublime to drive in any manner.

It ain’t half bad to look at, either. Again, a very nuanced upgrade of the standard IS is all that stands out here, with a bulging hood, quad tailpipes, and flat black BBS forged 19-inch wheels making a statement only to those in the know. The predator grille is as always prominent, but years of familiarity across the entire Lexus lineup have blunted the impact a bit.

I’ve lamented before about the rear seating space in the IS. Perhaps it’s down to the fact that my kids are growing, but knee room does feel a bit tight back there when I have my seat set where I need for my large frame. Just turn up the always-excellent Mark Levinson stereo - still with a CD player! - and drown out any complaints from the spoiled teens. 

Just don’t expect to fumble your way through the touchpad with anything resembling grace. I’ve a feeling that this smallest sedan In the Lexus lineup isn’t a priority with the product planners, as this interface was outdated half a decade ago. It quickly turns shiny with french fry grease and is generally awkward to use. It’s long overdue for replacement with the latest screens introduced in the NX two years ago. 

Stash spaces for pocket detritus like keys or a cell phone are similarly not up to modern standards. With the elimination of the touchpad, one could easily rearrange (says the guy NOT holding an industrial design degree) the central console to accommodate a wireless charging pad. 

But once ensconced in those buttery red leather seats with nothing but the road ahead, all else is forgotten. I had a couple of hours to explore the tertiary roads of Appalachia during my time with the IS 500, and the hills were alive with both color and with a sonorous revvy V8. That suspension, just that much more firm in commuter duty, reacts to every input with precision and grace. It’s not a track-day special that demands ten-tenths to wring out a smile. Rather, the IS 500 asks little in return for a joyful jaunt through the backwoods.

Perhaps the most fitting competitor for the 2023 Lexus IS 500 isn’t another wild sports sedan from Bavaria or parts nearby. Rather, I see this more as a refined alternative to the modern pony car. Both have presence and agility when needed, but should the need arise for hauling four adults to a business luncheon or the like, asking colleagues or the boss to clamber into the way back of a muscle coupe might be a career-limiting move. 

[Images: © 2023 Chris Tonn/TTAC.com]

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3 of 43 comments
  • Zipper69 Zipper69 on Jul 05, 2023

    The design is BORING, for $60k+ I'd want to style and even a little flash!

  • Kcflyer Kcflyer on Jul 06, 2023

    New IS 500 or 3 year old LC500 for similar money?

    • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on Jul 06, 2023

      I just happened to check two days ago, the MMR on the LC500 was in the 70s which wouldn't include a warranty or TTL.

  • Theflyersfan The two Louisville truck plants are still operating, but not sure for how much longer. I have a couple of friends who work at a manufacturing company in town that makes cooling systems for the trucks built here. And they are on pins and needles wondering if or when they get the call to not go back to work because there are no trucks being made. That's what drives me up the wall with these strikes. The auto workers still get a minimum amount of pay even while striking, but the massive support staff that builds components, staffs temp workers, runs the logistics, etc, ends up with nothing except the bare hope that the state's crippled unemployment system can help them keep afloat. In a city where shipping (UPS central hub and they almost went on strike on August 1) and heavy manufacturing (GE Appliance Park and the Ford plants) keeps tens of thousands of people employed, plus the support companies, any prolonged shutdown is a total disaster for the city as well. UAW members - you're not getting a 38% raise right away. That just doesn't happen. Start a little lower and end this. And then you can fight the good fight against the corner office staff who make millions for being in meetings all day.
  • Dusterdude The "fire them all" is looking a little less unreasonable the longer the union sticks to the totally ridiculous demands ( or maybe the members should fire theit leadership ! )
  • Thehyundaigarage Yes, Canadian market vehicles have had immobilizers mandated by transport Canada since around 2001.In the US market, some key start Toyotas and Nissans still don’t have immobilizers. The US doesn’t mandate immobilizers or daytime running lights, but they mandate TPMS, yet canada mandates both, but couldn’t care less about TPMS. You’d think we’d have universal standards in North America.
  • Alan I think this vehicle is aimed more at the dedicated offroad traveller. It costs around the same a 300 Series, so its quite an investment. It would be a waste to own as a daily driver, unless you want to be seen in a 'wank' vehicle like many Wrangler and Can Hardly Davidson types.The diesel would be the choice for off roading as its quite torquey down low and would return far superior mileage than a petrol vehicle.I would think this is more reliable than the Land Rovers, BMW make good engines. https://www.drive.com.au/reviews/2023-ineos-grenadier-review/
  • Lorenzo I'll go with Stellantis. Last into the folly, first to bail out. Their European business won't fly with the German market being squeezed on electricity. Anybody can see the loss of Russian natural gas and closing their nuclear plants means high cost electricity. They're now buying electrons from French nuclear plants, as are the British after shutting down their coal industry. As for the American market, the American grid isn't in great shape either, but the US has shale oil and natural gas. Stellantis has profits from ICE Ram trucks and Jeeps, and they won't give that up.