2022 Lexus IS 500 Review:Driving Impressions

Christian Wardlaw, Independent Expert | Dec 08, 2021

2022 Lexus IS 500 Specs Reveal Wolf in Sheep's Clothing - Find the best Lexus deals!

Get into the 2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance and it resembles any other IS model. However, push the engine start button and you'll instantly realize this car is unlike any other IS you can buy. Music to a driving enthusiast's ears, the unmistakable rumble of a naturally aspirated V8 engine at idle is akin to the sound of an orchestra warming up before a symphonic performance.

Instantly recalling the original IS F, which Lexus based on the second-generation version of its compact sport sedan, the new 2022 IS 500 specs chart reveals the 5.0-liter V8 engine stuffed under the car's bulging hood. It makes 472 horsepower and 395 pound-feet of torque, driven to the rear wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission and a limited-slip rear differential. The engine breathes through a quad-outlet exhaust system. Lexus bolts exclusive 19-inch wheels to each corner of the car, fits the IS 500 with an adaptive suspension with Yamaha rear performance dampers, and upgrades the braking components to create a well-rounded sport sedan.

I briefly drove the IS 500 on the freeways, boulevards, and winding mountain roads in and around suburban Phoenix. The IS 500 F Sport Performance brought back fond memories of the old IS F. This new car isn't tuned for track duty, but at the same time, it is more suitable for daily driving while offering a real thrill on weekends.

And, as much as I enjoy driving the IS 300 and IS 350 models, neither is as delightful as the new 2022 Lexus IS 500.

2022 Lexus IS 500 Price and Release Date - Find the best Lexus deals!

Lexus offers the new IS 500 in standard, Premium, and Launch Edition trim levels. Base IS 500 prices range from $56,500 to $67,400, not including a destination charge of $1,075. The test vehicle had Premium trim and extra-cost Iridium paint, bringing the price to $62,575, including the destination charge.

The new Lexus IS 500 goes on sale by the end of December 2021.

Independent Expert Opinion: Design, Comfort, and Utility - Find the best Lexus deals!

2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance Silver Front Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

To squeeze the 5.0-liter V8 into the IS model's engine bay, Lexus reworked the front end with a new hood raised two inches, lengthened the front fenders, and revised the front fascia to ensure proper clearance and cooling. Around the back, a new lower diffuser panel houses signature offset-stacked quad exhaust outlets, and a black lip spoiler caps the decklid. The IS 500 rides on lighter 19-inch wheels exclusive to this model, and dark chrome surrounds the windows.

Inside, the IS 500 gets F Sport Performance badges and a model-specific instrumentation animation sequence. Otherwise, it's the same as the IS 350 F Sport.

The power-adjustable front sport seats are comfortable, but the IS 500 is a snug fit akin to a tailored suit. NuLuxe synthetic leather is standard, and the IS 500 includes a heated steering wheel and heated and ventilated front seats. Similarly, the rear seat is tight but proves comfortable for modest distances once you're settled in.

Last year, Lexus added a touchscreen infotainment system to the IS. They placed it closer to the driver, solving the awful user experience associated with the Remote Touch Interface (RTI) trackpad on the center console. However, it's still there, so try it for yourself to see what I mean. In the base IS 500, the touchscreen measures 8 inches across. The IS 500 Premium and Launch Edition have a 10.3-inch touchscreen plus navigation and a 17-speaker Mark Levinson premium surround-sound system.

It's a shame the RTI remains on the center console, using up valuable real estate that could give Lexus the freedom to rearrange some controls and add some needed storage. However, I am a fan of the matte-finish and clearly labeled buttons and gorgeously rendered, machined aluminum stereo control knobs that come with the larger infotainment system. The layout is a little bit cluttered, but Lexus has gone overboard on gloss-black trim, minimalistic layout, and cryptic control markings in the all-new 2022 NX, and the company's approach in the IS is a better one.

Eventually, you'll want to haul something aside from you-know-what in this car. You'd better pack light because the trunk holds no more than 10.8 cubic feet of luggage.

Independent Expert Opinion: Infotainment, Technology, and Safety - Find the best Lexus deals!

2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance Interior Dashboard

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

Every 2022 Lexus IS 500 has a touchscreen infotainment system including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, and connected services including Wi-Fi access. Amazon Alexa integration is also standard. Choose Premium or Launch Edition trim to get a larger 10.3-inch high-resolution touchscreen display, a navigation system, and a 17-speaker Mark Levinson premium surround-sound system.

During testing in the Phoenix area, the IS 500's voice-recognition system impressed me, quickly and accurately responding to all of my standard queries and commands. The Mark Levinson sound system is excellent, too, though my favorite music was emanating from under the hood and not the speakers.

All Lexus IS models have a comprehensive advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) package. On the wide-open freeways in the Phoenix area, the adaptive cruise control and lane-centering technology worked as advertised, and when you change lanes to pass slower traffic, the car responds quickly to get back up to speed. I also found the lane-departure warning system's subtle steering wheel vibration preferable to an audible alert.

With this said, previous testing of an IS 350 on my home turf in Southern California revealed a few flaws of the Lexus Safety System+ 2.5 (LSS+ 2.5). Specifically, the Curve Speed Reduction feature causes aggravation as it automatically slows the car more than is necessary for highway curves and freeway transition ramps. Also, the low-speed automatic braking feature is sometimes incompatible with heavy city traffic. The lane-centering assistance can get confused when driving in the right lane and passing freeway exits and entrances.

Independent Expert Opinion: Driving the 2022 Lexus IS 500 - Find the best Lexus deals!

2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance Silver Rear Quarter View

Photo: Christian Wardlaw

If you buy a Lexus IS 500, chances are that you'll want to do the driving rather than leave it up to LSS+ 2.5. And this car will undoubtedly reward you in this regard, except for one regularly disappointing trait.

The 5.0-liter V8 engine's maximum 472 hp arrives at 7,100 rpm, and its peak 395 pound-feet of torque isn't accessible until 4,800 rpm. Translated, the driver needs to rev the V8 to get to the bulk of the motive force. If you're loafing along and suddenly want a burst of acceleration, whether you've just turned a corner or you're going to pass a slower vehicle, it can take a moment before the transmission kicks down to put the car in the thick of its power curve. This is true even after you choose the Sport or Sport+ driving mode.

Nevertheless, the roar of the V8, once it is flexing its muscles, is worth the wait. It is simply fantastic. Lexus quotes an acceleration time of 4.4 seconds to 60 mph, which is seat-of-the-pants credible. Better yet, the IS 500 provides a remarkably supple ride in combination with its athletic handling, though road noise at freeway speeds proved unexpectedly loud.

On the outskirts of the suburban sprawl, a demanding ribbon of blacktop heads northeast out of Carefree, Arizona, the kind of road that can boil brakes, shred sidewalls, and challenge any performance car. Best of all, because it ultimately turns to dirt leading nowhere but deep into the mountains, this road is empty of traffic.

After switching into Sport+ mode, and while paddle shifting the 8-speed automatic, the IS 500 demonstrated that the added weight of a V8 over the car's front wheels doesn't penalize the handling. Furthermore, the IS 500 feels more secure and planted than the dearly departed Lexus GS F. And the sound the V8 makes is just incredible.

No matter where you're driving the 2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance, the car is a rare treat. Also, as you may have noticed, high-performance V8 engines are a dying breed as the entire automotive industry transitions to electrification. So, consider the new IS 500 a potential last hurrah before silent electric propulsion accompanied by synthetic engine sounds replaces the company's 5.0-liter V8 in the future.

Independent Expert Opinion of the 2022 Lexus IS 500 - Find the best Lexus deals!

If you love gasoline, V8 engines, and traveling fast in a great sport sedan, the 2022 Lexus IS 500 is for you.

Frankly, I loved driving it because of how it sounds, how it performs, how it looks and feels, and how everybody else shopping in this segment seems to want an M-badged BMW or AMG-tuned Mercedes-Benz. After all, if you're spending this kind of money on a car, why drive the same thing everyone else does?

I did not, however, love the observed average of 17.7 mpg in combined driving. That result is short of the IS 500's official EPA estimate of 20 mpg. Yes, the Lexus IS 500 delivers a uniquely satisfying luxury sport sedan driving experience, but clearly, it's gonna cost you at the pump. Especially if you drive this car in the way Lexus intends.

Christian Wardlaw is a veteran digital automotive journalist with over 25 years of experience in test-driving vehicles. In addition to JDPower.com, his work has appeared in numerous new- and used-car buying guides, newspapers, and automotive industry trade journals.

The opinions expressed in this review are the author’s own, not J.D. Power’s.

No portion of these reviews may be reproduced, distributed, publicly displayed, or used for a derivative work without J.D. Power’s written permission. © 2022 J.D. Power

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