V8s are a dying breed. With increased emission rules and better MPGs, automakers have turned to turbocharged six-cylinder engines. If you’ve never driven a naturally-aspirated V8, Lexus may have the answer. Theirs has been humdrum for a few years, but Lexus decided it needed something to compete with the Germans.
What once was the IS-F, the IS500 F Sport Performance continues to have the beautiful 5.0-liter V8 and rear-wheel drive. When I tested this, I wanted to know how much more fun the V8 is than the IS300 AWD. The exterior starts to giveaway the performance upgrades.
Look at the hood! I love that the hood has a bulge for the V8. Since this is an F Sport, the IS500 has various black trim and blends well with the Grecian Water blue paint. This car also had optional 19-inch Matte Black BBS wheels which looked great, and I’d pay the $2,500 for them. The telltale sign that this is the V8 performance version is at the back. Similar to the first-ever IS-F, the IS500 has stacked quad exhaust tips. At first, I thought these looked a little weird, but I grew to like how unique they are. All-in-all, this is a handsome car with great performance upgrades.
Although there have been some needed upgrades to the infotainment system, this interior is from 2017. Here are some positives of it being older. First, climate control is dead simple to use. Easy-to-use buttons and knobs control the climate along with heated and ventilated seats and a heated steering wheel. Second, you don’t have to dig through the infotainment system to use the drive modes or other functions. It’s the simple things in life. Unfortunately, a dated interior can hold a car back.
I enjoy how simple the IS500’s digital instrument cluster is, but it has extremely limited functions. There’s no function for navigation mapping and limited coloring. Even as an F Sport, the steering wheel has some unmarked buttons and has volume controls in an odd location. Lexus did update the infotainment system which is now a touchscreen and uses their odd touchpad. One of my passengers noted how it was weird to use the touchpad. There is Apple CarPlay and Android which is nice since the native navigation isn’t up to snuff.
When was the last time you saw a CD player in a car? Well, you can still get one with the IS! While this isn’t a big deal, it points back to how certain features are still in the IS. What was nice were the white F Sport bolstered seats with heating and ventilation. Even if you are using CDs, the 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound system is one of the best in its class. This is a compact sedan, so the rear head and legroom are a little snug. Still, the interior is comfortable and feels sturdy. Although there is a great sound system, I found I had it off because of what’s under the hood.
We get to that 5.0-liter V8. This makes 472 horsepower 347 kW and 395 lb-ft/537 Nm. With rear-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic, the IS500 gets from 0-60 MPH in 4.3 seconds. I learned that once the engine gets to over 3,000 RPM, the engine wakes up. This is one of the best-sounding V8s on the market and steals the show. The automatic felt a little clunky and the IS500 doesn’t like to drive slow. You can manage more than 18 MPG, while I managed a massive 26 MPG on a 110-mile journey.
A sedan can’t be a sports sedan without good handling. The IS500 is a sports sedan. There are a few different drive modes including Custom, Eco, Normal, Sport S, and Sport S+. You can also put the gearbox into manual mode and shift with the paddles or the shifter. I found myself going into Sport S because it was a good balance of fun and ferocity. Sport S+ is where you have the most fun and will hear the engine at its loudest. Since this is rear-wheel drive, you can kick the back end out and get the wheels to spin. This is a seriously fun car. Lexus has a good adaptive-cruise control system with blind-spot monitoring and lane-keep warning.
Pricing for the IS500 starts at around $60,000. This IS500 had the $4,000 Premium Package which includes the infotainment system, sunroof, and upgraded seats. Add another $2,500 for the BBS wheels and other little options, and this IS500 F Sport Performance costs around $66,000. I look at it in two ways. First, you have a car that is quite old and has a dated interior. Second, you have a car that has a powerful V8 and is seriously fun.
Should you get one? Remember, all of the IS500’s competition has gone towards turbocharging, electrification, and smaller engines. A big V8 is always a compelling reason to upgrade from a six-cylinder. Still, the interior is a bit of a letdown. That said, I forgive this because of how enjoyable the IS500 is. If you want something with a ton of tech, then you want to stay away from the IS500. If you can live with a more basic interior setup, the IS500 is quick, loud, and handsome.