Best & Worst Lexus IS Years

We have ranked each Lexus IS model for every generation so you can avoid picking the worst Lexus IS years and pick the best year for you.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll analyze all Lexus IS generations, unveiling the best Lexus IS model years to buy and the worst IS years to avoid.

Relying on extensive data from trusted sources such as Consumer Reports, NHTSA, and Cars.com, our approach ensures you receive well-rounded and evidence-based recommendations on the Lexus IS.

We will specifically discuss why certain years of the Lexus IS outperform others, considering technological and safety features, common problems, recalls, and average resale values.

Let’s dive right in!

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Table of ContentsShow

Lexus IS Generations

The Lexus IS, first introduced in 2001, quickly became a key player in the compact luxury sedan market. Known for its refined design, the first model, the XE10, featured a sporty aesthetic and a robust 3.0L I6 engine, setting high standards for performance and comfort in its class.

Below is an overview of the Lexus IS generations from 2001 to the present:

GenerationYears
1st generation (XE10)2001-2005
2nd generation (XE20)2006-2013
3rd generation (XE30)2014-Present

Significant changes often occur between generations, which can be crucial in deciding which model year might be the right choice for buyers.

Lexus IS Best, Neutral, and Worst Years

When assessing the Lexus IS across various model years, we consider a range of factors to determine our rankings and categorizations:

  • Owner-reported reliability (surveys)
  • Annual maintenance costs
  • Safety ratings
  • Consumer Reports reliability scores
  • Consumer Reports owner satisfaction scores
  • NHTSA recalls, investigations, and complaints
  • Edmunds owner ratings
  • JD Power owner ratings
  • Kelley Blue Book (KBB) owner ratings
  • VehicleHistory owner ratings
  • Cars.com owner ratings

Here is a graph that compiles data from these respected sources, visually representing each model year’s performance.

Lexus IS Car Smite Score Combined Overall Score

Below is our table categorizing all model years of the Lexus IS into best, neutral, and worst, offering a concise overview to guide your decision-making.

GenerationBest YearsNeutral YearsWorst Years
1st generation (XE10)2003
2004
2005
N/A2001
2002
2nd generation (XE20)2011
2012
2013
2009
2010
2006
2007
2008
3rd generation (XE30)2015
2016
2017
2019
2020
2021
2022
2023
2024
20182014

“Neutral Years” refer to model years that typically exhibit adequate performance, reliability, and owner satisfaction without standing out for exceptional quality or significant defects.

It’s important to note that factors such as NHTSA recalls can negatively influence our assessments. A higher number of complaints and recalls often correlates with lower reliability.

Let’s dive into the best, neutral, and worst years.

Best & Worst Years for Lexus IS 1st Generation (2001-2005)

Lexus IS 1st generation 2001 model
The 2001 Lexus IS

The Lexus IS first generation, launched in 2001, marked Lexus’ foray into the competitive compact luxury sport sedan market.

Designed to compete with European stalwarts, it featured a rear-wheel-drive layout and was initially equipped with a robust 3.0L I6 engine that aimed to deliver both power and smoothness.

The Best Years: 2003, 2004, 2005

The best years for the first-generation Lexus IS, 2003, 2004, and 2005, featured several key improvements that heightened the vehicle’s appeal.

During these years, Lexus refined the IS’s performance capabilities and reliability. The standard 3.0L I6 engine, offering 215 hp and 218 lb-ft of torque, provided a spirited yet refined driving experience.

Fuel efficiency was also commendable for its class, achieving approximately 16 city/23 highway MPG.

Technologically, these models saw advancements with the introduction of an updated navigation system and enhanced safety features, including advanced airbag systems and reinforced frame structures to improve crashworthiness.

Additionally, these model years avoided the early teething problems of the initial releases, making them the most desirable in the lineup.

The Worst Years: 2001, 2002

Conversely, the 2001 and 2002 model years of the Lexus IS are noted as the worst of the generation due to significant issues that impacted their performance and reliability.

These initial models were plagued by problems with vehicle speed control, characterized by hesitation during acceleration, which posed risks during critical driving maneuvers.

Furthermore, these years suffered from concerns about frame corrosion, which compromised the vehicle’s long-term structural integrity.

While powerful, the engine was criticized for its rougher operation and less refined handling compared to later years.

See NHTSA 2001, 2002 Lexus IS recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Lexus IS 2nd Generation (2006-2013)

Lexus IS 2nd generation 2006 model
The 2006 Lexus IS

The second generation of the Lexus IS, introduced in 2006, marked a significant evolution in design and technology for Lexus’s compact luxury sedan line.

This generation brought more aggressive styling, improved performance capabilities, and a richer suite of features designed to enhance both comfort and safety.

The Best Years: 2011, 2012, 2013

The peak years of the Lexus IS second generation, 2011, 2012, and 2013, represented the culmination of continuous improvements made throughout the generation.

These models featured a choice of robust engine options, including the refined 2.5L V6 delivering 204 hp, and the more potent 3.5L V6 with 306 hp.

Both were paired with a smooth 6-speed automatic transmission that included a manual shift mode for enhanced driving dynamics.

Fuel efficiency was optimized, achieving up to 21 city/27 highway MPG for the 2.5L engine.

The introduction of the Lexus Enform system significantly upgraded the technology and safety features, offering services like navigation, emergency assistance, and a comprehensive suite of connected services.

Safety was bolstered with enhancements such as adaptive front lighting and an automatic high beam system.

These models also featured an expanded range of luxury trim levels, including F Sport packages with 5.0L V8, sport-tuned suspension, and unique interior and exterior styling cues.

The Neutral Years: 2009, 2010

The 2009 and 2010 models of the Lexus IS served as transitional years within the second generation.

While these models maintained a solid performance foundation with the same 2.5L and 3.5L V6 engines, they lacked some technological and luxury enhancements that characterized the best years.

These years continued to offer reliable performance and comfort but did not feature the significant updates that came with later models.

Safety features during these years remained strong but did not yet include the latest innovations, such as blind-spot monitoring or lane departure alerts, which would become more common in the automotive industry shortly after.

The trim levels available in these years provided a decent range of options, though they did not yet include the more exclusive F Sport enhancements that later became popular.

The Worst Years: 2006, 2007, 2008

What year Lexus IS to stay away from? The early years of the second-generation Lexus IS, 2006, 2007, and 2008, were fraught with more significant issues compared to later years.

These initial models faced several recalls and complaints, particularly related to the infamous dashboard melting issues under high heat conditions, which affected visibility and interior aesthetics.

Additionally, these years saw excessive oil consumption and some instances of power steering loss that could compromise driving safety.

Recalls during this period included critical fixes for engine stalling caused by loose bolts causing VVT gear housing separation, faulty engine valve springs, brake fluid leaks, and windshield wiper failures.

See NHTSA 2006, 2007, 2008 Lexus IS recalls and complaints.

Best & Worst Years for Lexus IS 3rd Generation (2014-Present)

Lexus IS 3rd generation 2014 model
The 2014 Lexus IS

Launched in 2014, the third generation of the Lexus IS marked a significant leap forward in design, technology, and performance. This generation showcased more aggressive styling and a refined interior aimed at boosting the model’s competitiveness in the luxury sedan market.

The Best Years: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024

The best years of the third-generation Lexus IS, spanning from 2015 to 2024, featured several key improvements that significantly enhanced the vehicle’s appeal.

These models came equipped with advanced powertrain options, including a turbocharged 2.0L I4 engine producing 241 hp and a more powerful 3.5L V6 delivering up to 311 hp.

Both engines were paired with an efficient and responsive 8-speed automatic transmission, providing an optimal performance and fuel efficiency balance, achieving up to 21 city/30 highway MPG for the 2.5L version.

Technological advancements were substantial, with features such as the Lexus Safety System+ becoming standard. This system offers a pre-collision system, lane departure alert with steering assist, and dynamic radar cruise control.

The introduction of the updated Lexus Enform system improved connectivity, providing enhanced navigation, remote start, and more comprehensive safety services.

These years also saw various trim upgrades, including the addition of the 5.0L V8 F Sport package, which offered sport-tuned suspension, unique styling, and interior upgrades such as LFA-inspired digital instrumentation.

The Neutral Years: 2018

The year 2018 stands as a neutral year within the third generation of the Lexus IS.

This model year did not introduce significant changes or updates but maintained the quality and features introduced in earlier years.

The 2018 Lexus IS continued to offer the same engine choices and retained the high standard of luxury and technology that the IS was known for.

It features comprehensive safety features and maintains a solid performance with good fuel efficiency.

The trim levels and interior features remained consistent with slight refinements, making this year a solid, though not particularly standout, choice for buyers.

The Worst Years: 2014

The launch year of the third-generation Lexus IS, 2014, encountered some teething problems typical of new model introductions.

Early models were recalled for issues related to fuel pumps, which could fail and cause the engine to stall, posing significant safety risks.

Additionally, the 2014 model lacked some of the more advanced safety and technological features that became standard in later years, making it less attractive in terms of both safety and value retention.

While the engines and the overall driving experience were praised, the initial quality issues and lack of feature updates made this year less desirable compared to subsequent years, which offered more reliability and advanced features.

See NHTSA 2014 Lexus IS recalls and complaints.

Lexus IS Resale Values

See this graph for trends in Lexus IS average resale values.

Lexus IS Average List Price

Conclusion

Which Lexus IS model year is the most reliable?

In summary, the best Lexus IS years to buy are 2003-2005, 2011-2013, and 2015 onwards. Avoid the initial 2014 models due to their teething problems.

Are you considering buying a Lexus IS, and which year are you targeting?

Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Jonathan Eckert

Jonathan is an ASE-certified mechanic with over 22 years of hands-on experience in the automotive industry. His expertise spans a wide range of vehicles, but he specializes in diagnosing and repairing Japanese cars. His previous workplace highly commended his meticulous attention to detail, and that's exaclty what he uses at Car Smite to craft the best guides for each purpose.