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The best cars we’ve reviewed (so far) ranked!

Welcome to the start of our ever-expanding home base of car reviews, where we file the best cars we’ve driven so far in order. Don’t think of this as an outright competition to see what is the definitive best vehicle out of a few classes. We’ve got more than that, anyway. Best EVs, best sports cars, best compacts, best trucks, and more! Think of this as all our existing car reviews coming together to help you decide on what are some hot ticket choices to look out for on the new or used car market. 

Check out the linked subheadings for full reviews with specs and pricing, and check back occasionally as we continue to grow our portfolio of car reviews!

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Best plug-in hybrids

1. Mazda CX-90 PHEV – Bridging the gap between family crossovers of the past and future

What’s hot?

  • Commendable EV range for such a massive thing
  • Mazda edges closer and closer to the luxury car kingdom

What’s not?

  • Not the most cavernous three-row SUV
  • Rotary dial infotainment controls only

Mazda has been on a not-so-secret upward spiral toward faux luxury car stardom for some time now. From smooth, sporty driving dynamics to interiors with actually pleasant build quality and aesthetic design, the Zoom-Zoom brand has been making quite the name for itself. The CX-90 three-row crossover cements its status as a serious brand worth more than just one mere damn, and the plug-in hybrid variant acts as a wonderfully executed bridge between family cars of the past and present. 26 miles of EV range? Not bad! 24 mpg in the city? Heck yeah! 369 pound-feet of yoinking power? Now, you got me flustered. And these are just the specs. We haven’t even started with the gorgeous, airy, wood-lined interior that can shame the Germans or the sporty dynamics that can actually put the “sports” in sports utility vehicle.

Okay, so a big lunk like this will never score the range or MPGe of smaller plug-in crossovers. And its towing capacity and average mpg took a hit versus the Bimmer-flattering inline-six. Oh, and touchscreens be damned because the Mazda’s infotainment is controlled via a rotary dial only, which will definitely not resonate with anyone who hasn’t come from an older BMW. But if you can live with those nitpicks, you’ll still be left with one of the most compelling products to come, not just from Mazda but from any automaker in recent memory.

2. Alfa Romeo Tonale – A commuter a way only the Italians can

What’s hot?

  • A family crossover that’s actually a drop-dead stunner
  • Commendable performance and handling

What’s not?

  • Dodge Hornets are cheaper if you don’t mind the styling differences
  • Dodge Hornets have an ICE-only powertrain if you don’t care for plug-ins

Nothing says car enthusiast like anything sporty from Italy. Nothing says drab and dreary appliance like a compact crossover. Combine the two, and you might just have the recipe for a fun little urban runabout, as Stellantis has proven with the Alfa Romeo Tonale. Although ICE variants exist elsewhere, we Yanks get a bold, powerful plug-in powertrain as our sole option. It pairs a spunky little 1.3-liter turbo four boosted to high hell with an electric motor to yield over 30 miles of handy EV range and produce 285 horsepower and 347 pound-feet, which, last time I checked, is a lot more than your average compact crossover.

Sadly, it also costs a lot more than most compact crossovers and is lined up squarely against competent, similarly powerful rivals like the RAV4 Prime. Those who are a fan of spunky Italian dynamics but are willing to forgo the spunky styling can also step down to the cheaper Hornet, which produces more torque, has a similar EV range, and offers a significantly cheaper ICE powertrain. Still, flawed or not, there’s a lot to love about the Alfa Toe Nail, and there’s something to be admired when offered a fun, stylish alternative to the usual crop of cookie-cutter family cars on the market.

3. Dodge Hornet R/T – I’m like the guy right above me but with less swagger

What’s hot?

  • Fun and fast for lil’ crossover!
  • Usable EV range

What’s not?

  • Why is there no Regular-Ass Prius mode?
  • Minor electronic annoyances

“I do everything the guy above does, but better,” says the Dodge Hornet R/T, probably. Psst, it’s not better, but it is just ever so slightly different.

Not much to say here that hasn’t already been said about the Tonale. I don’t think we can say anything until we score an all-ICE Hornet GT to sample. But here it is, the Americanized take on Italy’s dandy little compact crossover, complete with the same KONI two-valve shocks, vividly red Brembos, and sticky Michelin Pilot Sport All-Season 4 tires. The car receives the same plug-in powerplant in R/T trim, albeit with an extra motor to help it yield 288 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of faux hot hatch fury. It costs a few grand less for a comparable Hornet R/T versus a Tonale, too. What’s not to love?

Well, it’s still a Tonale. This means it still suffers from the typical Italian (or perhaps just Stellantis) electronic hiccups that make it difficult to recommend, from awkward lane centering and intermittently dysfunctional safety sensors. It may also be too small for some families, and asking for the R/T skyrockets the price tag fairly quickly. But if you can live with all of it, the Hornet is still a lovable, fun-to-drive alternative in an otherwise ho-hum segment of effective yet uninteresting cars.

Best hybrids

1. Toyota Prius – shockingly fun but still lovably practical

What’s hot?

  • New powertrains are punchy
  • Easiest 50-mpg solution on the new car market

What’s not?

  • Some interior ergonomic quirks
  • Still viable in today’s world of plug-ins, EVs, and upscale economy cars?

Go ahead. Laugh. But you won’t be laughing for long when a $30 or $40 fill-up nowadays buys you well over 500 miles of range, not including the short bits of EV cruising you can manage behind the wheel of the current-gen Toyota Prius. Did I make fun of Priuses before? Of course! Do I still do? On occasion. Do I love them, though? You bet your ass.

City slickers, you can’t beat 50-plus mpg and all-electric parking lot creeping in a car with the forward and side visibility of a fishbowl (the rear is a different story) and a footprint small enough to fit in nearly any parking space. There’s an abundance of nifty safety and convenience tech to make you feel as though you’re in a more substantial vehicle, and the new chassis and powertrain result in a Prius that’s a bit of a hoot to fling around.

The question remains if the Prius is still the obvious solution when compact family sedans and crossovers are now as efficient as ever while sitting at a slightly lower price point and offering comparable, if not better, practicality and ergonomics. Not to mention the growing waves of affordable EVs and plug-ins if efficiency is really your absolute top priority. But if a middle ground between them all is what you’re eyeing, then the new Prius remains a fantastic, well-rounded entry, even if it’s not necessarily the best.

Best luxury sports sedans

1. Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance – A final bastion for V8 sports sedans

What’s hot?

  • N/A V8 rear-drive sports sedan? For real?
  • Typical Lexus premium vibes, inside and out

What’s not?

  • Not a true IS F replacement
  • Could go for more low-end torque

If you can’t find an ounce of love for something like this, you’re either not human or one of those stereotypical Tesla fans we were warned about on social media. The Lexus IS 500 was a last hurrah we didn’t expect, but we couldn’t be happier it exists, even if it’s for a moment. Lexus delivers a compact executive sedan with rear-drive, go-fast suspension and braking hardware, and a monstrous, free-breathing V8 pushing 472 ponies! What a day to be alive! And in typical Lexus fashion, it oozes style and quality inside and out, from the way it drives and handles to the materials and tech. 

Sure. It’s not a true IS F successor in the same vein as the RC F coupe. The platform is quite old, dated, and small by car industry standards. But perhaps we shouldn’t complain about its age and shortcomings. For less money than a BMW M3, here’s a final bastion for naturally-aspirated V8 sport sedans with more charm and character than a current M3 will ever have.

2. Genesis G70 – A bonafide sports sedan to challenge the Germans

What’s hot?

  • Actually fast, fun, and engaging across all trim levels
  • Oozes style and quality at a strong price point

What’s not?

  • Fuel economy pales in comparison to German I4 and I6 engines
  • No hotted-up M, AMG, or F rival (yet)

I’ve driven and ridden in a small handful of Korean cars over the years, each getting more and more alluring the newer they got. Now, the icing on the cake, the Genesis G70 cements a notion in my head that’s been parroted by auto journalists since the Sonata got good: South Korea will take over the world. Good. Let them. Because they can build a damn fine sports sedan.

The latest G70, the only Genesis product I’ve yet to sample, sports a buttery smooth 8-speed auto directing power from either a 300-horsepower, 2.5-liter turbo four, or a 365-horsepower, 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6. You can get it dipped in rear-drive or all-wheel-drive sauce, and V6 cars can be sprinkled with a serving of electronic suspension and limited-slip diff. Sounds like a good time, yeah? But thankfully, Genesis knew not to sully the car’s luxury mission with an overly “sporty” setup, so it remains posh, refined, and quiet, perfectly balanced for wannabe touring car champs and yuppies alike.

No, there’s no super-hot M3 killer yet. And no, the fuel economy is good but not great, as BMW’s crop of turbo engines beg to differ. By like, a lot. Backseat space can be a bit tight, and interior design, while impeccably well-built, may not offer enough flair and pizazz as one might like. But these minor nitpicks shouldn’t stop you from considering the G70, especially when you get the chance to experience all that it gets oh-so right.

Best luxury SUVs/crossovers

1. Acura MDX Type S – Quick and cushy

What’s hot?

  • Genuinely fun to drive
  • A cushy, coddling cruiser for the whole family

What’s not?

  • Not as sporty as it could be, especially in the face of German rivals
  • Curse these touchpad infotainment controllers

We love a good, unsensible dose of automotive debauchery. Manic vehicles with fire-breathing engines or cyberpunk-esque EVs with more gimmicks than goodwill. Are they useful? Not always. But they sure are fun. Yet, here stands the Acura MDX Type S as the near-perfect Goldilocks’ choice of crossovers. A cavernous interior invites occupants to revel in plush leather seating accented with real wood and metal accouterments, controlled via logically arranged hard buttons to show that physical switchgear ain’t going out of style just yet! And once you take control, you’re rewarded with a lovably pleasant driving experience, defined by a powerful and silky V6, well-tuned automatic transmission, and supple suspension that’s still competent in the canyons and freeway on-ramps. Sometimes, it’s good to enjoy the middle ground.

Of course, it’s not without faults. The most glaring of which is that infernal touchpad infotainment controller, which will apparently bow out in favor of a better system in future Acuras. Good riddance. And of course, people eying the Type S badge hoping for a true M or AMG fighter may be disappointed. It’s not that car. It’s fun and engaging. Really fun, actually. But it’s not that car. In a day where clout-chasing is king, the MDX Type S reigns itself in and stays true to its family crossover roots without being afraid to have just a little senseless fun every once in a while.

Best hot hatches and sports compacts

1. Acura Integra Type S – The surprise knockout

What’s hot?

  • Chassis, brakes, engine, and pretty much everything else by the gods
  • Easily daily-drivable for thousands of miles on end

What’s not?

  • Exhaust is too quiet for how raucous it can be
  • Expensive for its class

Oh, Integra Type S, my beloved. How incredible you are clubbing GR Corollas and Golf Rs over the head with the sheer force of your awesomeness. The gods bestowed upon you suspension soft enough for tattered highway commutes yet taught enough for unflappable canyon cornering prowess. You’ve been granted a rev-happy powerhouse of a turbo four-banger with a Bimmer-rivaling 320 ponies channeled through a manual whose shifts hit crisp like ice water with a mint. And you carry yourself with civility and politeness when it’s time to calm down for the long journeys home. 

Could you tell I’m obsessed? The Acura Integra Type S is an easy winner and a rockstar in its segment, delivering Civic Type R attitude in a slightly more comfortable and mature package. Perhaps the only reason we leave here at Number 1 is because we haven’t yet tested a real Type R, which sports more supportive bucket seats and a whimsically cool wing for several thousand dollars less, trumping any value proposition the Acura had. Until then, the Acura will stay our king of the sport compact hill. 

2. Hyundai Elantra N – Shattering Korean car stereotypes

What’s hot?

  • Rip-snorting lil’ WTCC car for the road, even with the dual-clutch
  • Premium interior and performance at a stellar price point

What’s not?

  • Bucket seats are a pain on road trips
  • Ugly duckling

“Am I the only one who understands the complexity of this ambitious automotive masterpiece? This car isn’t stupid! You’re stupid!” – Billy, probably.

Hyundai’s N division has proven to be a massive disruptor in the performance car world, building comparison test winners and headline stealers since the Veloster N in 2019. The Elantra N carries forward much of the same spirit and hardware, routing 276 horsepower from its 2.0-liter turbo-four through your choice of a good ol’ six-speed stick or a snappy 8-speed dual-clutch. 

Brakes rock. Adaptive suspension rocks. The selection of drive modes that all make a meaningful difference rock. Everything rocks. And, best of all, the Elantra N goes about its performance biz with genuine chassis feel and an eager, soulful playfulness seldom found in European sports sedans. Couple that with its strong value proposition, and you have an affordable halo car that poses a serious threat to our current sports compact king. 

3. Volkswagen Golf R – The mature grown-up’s hot hatch

What’s hot?

  • Sports sedan performance with all-wheel-drive versatility 
  • Mature, elegant bodywork with hatchback practicality

What’s not?

  • Controversial infotainment system is a tad bit of a learning curve
  • On the steeper side of the pricing fence

The Mk8 Volkswagen Golf R is a divisive product, as praiseworthy as it was a source of ire among auto journos for a variety of reasons. But one thing is for certain, and it’s that no one can really hate on the fiery powerhouse that is the EA888 four-cylinder, pushing 315 ponies in Golf R trim, a sliver more than its Audi S3 cousin. It also features a trick Haldex all-wheel-drive system with Drift Mode for sideways action and Volkswagen’s baby-PDK DSG dual-clutch. 

That said, the mighty Golf R has some Achilles heels. It’s not the fiercest, most playful thing in the toybox, trading the antics of something like a Focus RS or Type R for a more upscale and serious demeanor befitting its German heritage, which may or may not resonate more with certain buyers. Its heftier price tag may also push some buyers away, as well, sitting comfortably above the likes of Elantra Ns, GR Corollas, and its not-too-dissimilar, front-drive GTI sibling. Oh, and that love-it-or-hate-it infotainment. Sheesh. At least they’re bringing buttons back.

Best affordable sports cars

1. Subaru BRZ – Jack of all trades, master of many

What’s hot?

  • A palette-cleansing trendsetter of what proper driver feedback should be
  • 2.4-liter engine staves off most desires for extra power… most

What’s not?

  • GR86 is more playful for slightly less money
  • Lame engine and exhaust sounds

Here comes the little Subaru BRZ trying to prove it has everything you need and nothing you don’t. 228 horsepower and 184 pound-feet from its 2.4-liter flat-four quells most complaints about the last car being gutless, bolstered by short gears and a svelte 2,800-pound weight. There’s a supple ride, CarPlay, Bluetooth, dual-zone climate, and options for banging sound system and scalding heated seats. 

Sure, it’s not perfect. Far from it, actually. The flat-four in stock form makes some pretty gruff, uninspired engine and exhaust noises. Space and practicality will never rival that of a hot hatch. And then there are those pesky RTV shards and daunting oiling pressure woes that have forums in a frenzy for permanent fixes. Still, if you want a track-capable, confidence-inspiring, infinitely tunable plaything that’s at home on the daily drive as it is high up in the canyons, few cars come close.

Best luxury sports cars

1. Chevrolet Corvette Stingray – “Budget supercar” is no hyperbole

Black Corvette C8 at Joshua Tree National Park
Image credit: Gabe Carey (Acceleramota)

What’s hot?

  • Faux supercar performance for a fraction of the price
  • Impressively practical

What’s not?

  • The usual supercar headaches in traffic and urban settings
  • Some stylistic quirks and nitpicks

Value is important when choosing a car. And I don’t think the value gets much stronger than the C8 Corvette Stingray. You’re telling me I can snag a base one for between $60,000 to $70,000 and still have the time of my life? Hell. Yeah. And before you snark at me and say no one gets the base model, know that me and Gabe’s tester absolutely was. No Nappa leather. No Z51 pack. No aero kit. Just the C8 ‘Vette in its most pure form.

Even with none of the extra fancy thingamajigs like MagneRide, auxiliary coolers, and Pilot Sport 4S tires, which I’m sure would have been transformative in the LA canyons and on SoCal freeways where we tested, we were still blown away at the base Corvette’s unfathomably serene ride and handling balance. It can haul all our camera gear for the LA Auto Show in the frunk, stow a body, uh, extra luggage in the rear, comfortably soak up all the expansion joints and potholes California had to throw at us, and still be an engaging ripper in the canyons.

Sure, it could be a little sharper. It could be a little lighter. It could be a little more connected. My advice? Don’t drive a 718 Cayman GTS before this. But I suppose for the money, this thing is a tough act to follow. A really tough act to follow.

2. Lotus Emira – A driving enthusiast’s dream come true

What’s hot?

  • Shocking ride and handling balance, even with Sports suspension setup
  • One helluva’ V6

What’s not?

  • Somewhat baulky manual shifter when cold
  • Not long for this cruel world

I can’t say it any better than Peter, so I’ll slip in a little excerpt.

“The 2024 Lotus Emira First Edition is a very special sports car for this day and age. It one-ups everyone else by making the most of old steering technology. This blissful steering then combines with a wonderfully communicative chassis, manual gear shift, rousing supercharged engine, and overall brilliant driving dynamics to make it a true top-level driver’s car.”

The Emira looks like so many other sports cars and supercars out there, but beneath the skin, it’s a rare breed like few others, if any at all. So it’s not the most practical or efficient thing on this list, nor is it that strong of a value in the presence of Porsche. It’s not even long for this world, slated for replacement by 2027. But when it comes to a pure driving experience, you can’t argue with some good ol’ analog fun, or as Rob Crespo and I call it, “oldfashionedasfuck.” And you know what? That’s exactly how the fanboys want it. And it’s how Colin Chapman would want it.

3. Maserati GranTurismo Trofeo – A true grand tourer with sports car chops

What’s hot?

  • Near supercar fast!
  • Sports car reflexes don’t hurt its cross-country comfort

What’s not?

  • Annoyingly long in parking situations
  • Priced smack dab in the middle of some serious rivals

God, no one does a driver’s car like the Italians. And yes, this portly, (possibly) two-ton, leather-clad, land yacht is a driver’s car. From its hellaciously fun Nettuno twin-turbo V6 to the trick Skyhook adaptive suspension with air springs. I didn’t quite know what to expect with the GranTurismo Trofeo. I kind of expected it to be a bulky, lazy touring car with tons of cross-country cred, as a car of its class should have. But I’m happy to report it can also straddle the line between touring car and sports car shockingly well, with quick, intuitive steering and a well-tuned all-wheel drive system that never lets the threat of understeer rear its ugly head in the tightest of Malibu canyons.

Sadly, its occasional electronic quirks, which range from meh to motherfu-, ahem, excuse me. It’s Stellantis-ness makes itself apparent. Not that it feels cheap. It sure as hell does not! It just has hiccups. And it better not feel cheap, not at nearly $230,000 as-tested! That’s a touch cheaper than GTs from more prestigious nameplates, but it places the GranTurmismo right in the middle of key rivals like the Mercedes SL, Porsche 911 Turbo, and even Maserati’s own MC20 supercar.

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2024 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance
FeaturesNew Car Reviews

The 2024 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance is the purveyor of modern luxury muscle

Twenty-five years ago, I bet if you asked the average new car buyer looking for a luxury four-seater what their top choices were, what they’d say would be quite different from today. These days, the general populace seems to lean more and more towards crossovers and full-size SUVs for one reason or another, which is a far cry from two decades back when sedans ruled this space. By that same token, for those who wanted a top-performing, naturally aspirated V8 powertrain with some sporty chassis tuning thrown in, even that wasn’t as particular of an ask as it is today. And it really is quite a particular ask now, because only one brand offers such a thing in the compact (or what we’d call a midsize back then) executive class: The 2024 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance.

The Lexus IS 500 is a rare bird in our modern era. Prevalence of crossovers aside—the Nagoya, Japan brand has plenty of those, too—there is truly nothing else on the market with this flavor of power plant. A quarter-decade back, I’m not sure people would think of Lexus as the last bastion of rear-wheel drive V8 enthusiasm with four doors, but it is. 

And It’s also quite good at it: Here’s why the IS 500 is not only a well-appointed everyday luxury sedan for the price but amply fun to drive as well.

2024 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance
Image credit: Peter Nelson

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Price and specs

Securing the highest spec costs just $65,670. Not bad for potentially the last naturally aspirated V8-powered sedan ever made, that’s also loaded to the gills with amenities. However, if you’re more keen on getting in as cheaply as possible, all it takes is $61,170, including Lexus’ $1,150 delivery fee. By comparison, the 2024 BMW M340i—a ravenously fun sedan in its own right—starts at $59,590, though doesn’t possess as entertaining of an engine.

Base price:$61,170
As-tested price:$63,600
Engine:5.0-liter naturally aspirated V8
Transmission:8-speed automatic
Drivetrain:Rear-wheel drive
Power:472 hp @ 7,100 rpm
Torque:395 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm
Redline:7,100 rpm
Weight:3,891 lbs
0-60 mph:4.4 seconds
MPG:17 city, 25 highway, 20 combined
Observed MPG:19.3 mpg
Fuel capacity:17.4 gallons
Acceleration figures published by Lexus

The base 500 isn’t a bad place to be, either: the F Sport Performance possesses 19-inch Enkei wheels, dual-stacked exhaust pipes (a nod to the IS F and RC F), unique F Sport exterior badging and accouterments, F Sport suspension tuning, and a Torsen limited-slip differential. LED headlights and exterior lighting are present, as is a push button start/stop, an extensive list of tech and safety amenities (more on that later), a comfortable NuLuxe leather interior with a 10-way power adjustable driver seat, Bluetooth, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

Moving up to the F Sport Performance Premium swaps the Enkeis for beautiful 19-inch forged BBS wheels (optional on F Sport Performance), and tacks on a handful of exterior upgrades like upgraded headlights, dark chrome window trim, and some neat/unique paint choices. Inside, it gets a Mark Levinson 17-speaker 1800-watt stereo, plus a handful of finer luxury details mixed in. If it were my money, I’d save a couple grand and do the F Sport Performance with those BBS wheels added on.

Design, interior, and infotainment

As far as modern four-door luxury goes, the Lexus IS 500 is certainly a looker. It’s got an overall muscular shape, particularly in its hips, and my tester’s bright and gorgeous Blue Vector paint is contrasted by dark F Sport exterior trim accents and satin black BBS wheels made for one sharp package. The cherry on top are LED headlights, aggressive front fascia, and staggered wheels wrapped in 235-front and 265-rear Summer rubber—these help it pass the Look Back After Parking Test for sure.

Opening the front driver door reveals a spacious environment filled with clean design and all the airiness. It’s a very pleasant place to be. The soft yet nicely bolstered NuLuxe sport seats are quite comfortable and supportive and possess both heating and cooling. The center console and dash area are nicely appointed with real, physical toggles and buttons, and in spite of some piano black plastic here and there, it all feels very solid to the touch. Dual-zone climate control is standard, as is a big sunroof for increasing airiness even further.

Space-wise, my six-foot-three stature had plenty of leg and headroom, and ingress and egress were easy with its big front doors, though I wish I could’ve telescoped the wheel a tad closer to my torso. Rear seat room was great below the waist, though a little tight for someone of my height.

2024 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance
Image credit: Peter Nelson

With plenty of physical buttons and a very nice, logical layout, Lexus’ infotainment is one of the better systems I’ve operated in recent years. While the love-it-or-hate-it touchpad is still present (personally, I don’t mind it, and it’s far easier to work than Acura’s), the standard eight-inch touchscreen responded quite well to inputs, and Lexus’ software was generally easy to navigate, save for making a few minor customization changes like touchpad sensitivity, as well as connecting Apple CarPlay. Unfortunately, the latter isn’t wireless.

When it comes to advanced driver assistance technology, a lot is standard for the price. Lexus Safety System+ 2.5’s features begin with frontal collision warning, automatic emergency braking, rear cross traffic alert, automatic high beams, as well as pedestrian and bicyclist detection. Additionally, dynamic radar cruise control is in the mix, which operates in a smooth and predictable fashion, and will even stop and crawl along in traffic. Lane tracing assist works generally well, though has some trouble maintaining the center of the lane on the highway, especially if markers are a bit worn.

What’s hot?– Excellent overall power
– Makes an excellent noise
– Great looks
– Solid ride quality
– Confident well-planted handling
– Good steering
– A comfortable and relaxing place to hang out in
2024 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance
Image credit: Peter Nelson

Japan’s manic muscle car in a tidy tuxedo

The main draw for the IS’ 500 designation is its engine: Lexus’ 5.0-liter 2UR-GSE. Producing 472 horsepower and 395 pound-feet of torque, this mighty IS will hit the 60 mph mark from zero in a reported 4.4 seconds. Not bad for a 3,891-pound sedan. Fun fact: It’s the same basic engine found in Lexus’ RC F GT3 race car, just with a few tweaks and displacement bumped up to 5.4 liters. This mighty beast helped Vasser Sullivan Racing win the driver’s, team’s, and manufacturer’s championship in IMSA’s 2023 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD Pro class.

Unlike other modern V8-equipped hardware, the IS 500 is a little down on low-end torque. It’ll move along just fine below 4,000 RPM, but to get the full experience of all five liters, you have to make sure it’s revved out—I doubt most folks in the market would complain about this, though, as it’s an overall smooth engine at any rpm.

2024 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance
Image credit: Peter Nelson

Then, when it comes to any situation that requires wide open throttle, the symphony of induction and exhaust is nothing short of brilliant. While this all-aluminum unit has a faintly lumpy, conventional-sounding V8 burble at idle and lower revs while cruising around town, it perks up nicely in the mid-range and doesn’t stop roaring until its 7,100-rpm redline. An actuator in the intake system opens up around 4,000 rpm to let in even more bass-filled induction roar, too, and it’s a very welcome addition to the overall experience.

It may be a little slow down low in the tachometer, but it more than makes up for it up top. In addition to its beautiful five-liter soundtrack, its linear power curve gets a tad steeper past 4,500 rpm. For reference, it’s like a cross between Ford’s 5.0-liter Coyote and BMW’s legendary 4.0-liter S65—some American flavor in the way it burbles in the low and midrange, yet it spins up quite smoothly and quickly up high like the near-race-level Bavarian creation. Additionally, the torque shove never gets old, so it’s quite difficult to drive with optimal fuel economy in mind.

Image credit: Peter Nelson

F Sport Performance = An F-Lite for the day-to-day grind

When the IS 500 first came out a few years ago, the talk of the town was whether it was the successor to Lexus’ M3 fighter from ten-or-so years ago, the beloved IS F sport sedan. Also known as the luxury sport sedan for folks who don’t want to deal with moody European reliability. Having driven both on very fun SoCal roads, I must affirm that it’s not, but it’s still quite good for what it is.

Think of it as an F-lite: The F Sport Performance’s modus operandi is solid overall handling and steering. 

Around town, Lexus’ adaptive variable dampers’ sportiest Sport S+ mode, the 500 was quite compliant and daily-able. By that same token, its steering was comfortably light and easy to spin around in easy-going day-in, day-out driving. The package dealt with Los Angeles’ roughest surfaces quite well. In fact, I didn’t notice much of a difference between Sport S+ and the supposed-to-be-softer Sport S, although there was some definite softening up in Normal. I could feel its Summer tires’ thinner/harder sidewall over particularly brutal roadway imperfections, but it was still quite solid and well-damped across all modes.

Then, the 500’s eight-speed conventional automatic transmission shifts smoothly and often enough to help offset its thirsty powerplant—no complaints there. Again, top marks for daily-bility.

Then, to bolster its one-car-to-do-it-all appeal further: This thing is so much fun on twisty roads.

2024 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance
Image credit: Peter Nelson

A fun sedan that can dance with the best of ’em

Those aforementioned adaptive dampers are wrapped in double-wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension that keeps the IS 500 F Sport’s body roll well contained in twisty, mountain-top sweepers. There’s still some lean to it—it’s a big, comfortable sedan, after all—but not to the point of easily upsetting the tires’ contact patch. Grip levels felt ample and hard to shake while sailing this 3,900-pound Japanese sedan through the San Gabriel Mountains’ famous sweepers at speed. The front end was vague, as was turn-in a few degrees off-center. But the steering loaded up nicely off-center in the corners, which, combined with a pretty quick steering ratio, made for an engaging experience. 

People often point to older BMWs and Mercedes as having a certain bank vault feel to them while rolling down the road—the IS 500 is the modern iteration of this, and especially when it comes to staying composed in the twisties.

2024 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance
Image credit: Peter Nelson

Then, if you’re ever in a situation where traction control happens to be off, and you need to make an especially tight U-turn, or you’re inclined to expedite warming up the rear tires with some playful opposite lock through a wide-open intersection, the 500 has you covered. Oversteer is wonderfully controllable thanks to the Torsen limited-slip differential at the rear axle, especially with a committed right foot to dispatch as much of that 395 pound-feet of torque as possible.

Finally, keeping a handle on all that power and grip are two-piece 14-inch front and 12.7-inch rear brake rotors. The initial bite was soft, and they were a bit vague to modulate, though that’s to be expected for something with daily versatility in mind. The pads held up reasonably well at a quick pace in the twisties and only started to overheat and fade after 20 or so minutes of harder driving. But I bet this could be easily resolved with some better aftermarket pads.

2024 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance
Image credit: Peter Nelson
What’s not?– Infotainment can be a tad confusing
– Slightly lacking in low-end torque
– Little communication from the front end in corners at high speed
– Brakes are a little soft and lacking in modulation

A final bastion for V8 sport sedans

In spite of its appealing specs that make for one entertaining and versatile driving experience, it’s still a little surprising that Lexus is the last operation on the block to offer a rear-wheel drive luxury sedan with a revvy and ever-entertaining V8. It’s actually utilized this formula for decades in one way or another, but seems to always be overshadowed by the likes of BMW or Mercedes-Benz, which definitely adds to the appeal.

Good on Lexus for sticking to its guns. 

EVs, PHEVs, and standard hybrids are great, as is lively turbocharged fare, but the versatility and potency of a V8 will always be music to enthusiasts’ ears (pun intended). And with everything else around it, like nicely tuned suspension and solid luxury chops, it’s an especially compelling final iteration. It’s all but certain that another all-motor V8 four-door luxury sedan will never come along, but luckily, the IS 500 F Sport is a solid overall last chapter that’d put a smile on any enthusiasts’ face day in and day out.

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