The Lexus IS is a compact executive car sold by Lexus, a luxury division of Toyota since 1999. The IS was originally sold under the Toyota Altezza nameplate in Japan from 1998 (the word Altezza is Italian for ‘height’ or ‘highness’). The IS was introduced as an entry-level sport model positioned below the ES in the Lexus lineup.
The first-generation Altezza (codename XE10) was launched in Japan in October 1998, while the Lexus IS 200 (GXE10) made its debut in Europe in 1999 and in North America as the IS 300 (JCE10) in 2000. The first-generation models were powered by a straight-six engine and available in sedan and wagon variants. The second-generation IS (codename XE20) was launched globally in 2005 with V6-powered IS 250 (GSE20) and IS 350 (GSE21) sedan models, followed by a high-performance V8 sedan version, the IS F, in 2007, and coupé convertible versions, the IS 250 C and IS 350 C, in 2008. The third-generation Lexus IS premiered in January 2013 and includes the V6-powered IS 350 and IS 250, turbocharged IS 200t/300, hybrid IS 300h and performance-tuned F Sport variants. The IS designation stands for “Intelligent Sport”.
IS F Second generation (XE20; 2005)
On 6 December 2006, Lexus officially confirmed the existence of a high-performance variant of the second-generation IS called the IS F. The Lexus IS F sedan (USE20) premiered at the 2007 North American International Auto Show on 8 January 2007 as the launch product of Lexus’ F marque lineup of performance-focused vehicles. The IS F went on sale several months later in North America and Europe. The IS F was capable of accelerating from 0–97 km/h (0–60 mph) in 4.2 seconds, and had an electronically limited top speed of 274 km/h (170 mph).
The introduction of the second-generation IS model marked a resurgence in sales for the IS line, with a 332% increase overall in 2006 compared to the previous year. In its first year of sales, the IS sold over 49,000 units, making it one of the ten best-selling luxury cars in the US.
The IS line later took a median position in the entry-luxury market; in 2008 it sold behind the variants of the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and Cadillac CTS, and ahead of the Acura TL, Audi A4, and Infiniti G sedan. Outside the US, the Lexus IS spearheaded Lexus’ growing sales efforts in Europe, Australia, and South Africa, becoming the best-selling model in Lexus’ lineup in many of the aforementioned markets.
In the US, as of 2011, the Lexus IS was the third place best-selling vehicle from the marque after the Lexus RX and Lexus ES.