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The Complete Lexus Buying Guide: Every Model, Explained

Lexus’s lineup isn’t nearly as complicated as its German rivals, but it could still use some explaining.

lexus lc 500 2021
Lexus

Welcome to Brand Breakdown, a series of comprehensive yet easy-to-digest guides to your favorite companies, with insights and information you won’t find on the average About page.

Lexus is Toyota's luxury car division based out of Nagoya, Japan. Toyota created the marque in 1989 to have a more exclusive brand for its premium cars in foreign markets. Lexus started out with the LS and ES sedans before expanding to SUVs, coupes, convertibles and even the occasional supercar. Main rivals include German heavyweights Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and BMW, as well as its Japanese-market foes Infiniti and Acura and American rivals Cadillac and Lincoln.

Lexus is very much part of Toyota, with all that entails. Lexus can be more conservative than its competitors, being slower to react to rends and less frequent with its model upgrades. Lexus can also get eccentric and polarizing with its style; the brand’s current penchant for oversized “spindle grilles” is a prime example.

Lexus durability, however, is legendary; in one famous example, a 1996 LS 400 crossed the million-mile mark in February 2019. And the brand has cache: Hip-hop and country music lyrics frequently reference Lexus due to the cars’ status as a wealth signifier, the name’s alliterative value, and the handy fact that Lexus rhymes with Texas.

How Lexus Names Its Cars

On the surface, Lexus employs a simple alphanumeric naming system. The first letter tells you the model. The second letter gives you the body style (S for sedan, C for coupe, X for SUV). The three-digit number denotes the engine displacement (a 2.0-liter engine becomes “200,” 3.0 liters equals “300,” et cetera). An "h" after the three-digit number indicates a hybrid powertrain.

In practice, it can be not so simple. The model letters — U,L,I,N,G,E,R — have no real meaning and don't follow alphabetical order for price or status. The three-digit number no longer tracks engine displacement directly. And on some models, the same three-digit number can be used with entirely different engines.

To alleviate the confusion, here’s a reference guide:

Lexus Terminology

F: “F” designates a car produced by Lexus’ high-performance division, the equivalent of AMG at Mercedes or M at BMW. The “F” comes from Fuji International Speedway, the track where Lexus develops those cars.
F Sport: “F Sport” cars are sportier trims of standard Lexus models. They include modest performance enhancements and interior/exterior styling upgrades. They do not receive an enhanced powertrain as true “F” cars do.
LF: This is the designation used for concept cars, such as the LF-1. LF stands for “Lexus Future.”
Spindle Grille: Lexus uses large, distinctive grilles on the front of vehicles extending to the bottom of the car. It’s a polarizing design feature. Some have likened the shape to the mouth of the villain from the Predator films.

Buying Guide

IS

Lexus

The IS is Lexus's compact, entry-level sport sedan. The current third-generation debuted for the 2014 model year. RWD versions use an eight-speed automatic transmission. AWD versions have a six-speed. Lexus added a range-topping IS 500 with a 472 hp naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 for the 2022 model year.

Body Style: Sedan

Trims:

  • IS 300 RWD/AWD
  • IS 350 F Sport RWD/AWD
  • IS 500

    Engines:

    • Turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four
    • 3.5-liter V6
    • 5.0-liter V8

      Base MSRP: $39,000

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      ES

      The ES is Lexus's midsize luxury sedan. Known for its reliability and value, it is Lexus's best-selling non-SUV model in the United States. ES 250 models have a 203-hp 2.5-liter inline-four and AWD. ES 350 models have a 302 hp 3.5-liter V6 and FWD. ES 300h models use a 2.5-liter hybrid with 215 hp and FWD.

      Body Style: Sedan

      Trims:

      • ES 250 AWD
      • ES 350
      • ES 300h

        Engines:

        • 2.5-liter inline-four
        • 3.5-liter V6
        • 2.5-liter inline-four hybrid

          Base MSRP: $40,000

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          LS

          The LS is Lexus's full-sized flagship luxury sedan. It was the first Lexus-branded model built in 1989. It's available with either a twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 putting out 416 hp or a 3.5-liter V6 hybrid powertrain putting out 354 hp. All models use a 10-speed automatic transmission and can be fitted with either RWD or AWD.

          Body Style: Sedan

          Trims:

          • LS 500 RWD / AWD
          • LS 500h RWD / AWD

            Engines:

            • Twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6
            • 3.5-liter V6 hybrid

              Base MSRP: $76,000

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              UX

              The UX, or "Urban Explorer," is Lexus's subcompact luxury crossover that debuted for the 2019 model year. With a starting price of $32,900, it is Lexus's most affordable vehicle. UX 200 versions make 169 hp and have FWD; UX200h versions make 181 hp and have AWD. Both versions use a CVT.

              Body Style: Crossover SUV

              Trims:

              • UX 200
              • UX 250h

                Engines:

                • 2.0-liter inline-four
                • 2.0-liter inline-four hybrid

                  Base MSRP: $32,900

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                  NX

                  lexus nx gear patrol
                  Lexus

                  The Lexus NX is a compact SUV that shares some DNA with Toyota's RAV4. The current generation went into production for 2014. NX 300 models feature a 235 hp turbocharged inline-four, a six-speed automatic and either FWD or AWD. The 195-hp NX 300h hybrid uses a 2.5-liter inline-four; it gets an additional six mpg combined versus the non-hybrid version, and is only fitted with AWD.

                  Body Style: Crossover SUV

                  Trims:

                  • NX 300 FWD / AWD
                  • NX 300h

                    Engines:

                    • Turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four
                    • 2.5-liter inline-four hybrid

                      Base MSRP: $39,010

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                      RX

                      lexus rx gear patrol
                      Lexus

                      The Lexus RX is a midsize crossover SUV. It's the brand's best-selling vehicle by far in the U.S. and typically outsells the entire car division combined. The RX comes in two-row and three-row L versions. RX 350 models use an eight-speed automatic and can be fitted with FWD or AWD. RX 450h models have a 3.5-liter V6, a CVT, and AWD.

                      Body Style: Crossover SUV

                      Trims:

                      • RX 350 FWD / AWD
                      • RX 350 L FWD / AWD
                      • RX 450h
                      • RX 450h L

                        Engines:

                        • 3.5-liter V6
                        • 3.5-liter V6 hybrid

                          Base MSRP: $45,170

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                          GX

                          lexus gx gear patrol
                          Lexus

                          The GX is Lexus's midsize body-on-frame SUV. It's sold in other markets as the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado. All GX models feature a six-speed automatic transmission, full-time four-wheel drive and third-row seating. It's renowned for its off-road capability.

                          Body Style: SUV

                          Trims:

                          • GX 460

                            Engines:

                            • 4.6-liter V8

                              Base MSRP: $53,250

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                              LX

                              lexus lx gear patrol
                              Lexus

                              The LX is Lexus's venerable, range-topping full-sized luxury SUV. It has changed little since Lexus introduced it for the 2008 model year. Based heavily on the Toyota Land Cruiser, the LX is body-on-frame with full-time 4x4 and optional third-row seating. The only engine option is a 5.7-liter V8 with an eight-speed automatic. The LX Inspiration Series is a range-topping extra-luxurious trim.

                              Body Style: SUV

                              Models:

                              • LX 570

                                Engines:

                                • 5.7-liter V8

                                  Base MSRP: $86,730

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                                  RC

                                  lexus rc gear patrol
                                  Lexus

                                  The Lexus RC is a two-door coupe that debuted for the 2015 model year. The basic 241-hp RC 300 RWD uses a 2.0-liter inline four turbo. The 260-hp RC 300 AWD and 311-hp RC 350 RWD / AWD use the brand’s 3.5-liter V-6. RWD cars use an eight-speed automatic, while AWD cars have a six-speed. The RC F ($65,975) is a high-performance model that uses the 472 hp 5.0-liter V8. The Fuji Speedway edition uses carbon fiber components to bring the 0-60 mph time below four seconds.

                                  Body Style: Coupe

                                  Trims:

                                  • RC 300 RWD/AWD
                                  • RC 350
                                  • RC F

                                    Engines:

                                    • Turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four
                                    • 3.5-liter V6
                                    • 5.0-liter V8

                                      Base MSRP:$42,220

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                                      LC

                                      lexus lc gear patrol
                                      Lexus

                                      The LC is Lexus's premium two-door grand tourer. It comes as a coupe or a convertible. The coupe can be had in a 471-hp gas-powered version with a 10-speed automatic version or a 354-hp hybrid version with that uses a four-speed automatic and a CVT. All LC cars are rear-wheel drive.

                                      Body Style: Coupe, Convertible

                                      Trims:

                                      • LC 500
                                      • LC 500h
                                      • LC 500 Convertible

                                        Engines:

                                        • 5.0-liter V8
                                        • 3.5-liter V6 hybrid

                                          Base MSRP: $93,050

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