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What Engine Options Will Be Available On The 2026 Lexus IS?

The Lexus IS is due for a third mid-cycle refresh and it is shaping up to be the most comprehensive one, as Toyota's fifth-generation hybrid powertrains will be among the new engine options.

Back in 1998, Lexus brought out a sporty sedan alternative to the likes of Mercedes C-Class and BMW 3 Series. The third-generation Lexus IS is, currently, in its eleventh year in production and received its second refresh in 2020. This makes the Lexus sedan eligible to be counted among Toyota's longest-produced models, and it seems Lexus is not done with it yet. For the 2026 model year, the third-generation Lexus IS will undergo another comprehensive facelift, and this time, it includes interesting new powertrains. 

2026 will bring the first hybrid Lexus IS 

According to Japanese outlet MagX, the fourth phase of the Lexus IS will receive the 2.5-liter Dynamic Force engine in a PHEV setup. According to Kirk Kreifels who used to work for Lexus, brand reps said that by 2025, an electrified sports sedan will be available, and it appears that time is finally coming.  

Technically, this will not be the first hybrid Lexus IS, as in 2013, there was a short-lived IS300h variant, which was also a FHEV with a 2.5-liter, inline-four engine. It, however, was not available in North America whereas the new Lexus IS hybrid will be.  

The FHEV setup for the new Lexus IS will also be the new base powertrain. We are already seeing it in the new Toyota Crown, where it makes 240 horsepower of combined system output. Torque from the internal combustion engine is 178 pound-feet while the two electric motors have an output of 182 horsepower and 199 pound-feet and 54 horsepower at 89 pound-feet.

In the Crown FHEV, 0 to 60 mph with this powertrain takes 7.1 seconds. We expect the IS to be slightly more lightweight than the Toyota Crown crossover. Judging by the Crown's official EPA ratings, the Lexus IS should be capable of over 41 MPG combined. 

Is Lexus IS Prime possible? 

The Lexus IS500 will live on well after 2025

Plug-in hybrids have become increasingly popular over the last few years. Given Toyota's (and Lexus’) current endeavors in electrifying its lineup, it begs the question, should we get a Lexus IS? Some would say that by not offering Lexus IS "Prime”, the luxury brand is missing an opportunity, but if we are getting the base Lexus IS as an FHEV, similar to what Toyota did with the Camry, Crown, and with the upcoming Toyota RAV4, there might be something in the works. One thing I am sure of – it will not be called the "Prime”.  

What will be in place of the turbo-four and V-6 options? 

The Japanese scoop also talks about the current 8AR, 2.0-liter turbo-four, and 2GR, 3.5-liter V-6 being discontinued. We know Toyota is working on a new, more potent, turbo-four engine that would reportedly be fitted on the future Toyota Celica and possibly, the range-topping Toyota MR-2 when it arrives.

A figure of 400 horsepower was quoted, but it is unlikely that would be the case for the Lexus IS. This engine might not even be available for the first model year of the revised IS. If it does arrive, I suspect it will be the new IS350 variant with an output of around 300 horsepower. 

Meanwhile, you can forget about the 2.4-liter and 3.4-liter i-Force engines as those were originally developed for Toyota and Lexus’ larger crossover, SUV, and truck models. 

The V-8 will live on 

Even in 2026, Lexus will continue to offer the IS with the 5.0-liter V-8 engine. Even before I got this information, I was certain they would keep the V-8 around since Toyota, Lexus, and Yamaha teamed up to make a version of this engine running on liquid hydrogen. That same V-8 is believed to be the basis for a smaller, twin-turbocharged V-8 that is powering the Lexus LF-A successor, in a PHEV configuration.  

Moreover, Toyota's recent partnership with ExxonMobil bore fruit as low-emission fuels are able to work with Toyota's existing engines without any alterations necessary. This means that Lexus can keep its big V-8 while still reducing its carbon footprint. The best part is, power from the 5.0-liter V-8 can remain the same, at 472 horsepower and 398 pound-feet.  

The 10-speed automatic will continue to serve 

Toyota, Lexus, and Yamaha are working on a hydrogen-burning V-8

Lexus’ hybrid IS is expected to feature a 10-speed automatic with two integrated, Motor generators. The neat thing is that, like in the Crown sedan, the transmission has 10 gear ratios, but only four of them are physical. The rest are emulated. The non-hybrid variants will also feature the 10-speed automatic in its more conventional form.  

I anticipate more clues regarding the upcoming Lexus IS refresh will be uncovered soon, and I will share them as I learn new things. Meanwhile, what do you think about the Lexus IS becoming available, mainly as a hybrid model? Would you go for the new turbo-four non-hybrid IS if it packs V-6 performance or greater? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section. 

About the author

Dimitar Angelov's automotive interests made him an expert in a wide variety of vehicles. Japanese brands like Toyota are closest to his heart, although performance cars in general are his favorite segment, which is why he is constantly on the lookout for the best deals on the market. Dimitar Angelov's car passion and knack for the written word led him to complete a Master of Arts in Media and Communications, and classic car restoration. Dim is happy to get behind the wheel of any car and share his impressions. You can follow Dimitar on XLinked-inInstagram, and Facebook.

Image source: 2024 Lexus IS500