Has the Lexus IS 350 Sports Luxury changed the mindset for IS buyers. The Lexus IS350 give performance at a relatively affordable price.
What’s happening at Lexus? The company known for it’s somewhat bland – luxury cars are actively pursuing the younger, performance-minded enthusiast. Two generations of the IS sedans have lured new enthusiasts to the brand, and the V8-powered IS F has showed the world that Lexus is ready to run, and run hard with the established performance icons. However, not every potential Lexus owner can afford the IS F’s monster price tag, and Lexus wants to make sure that a broader range of consumer can enjoy the company’s new dedication to sports tuning. Think of F-Sport as Lexus’ version of HSV or FPV: factory-engineered products designed to enhance performance while maintaining OEM-like levels of reliability. The latest car to benefit from this line of F-Sport products is the IS350, and we got the chance to take a fully loaded IS350 Sports Luxury for a full week.
Behind the wheel
Inside the IS350, well, nothing has changed. Driving position is good, though the low roof makes things seem a bit cramped for taller drivers. The backseat isn’t all that usable, but since we’re not in the business of carting our friends or colleagues around, the tight backseat really isn’t a concern for us, but if you had tall teenage children it sure would be.
Our test car also came with Lexus’ excellent touchscreen nav/command system, complete with rear-view camera. All in all, the cockpit was what you’d expect from a Lexus, but we’d like to see at least an F-Sport performance seat upgrade offered in the near future. Inside the Sports Luxury, you get an IS F-style steering wheel, alloy sports pedals, metal scuff plates and black headliner trim. Perforated leather seat material is standard and is paired with Woodgrain-look trims in the Sports Luxury.
A driver’s seat memory system is standard, as is driver and front passenger lumbar support and front seat heaters. The multi-information display shows outside temperature, driving range, current and average fuel consumption, average vehicle speed, and sequential gear shift position. Lexus’ 14-speaker Mark Levinson Premium Audio system is standard for IS350. Music can be selected from the six-disc CD/DVD changer, 3.5mm auxiliary input jack or USB jack. Bluetooth hands free telephone capability ensures calls can be safely made or received while on the road. Controls on the steering wheel allow adjustment of the audio, Bluetooth and multi-information display systems.
The IS350 features a quad-cam 3.5 litre V6 petrol engine, mated to a six-speed sequential transmission with paddle shift control. It develops 233kW of power and 378Nm of torque, and propels the 2011 IS350 from standstill to 100km/h in 5.6 seconds, which would rate it as best in class. On the road, the IS 350 F Sport doesn’t sound quite as sporty as it perhaps should. The exhaust note is muted and there’s no induction roar at full throttle. It sounds significantly ‘throatier’ from outside the car, but from the wheel it’s too quiet for a sports sedan.
Pushing the IS 350 down twisting roads in northwestern Sydney, you quickly discover the car’s grip and stability is brilliant. Push it harder and harder, and you can’t help but smile, as this is no ordinary sports sedan and the Lexus engineers have got it right, this is a well-balanced chassis.
Thanks to an impressively smooth ride and minimal wind or road noise on the move, the IS makes a great long distance cruiser. Up front there’s good room for the driver and passenger with supportive seats. Unfortunately it’s a very different story in the back. Despite a wheelbase increase some a few years back, in the previous IS leg and (in particular) foot room are both poor. The sloping roofline means head space is limited too. The upswept window line may make a pleasing visual effect on the outside, but it also makes the rear more claustrophobic.
With 398 litres of boot space, the IS poor compared to other saloons – the BMW 3-Series for example has 460 litres. The narrow opening means loading large objects is tricky plus there’s considerable intrusion from the wheel arches. There’s stowage up front is good with a large central storage under the armrest and a decent glove box.
The IS 350 is available in three equipment grades, Prestige, F Sport and the range topping Sports Luxury. All grades are well equipped in typical Lexus fashion. The IS 350 Sports Luxury adds Active Cruise Control, Lexus Pre-Collision Safety system (PCS) with Pre-Collision Braking (PCB), front and rear clearance sonar, and self-dimming and heated exterior mirrors. Plus inside, the Sports Luxury adds ventilated and heated front seats, semi-aniline leather-accented seat trim, Smart key card, self-dimming rear-view mirror, driver’s seat memory function, wood grain-look trim and 14-speaker premium audio system. While the Lexus IS 350 represents great value over its German rivals, so at $88,028 drive away for the full fruit version is an exceptional sports sedan at a bargain basement price.
The IS is Lexus range is intended as an alternative to models such as the BMW 3-Series and Audi A4. It manages to be as upmarket and high quality as more expensive Lexus cars with a sophisticated interior plus a plenty of high-tech kit. It’s also very well equipped and as you’d expect of a car from Toyota (which owns Lexus) is supremely reliable. The BMW 335i may have greater badge cred and a more engaging chassis, but the price of entry is well over $40,000 more than the Lexus. The IS 350 is without doubt the best all-rounder in its class. The IS 350 range is not only exceptional value – it’s an exceptional car.