The Truth About Cars » IS350 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 28 May 2015 10:25:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » IS350 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com 2015 Lexus IS 350 F Sport Review (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-lexus-350-f-sport-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-lexus-350-f-sport-review-video/#comments Mon, 04 May 2015 12:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1056498 BMW moved over 140,000 3-Series’ last year in America. They didn’t do this by being the most luxurious option or by being the best handling option. (The truth is hard to hear, I’m sorry.) Instead, BMW did this by doing exactly what shoppers asked for; luxury car buyers want a comfy ride with a luxury logo […]

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2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Exterior -002

BMW moved over 140,000 3-Series’ last year in America. They didn’t do this by being the most luxurious option or by being the best handling option. (The truth is hard to hear, I’m sorry.) Instead, BMW did this by doing exactly what shoppers asked for; luxury car buyers want a comfy ride with a luxury logo on the front, good fuel economy and to read reviews that extol the track-day virtues of their car of choice. The average buyer will never be on a track, but it’s critical to know your car belongs there.

What BMW dealers don’t want you to know: there are two sedans in this segment that are arguably better on the track than a 328i or 335i and we’re talking about one of them today, the IS 350 F Sport.

Exterior

Lexus’ exterior styling used to strike me as graceful, sophisticated and reserved. Apparently, however, the front end got no respect on the Autobahn, so the F Sport nose was created. While I can’t say if it commands more respect in Germany, the ginormous grille on our IS 350 F Sport looked ready to devour small children and subcompact cars alike. While some folks have said they dislike the gaping maw, I actually like it. What I’m not a fan of are the separate headlamp and “Nike-swoosh” daytime running lamp modules; I find the look a little discordant. Whether you like it or not, you have to admit this front end is more dramatic than anything on offer from BMW, Mercedes, Audi or Infiniti.

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Out back, less has changed, with the rear being more reserved than the front. But it’s the side profile where things really divert. The IS is 3.5 inches longer than the last generation model and most of the increase goes to the rear seat area – although, some of it also goes to the trunk, making the IS look more balanced than before. Thanks to pedestrian impact regulations in Europe, the front end has become blunter (just as we have seen from the Europeans lately), which actually helps the front 3/4 view. I think the Cadillac ATS is the most attractive sedan in this segment, but the IS in F Sport trim leaps up the scale to number 3, just behind the ATS and 3-Series.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Interior -005

Interior

While BMW and Audi have opted for an open and expansive interior theme, the IS feels tight and close to the driver by design with a high beltline and tall center console. F Sport models get a configurable LCD disco dash instead of the white-on-black gauges we normally expect from the brand. Similar to Volvo’s new LCD instrument cluster, the display can seem a little lost in the binnacle as the binnacle normally houses a wider traditional dial cluster. Since Cadillac has yet to move their large LCD instrument cluster down-market to the ATS, there really isn’t any competition for this display at the moment.

As you’d expect from Lexus, one can still get acres of stained wood and soft leather, but neither are standard. Like most entries in this segment, leather is reserved for specific packages and wood is an optional upgrade. Front seat comfort proved excellent during my week. The sport seats easily bested the Audi A4, Cadillac ATS and the base seats in the BMW 328i or Mercedes C300. Wider folks should know that the bolstering is pronounced and the F Sport trim doesn’t have an option to delete the sport seats.

Thanks to the wheelbase stretch, combined legroom is up by 2.6 inches inside which places the IS towards the top of the group in total legrooom. Nobody expected the BMW 3-Series to grow as much as it did in its latest incarnation, which becomes quite obvious when you run the numbers. The 3-Series boasts the second best legroom figures behind the much larger Infiniti Q50. The Lexus offers a slightly larger trunk, but I found the overall trunk dimensions to be more advantageous in the BMW.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Interior -003

Infotainment

The 2014 redesign of the IS brought a raft of new features from traffic maps on non-navigation equipped models to predictive traffic, improved voice recognition and smartphone integration. Alas, the lord giveth and he taketh away. Along with the new software comes Lexus’ Remote Touch input device, or as I prefer to call it: the Lexus joystick. I find little joy in the mouse-like controller, but it is better than the trackpad you find in the NX. The controller is the textbook example of the difference between an intuitive input method and one that is optimized for use in a car. The joystick is intuitive, it’s just not well suited to a vehicle as it requires much more eye-off-the-road time. I grabbed a few friends and had them perform a few identical functions in the Lexus and a BMW with iDrive while I watched their eyes. It simply takes longer for you to find what you need in the Lexus system. Oddly enough, the same Lexus software without a touchscreen is one of the least distracting available, but you can only get that in the GX and LX. If you don’t buy navigation, you still get the 7-inch screen but trade the joystick for a rotary knob.

Lexus doesn’t offer any sort of heads-up display a la BMW, but you can gadgets like radar cruise control, Mark Levinson branded audio system, blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Engine-004

Engine

Standing somewhat alone in this segment is a 100-percent naturally-aspirated engine lineup. While everyone but Infiniti has moved to a turbo four to fill the bottom end, Lexus has stuck with their tiny V6. (I’m not counting the 2.5-liter four-banger in the base ATS. Why? Who would?) Displacing 2.5 liters and sporting direct injection, the IS 250 is good for 204 ponies and 185 lb-ft of torque. [It’s the least powerful V6 currently on sale. -Ed] While many in the industry would once have complained about a base luxury model without an inline-6 engine, this V6 now competes with four-cylinder engines. Although a V6 isn’t as balanced as an I6, it’s miles ahead of an I4. The model we tested is the 3.5-liter V6 IS 350. Adding a liter bumps power to 306 and torque to 277. For reasons known only to Lexus’ product planning team, the 220 horsepower IS 300h remains forbidden fruit on our shores.

Lexus tends to be a cautious company when it comes to adopting new technology and, as a result, the 2.5-liter V6 and AWD models of the 3.5-liter have to make do with ye olde 6-speed automatic from Aisin. If you get the RWD version of the IS 350 that we tested, you get Aisin’s new 8-speed auto, a variant of the transmission used in the Corvette and select Cadillacs.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Instrument Cluster_

Drive

The naturally aspirated engine lineup is the first thing you will notice about the IS out on the road. Much like the 3.6-liter V6 in the ATS and the 3.7-liter V6 in the Q50, power builds in a linear fashion. This is quite different from the C400, 335i and other turbo entries which typically have torque and horsepower “plateaus” with sharp drops on either end. 0-60 acceleration in our F Sport tester came in at 5.6 seconds – not a bad time by any stretch. However, Volvo’s front-wheel-drive S60 T6 Drive-e will do the same sprint in 5.4. The purist in me prefers the feel and unadulterated sound a naturally-aspirated engine delivers, but the pragmatist in me realizes the C400, 335i, S4 and S60 T6 will all beat the IS to the freeway ramp. Opting for Lexus’ AWD system improves grip, but the loss of two gears causes the 0-60 time to stretch to 5.7 seconds, getting close to the less powerful BMW 328xi. AWD shoppers also have to live with an odd hump in the front foot-well caused by the transfer case and driveshaft to the front axle.

The responsiveness of the IS in tight corners demonstrates how much time Lexus spent engineering the suspension. The old IS came across as isolated, perhaps even sloppy, while this chassis is sharp and crisp. Every system feels like a team player, from the suspension to the transmission shift logic and the revised double-wishbones up front. The IS quite simply delivers the best feel in the corners and out on the track with every system tuned to near perfection. (Bear in mind we still have electric power steering, so it’s all relative.) The IS actually manages to feel a hair more precise, although not as engaging, than the E90 3-Series (previous generation). The F30 (current generation) has traded handling prowess for a softer ride and a ginormous back seat. And therein lies the rub: the change has improved BMW’s sales rather than stopping the gravy train. Meanwhile, the Audi and Volvo plow like a John Deere when they encounter a corner and the Mercedes feels just as you would expect – heavy and soft. The purist in me prefers the crisp handling and impeccable feel of the IS on a track. The pragmatist in me is keenly aware that feel doesn’t actually get you around a track. That’s where power comes in. Because of the power deficit, the 335i, S60 T6 AWD, C400 and S4 are all faster around your average track. If you’re talking autocross, the IS has a chance, but even the Volvo will beat it around Laguna Seca.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Headlamps

Competition

Comparing the IS 350 with the 335i seems like the natural thing to do – after all, they both have “3” in the model number – but a more apt comparison is the 328i. The IS 350 slots between the 328i and the 335i in both price and performance, but price is critical. Meanwhile IS 250 performs more like the 320i than the 328i.

The IS 350 F Sport manages to be a hair less than a comparably equipped 328i M-Sport, which is an excellent start. Despite costing a fraction less, the Lexus delivers considerably more refinement under the hood, better acceleration and more driving feel in the twisties. Our F Sport was notably less expensive than a Mercedes C300, and even when you add AWD to the Lexus, it’s still the more willing partner on your favorite mountain highway.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Exterior -006

Audi’s A4 ends up being around the same price as the IS 350 while Volvo’s S60 is the discount option. Both the Audi and the Volvo start as FWD vehicles but add AWD to compensate for their front heavy designs. Unless you step up to the considerably more expensive S4, the Audi comes across as underpowered and all versions of the A4 feel nose heavy in comparison. The Volvo has a similar weight issue up front but the Swedes will happily drop a powerful turbo engine under the hood, mate it to AWD and sell it for less than the Lexus. The resulting S60 R-Design will out-pace the IS 350 F Sport but the experience will be much different. The Volvo will be understeering like mad in the corners; the IS will feel balanced and poised. Unfortunately, the Lexus’ driver will have to enjoy the feel while looking at the S60’s tail lamps.

The Infiniti Q50 is the often forgotten competitor. Nissan’s luxury arm has never quite reached the same status as Lexus as far as brand perception – perhaps that’s why. Never the less, the Infiniti has good looks and a low price tag on its side. Even the $37,150 base model starts with a 328 horsepower 3.7-liter V6. It’s still slower than BMW’s 335i, but at 5.2 seconds to 60, it is among the faster options. If you want more power and better economy, Infiniti will sell you their hybrid version that scoots to highway speed in 4.9. Comparably equipped, the Q50 is about $2,000 less than the F Sport we tested, making it the best RWD deal in this segment.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Exterior -011

After a week with the IS 350, I’ll admit I was torn. The way the IS drives and feels on my mountain road commute is incredible. The way the IS feels on a track is alluring. And the value proposition is undeniable. Lexus’ well deserved reliability reputation and generally lower operating costs means the IS will cost less to own. All these things should mean my purist and pragmatic boxes will be well and truly checked. The Lexus has the luxury and track-day-diary cred to compete with the competition, but the infotainment system in the IS and slower 0-60 time keep the Lexus from being my choice in this segment. If my money were on the line, I’d live with Infiniti’s questionable steer-by-wire system and get the Q50S hybrid instead. You get more room inside, a 0-60 time matching the 335i and 31 MPG. While the IS 350 F Sport represents a good value against BMW’s volume 3-Series model, they still have nothing to compete properly with the 335i. Yes, the IS 350 F Sport feels better and road holds better than a comparably equipped 335i. But, as BMW has recently shown, perhaps going around a corner perfectly isn’t all that important after all.

 

 Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.2 Seconds

0-60: 5.6 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.8 Seconds at 100 MPH

Average Observed Economy: 20 MPG over 674 miles

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First Drive Review: 2014 Lexus IS (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/first-drive-review-2014-lexus-is-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/first-drive-review-2014-lexus-is-video/#comments Mon, 25 Mar 2013 15:34:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=481480 Every car company hates the BMW 3-Series. It’s always the benchmark, always the sales champion, always the golden boy. BMW shifted nearly 100,000 3-Series models in America last year and they did so not by being “the best” luxury sedan, but by pandering to the shopping public’s desires. Buyers have shown they want a comfy […]

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Every car company hates the BMW 3-Series. It’s always the benchmark, always the sales champion, always the golden boy. BMW shifted nearly 100,000 3-Series models in America last year and they did so not by being “the best” luxury sedan, but by pandering to the shopping public’s desires. Buyers have shown they want a comfy ride with a luxury logo on the front, they want good fuel economy and they want to hear journalists say how well the car handles on a track. The average buyer will never be on a track, but it’s critical to know your car belongs there. The old IS was a good car on the track, but its demure looks sold more on Lexus’ reliability and dealer reputation than the car’s track diaries. As we know from Volvo and Lexus’ sales numbers in this segment, two things don’t move metal: reliability and safety. For 2014 Lexus went back to the drawing board completely redesigning the IS sedan to be their most dynamic sedan ever. Does it have what it takes to take on the Germans and Infiniti’s new Q50?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Let’s get the disclaimer out of the way up front: the IS-F and convertible IS C are continuing as-is for 2014. Lexus wouldn’t comment on any time-frames for their refresh, but you can bet nobody in Japan wants to keep stocking parts for both generations of IS vehicles. 

Lexus’ exterior styling has always stuck me as graceful, sophisticated and reserved. While that mantra holds true for the side profile of the IS, the front reveals the largest and most stylized grille, not just for Lexus, but for the whole small luxury segment. The photos above are of the F-Sport model which has a more aggressive “squiggle” grille rather than the more reserved horizontal lines of the regular IS. Regardless of the model you choose, this is one big maw. Lexus tells us the sloping profile and demure grill of the old IS, got no respect on the autobahn while this ginormous opening makes Germans run for their lives for fear of being devoured. That I believe. I tried to keep my distance for fear of being consumed myself. Whether you like the grille or not (I find it quite attractive on the F-Sport, a little unbalanced on the regular) our drive around Texas proved the grille received more looks than the old IS.

Out back, less has changed with the rear being more reserved than the front but it’s the side profile where things really change. The 2014 IS is a whopping 3.5 inches longer than the 2013 model and rides on a 2.7 inch longer wheelbase. Combined with the blunter nose which makes the hood look longer, the IS has gone from stubby to elegant. Remind you of anyone else in the segment? Yep, the BMW 3 grew by leaps and bounds last year. Unlike the Caddy designers who didn’t expect their target to shift so much, Lexus outpaced the 3 landing about an inch longer than the BMW.

Interior

Rather than evolving the IS interior, Lexus has gone for a revolution appearing to have changed absolutely everything about the IS’ interior. I’m not 100% sold on the design yet, mainly because of that enormous airbag bump on the passenger side. Unlike the Germans and Swedes that seem to enjoy using exactly the same interior design scaled up or down in every model, Lexus opts for similar cues but unique components. I give them credit for going this extra design mine but for my tastes I think I prefer something less avant-garde. But then again I own an X308 Jaguar XJ, the antithesis of modern.

Most companies would shy away from discussing their standard pleather seats but Lexus is a different sort of company and spoke at length about their NuLuxe faux-cowhide. In a further twist, F-Sport models eschew real leather for the fake. Thankfully this is one of the best leather look-alikes going and if you didn’t have a leather model on hand to compare it against you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference by touch. Smell is another thing, the NuLuxe interiors don’t have an unpleasant aroma, but its obviously not a leather smell. On the flip side Lexus tells us these are the first seats where the foam padding is molded into the upholstery fabric making the padding and the surface one unit. This supposedly will result in a longer lifetime and less “bunching” over time.

It’s hard to say what the IS would be like to live with since we had such a limited time with the car, so be sure to check back with us when we can snag one for a week. During our limited time in all varieties of IS, the front seats proved supportive with a nice range of motion although the seating position may be low for some drivers. Rear seat room has increased a much needed 1.6 inches while front legroom has gone up nearly an inch allowing a 6′ passenger (yours truly) to sit behind a 6’2 driver in relative comfort, a significant change from the last generation IS. Sadly however all that room had to come from somewhere and while some came from the wheelbase stretch, plenty came from the trunk as well with the cargo hold dropping from 13.3 cubes to 10.8 which is about 40% smaller than BMW’s cargo hold.

Infotainment & Gadgets

One item that hasn’t changed for the better (in my opinion) is the infotainment system. 2014 brings a raft of new features from traffic maps on non-navigation equipped models to predictive traffic, improved voice recognition and some slick smartphone app features. Alas, the lord giveth and he taketh away. Along with the new software comes Lexus’ Remote Touch input device, or as I prefer to call it: the Lexus joystick. Sadly I find little joy in the mouse-like controller. Don’t get me wrong, it is intuitive, I just don’t find it as easy to use as the competition’s knob interfaces and I think it takes way more eye-time off the road to use than Lexus’ old touchscreen systems. To counter this problem, the 7-inch LCD is placed higher the the dash where it looks small thanks to a housing that would appear to be designed to accommodate a larger screen. BMW’s wide-screen 8.8-inch display may not be that much bigger, but its up-close-and-personal location make it look large in comparison. In an odd twist if you don’t buy navigation you keep the 7-inch screen but trade the joystick for a rotary knob.

Since the systems we experienced were not production ready and not all the features were available for us to test but we were able to preview a number of features that may help soften the blow if you’re not a joystick fan. First up, the base IS models without navigation now get weather reports and a static traffic map updated via free HD Radio broadcasts so you don’t have to shell out for an XM subscription.You also get smartphone app integration standard with pass-though voice commands to supported phone apps. The optional navigation system sports improved graphics, redesigned menus making it easier to use the jotstick, more frequent live traffic updates and the ability to predict future traffic. The future traffic prediction feature uses historical data to show you what traffic will be like later and allow you to alter your travel plans accordingly. If outdated POI databases raise your hackles, the nav system will not simultaneously search the car’s POI database and an online POI database via your paired smartphone simultaneously and use the more recent search results.

Lexus doesn’t offer any sort of heads-up display ala BMW, but you can gadgets like radar cruise control, Mark Levinson branded audio system, blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning. No pricing on how much the IS or any of its gadgets will cost, but you can bet that Mark Levinson system won’t be cheap. The F-Sport package adds one more standard gizmo that makes it an absolute must-have package: the best LCD disco dash I’ve ever seen. Based on an 8-inch LCD the display uses a physical ring (you can see it in the picture above) to frame the tachometer so it looks more like a real gauge. The F-Sport also has a party trick up its sleeve, the moves. Sliding left in perfect synchronization with the display software it  “reveals” the trip computer, configuration menu, infotainment displays and vehicle info on the right. Based on a similar display in Lexus’ supercar (the LF-A), this has to be the coolest cluster available this side of the Tesla model S. Lexus, I almost forgive you for the joystick.

Drivetrain

IS models still use the same smooth V6s as last year with the IS 250 getting (logically) a 2.5L 204HP direct-injection V6 and the IS 350 gets a 3.5L 306HP direct-injection V6. As you would expect from naturally aspirated engines, full power is delivered at 6,400RPM for both engines and torque comes to the boil at 4,800. Compared to the 3.0L turbos in the Audi, BMW and Volvo, the IS 350’s 277lb-ft is a distinct disadvantage. Meanwhile the IS 250’s 185lb-ft pale in comparison to the 255-266lb-ft from the small turbos in the same Euro trio. If that sounds like Lexus is at a disadvantage you may be right, however BMW is chasing Lexus down the power market with the 180HP 320i.

The IS 250 RWD uses the same A960E 6-speed automatic as last year while IS 250 AWD and IS 350 AWD models still use the same beefier A760H 6-speed. The big change is in the RWD IS 350 which gets the 8-speed cog-swapper from the fire-breathing IS-F bringing the IS350 up to gear-parity with BMW and Audi and one cog ahead of the Infiniti Q50 and Mercedes C. The extra gears grant the IS 350 RWD an extra MPG on the highway (28) but the city and combined numbers remain the same (19 and 22.) The IS 250 RWD enjoys a bump of 1 MPG, but only in the combined score bringing it to 21/30/24 (City/Highway/Combined.)

The reason for the slight change is that the 8-speed transmission and final drive ratios have performance in mind with a very low 16.59:1 effective first gear ratio compared to the 14.36:1 in the 2012 IS 350. 8th gear manages to be only a hair taller than 6th in the old unit at 2.47:1 vs 2.38:1. Gears 3-6 are all close ratio gears which help the naturally aspirated V6 stay in its [comparatively] narrow power band. Helping the IS 350 feel a bit more responsive the transmission fully locks the torque converter in gears 2-8 and the whole system is programmed to blip the throttle on manual downshifts.

For reasons known only to themselves, Lexus has decided not to offer the hybrid IS 300h for sale in America. The cagey answer we were given is that Lexus is “continually reviewing their product planning.” Pity, it is the IS I would buy tomorrow if I could.

Track Drive

Most of my time with the IS was spent on an intriguing track with tight corners, little banking and two straights where we hit 110+ in the IS 350 F-Sport RWD, a BMW 335i M-Sport a C350 with the AMG sport package and of course, last year’s IS 350 as well. The lack of an Infiniti G37 was understandable since the new Q50 is replacing it soon. The lack of an ATS 3.6 was interesting considering Caddy’s recent sales success (the ATS ranks fourth in sales YTD, behind the C, 3 and G.)  Out on the track the IS 350 F-Sport RWD proved to be a very responsive sedan with excellent grip and  suspension tuning that is near perfection. The variable gear ratio steering is well weighted but just about as numb as anything you’ve driven. Of course numb steering is nothing new to this segment as both the BMW and Mercedes were devoid of feedback as well. ]

The responsiveness of the IS in tight corners really demonstrated Lexus’ dedication to making every system in the IS work well together. The dynamic suspension, variable gear steering and the intelligent downshifting logic in the transmission made the IS feel incredibly nimble. The Mercedes felt just as I had expected on the track: heavy and soft. Despite this the Merc has a decent amount of grip and is well matched to the IS 350 in terms of power. Hop in the BMW 335 however and the IS 350’s major deficiency is obvious: thrust. Despite the BMW feeling less buttoned down than the IS 350, my laps were faster and the experience was more entertaining because you had to have more skill to handle the heaps of torque put out by the 3.0L turbo. While my overall lap time was faster in the 335, I noticed I wasn’t as fast overall in the sweeping straights in the BMW, and that’s because the IS feels more connected to the road, more stable and a bit more predictable. While there wasn’t an Audi S4 in the pack, I can tell you what it would be been like. The S4 and the Volvo S60 T6 put some incredible power to the ground and I love AWD, but (and this is a big but on the track), they are both fairly nose heavy and that’s really obvious on a track like this. The ATS 3.6 however I suspect would have won “journalists” choice at the event owing to Cadillac’s efforts to replicate the driving dynamics of the old 3-Series, you know, before the 335 became “American-sized.”

While the IS 350 F-Sport felt like one with the track for the most part, high speed braking is a problem area for the IS. Because of a hairpin turn at the end of the straight you have to drop from 110+ to 35 as quickly and smoothly as possible while maintaining control. The Mercedes and the 335 accomplish this maneuver without a problem but the IS 350 felt light under hard braking and on some road surfaces a little squirrely as well. In fact the IS 350 may be slightly lighter in the rear than the Germans but it’s not a huge difference with the IS coming in around 52/48 and the IS 350 51.5/48.5.

Does any of that matter out on the road? Nope. The IS 350 is a perfectly competent luxury sedan in either setting. While the IS 350 gives away something to BMW under high-speed braking, the IS 350 never felt out of control. The feel behind the wheel is excellent, albeit slower than the 335. Without pricing available from Lexus it’s hard to form a final opinion on the 2014 Lexus IS, but since it is unlikely to have changed much it should pose a good value slotting in under the 335 in price. If you can give up thrust for a more connected feel, reliability for a smaller infotainment screen and high-speed-braking feel for something more nimble in the corners, the IS 350 is your car. Until Lexus’ brand image shifts (or they jam some turbos on their smooth V6), the 3-series will continue being hated and secretly loved by the competition.

 

Hit it

  • Excellent road manners.
  • The F-Sport nose job makes it the most aggressive looking vehicle in the segment.
  • Coolest LCD instrument cluster. Ever.

Quit it

  • Down on power.
  • The infotainment screen is small and the joystick is a pain.
  • Fewer electronic gizmos available than the competition.

Lexus flew me to the IS release event in Austin where they stuffed me full of food and beer.

2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Front grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Logo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, F-Sport LCD Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, F-Sport LCD Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, F-Sport , Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, F-Sport Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, F-Sport Back Seat, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, F-Sport Center Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, F-Sport Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, F-Sport Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Standard Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Infotainment and HVAC controlls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Center Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Drive Mode Selector, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250, Interior, USB Port, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250, Interior, Glovebox, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250, Engine, 2.5L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250, Engine, 2.5L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Raer Seats Folded, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Rear Seats Folded, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Raer Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Lexus Enform Infotainment Screen, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, HVAC Controlls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Rear Door, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, front seat, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, seat controlls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, seat controlls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Interior, Front Door, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

 

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Review: 2011 Lexus IS350 AWD Take Two http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/review-2011-lexus-is350-awd-take-two/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/review-2011-lexus-is350-awd-take-two/#comments Fri, 08 Apr 2011 20:10:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=390521 When I was car shopping back in 2006 the Lexus IS350 found its way to the top of my spreadsheet, and I do mean spreadsheet. With anal resolve I had evaluated 8 vehicles, scored them, photographed them, ranked them and the IS350 came in second. What was first? A Volvo V70R (apples and oranges, I […]

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When I was car shopping back in 2006 the Lexus IS350 found its way to the top of my spreadsheet, and I do mean spreadsheet. With anal resolve I had evaluated 8 vehicles, scored them, photographed them, ranked them and the IS350 came in second. What was first? A Volvo V70R (apples and oranges, I know). At the time I thanked the helpful Lexus sales guy and told him “if there was an AWD IS350, I’d buy it tomorrow.” Well, 5 years later there finally is an IS350 AWD, but am I buying it tomorrow? Let’s find out.

Like any fading Hollywood star, the IS line went in for plastic surgery in 2009. The nip/tuck consisted of some subtle tweaks to the front bumper and headlamp assembles with lightly-reworked lines and some LED daytime running lamps styled after the LF-A. The rhinoplasty is so subtle that unless you park a 2006 IS next to a new one, you’d scarcely know the difference. On the up-side the look has aged well; on the downside, it looks just like your neighbour’s 2006 IS250. Calling a spade a spade, flashy styling is not what this segment is about.

Our tester came with the $1,320 “Luxury Plus” package which includes heated and cooled thrones slathered in upgraded semi-aniline leather, real wood trim, HID lamps, electric tilt/telescope wheel, memory seats, rain sense wipers and a power rear sunshade. The big ticket item on the options list is the $3,905 audio/nav system package which included the ubiquitous Lexus nav system and a 14 speaker Mark Levinson sound system with backup camera. While I do find some fault in the “that’s-so-80s” faux-marble styling that the system’s menus employ, functionality is nevertheless high and responsiveness is good. Audio quality from the Mark Levinson system is as high as you would expect from a system this expensive.

Inside the cabin the IS’s age begins to show. Lexus opted for the very lightest of interior refreshes in 2009, largely focusing on the centre stack’s button shapes. This means that the soft touch plastic used on the dash and doors looks nice but has a somewhat rubbery feel. While the surface texture is pleasing to the eye and touch, its rubbery surface attracts dust like a lint roller. Oddly enough once dust and lint is attracted to the dash, it doesn’t wipe down as easily as I would like. If you live down a gravel road as I do, keep your sham-wow handy. Still, the interior is decidedly middle of the road being neither too cheap nor overly impressive. And that’s no small feat after this much time on the shelves.

Standard on all IS models is keyless entry and ignition meaning that the IS doesn’t suffer from oddly located slots or “blanks” located where a key would go in more pedestrian vehicles. Pressing the aforementioned start/stop button summons all 3.5 litres of the IS350’s V6 to life with a quiet purr. Despite being the sporty Lexus, the engine note of the V6 is decidedly demure even when the go pedal is stomped to the floor. If you need more aural satisfaction, Lexus would be happy to sell you the V8 powered IS-F. Fortunately, the 306 naturally aspirated ponies and 277 lb-ft of twist manage to almost match the linear turbocharged-thrust the BMW 335xi enjoys… almost. With direct injection and variable valve timing on hand to appease the EPA, the IS350 AWD delivered a respectable 26MPG highway as tested, with our 750 mile average hovering at 22.5MPG. It should be noted for readers comparing mileage figures with my previous reviews that I have recently moved and my average commute now involves commuting over hilly country roads.

A word about that AWD system: since the IS350’s AWD system uses a mechanical centre differential with an electronic clutch pack to control lockup, it doesn’t seem to behave quite as well as the always-on Audi Quattro system or the Haldex slip-and-grip systems at low speeds. While torque is available to the four wheels virtually instantly (unlike some Haldex implementations), I noticed mild binding at full lock during parking maneuvers. While not distracting, they are slightly less refined than the feel in the latest Audi, Acura and Volvo models.

As with other IS models, the IS350 AWD uses Lexus’ 6-speed automatic, part of me would love to see the 8-speed unit in the ISF, but something tells me we won’t see it until the redesign. My only beef with the silky-smooth slush box is with Lexus’ decision to “me-too” some sporty paddle shifters on the tiller and saddle the car with 1990s software. Rather than having a true manual mode where “4” means you want the transmission to be in 4th gear, the indicator merely indicates the highest gear the transmission may use whenever it feels like it. Think of cars that have D, D5, D4, D3, etc. in their shifter’s repertoire. Despite any shortcomings the transmission may have, V6 is an excellent companion. Turbo? Lexus didn’t see the point, and with a 5.18 second 0-60 time (as tested) I’m inclined to believe them.

So why did that Volvo win a place in my garage over the IS350? It all came down to AWD and a useable back seat. Lexus has rectified the AWD problem, but rear accommodations are still an IS family shortcoming. On the practicality score list the IS makes up for the lack of rear legroom by delivering one of the quietest rides in the class. Sadly there is one more hump on this camel, and it’s in the driver’s footwell rather than on its back. Because the floor-stamping in the RWD IS models doesn’t allow for the AWD componentry, the AWD IS models have a unique floor pan with a sizeable hump that extends from the centre tunnel well into the driver’s footwell mid-line between the seat and the accelerator pedal. If your feet are over a US size 11, then you might find the hump’s position a more than awkward. The kicker of course is that RHD versions of the IS put this on the passenger side, to which my response would have been: “who cares? That’s not where I sit as the driver.” Since my shoe of choice is a US size 10.5 loafer, I found the hump more of an oddity than a deal breaker but I am constantly reminded that the A4, Acura TL and Volvo S60 are completely hump-free.

Out on the road the IS350 AWD behaves more like an LS460 with firm springs than an Audi S4 or BMW 335. The steering is precise; the heft is as close to perfect as any, but the feel is isolated. This problem is partially due to the AWD system, as most AWD sedans feel less connected than their RWD relatives, but even the RWD IS350 suffers from a relatively numb tiller. Still, the 30/70 power split (variable to 50/50) more than makes up for any loss in feel when rocketing down wet and mossy back country roads in the Santa Cruz mountains. The short wheelbase and stiff suspension combine to make short work of windy roads, but broken pavement and cupped freeway concrete make the ride fairly unpleasant at legal speeds. Compared with the AWD IS350, the RWD IS feels more nimble with slightly better balance due no doubt to the wider rubber out back. For 99% of buyers the IS350 AWD is exactly like a regular IS350 except more stable on slippery roads. Our Facebook fan’s most frequent request is for a “burnout quotient” so here it is: zero (but then that’s sort of the point).

The IS350 AWD is up against some stiff competition as it goes into its final years but pricing and image may be the IS350s best assets. Our tester rang in at $46,579 as tested, well below the competition from Germany. The BMW 335xi offers undoubtedly superior interior finish and more electronic gadgets than a Japanese toy store, but with a comparably equipped MSRP of $50,925 it’s easy to overlook the IS350’s rubbery dashboard. If Audi is more your style, the A4 is far less swift and the new S4 at $56,175 is in a totally different price class. Perhaps the most direct and stiff competition for the IS350 AWD comes in the form of the Infiniti G37x, which feels more nimble, and the new Volvo S60 T6 AWD. Both the Infiniti and Volvo ring in within $1,000 of the IS350 AWD depending on options selected, with the IS350 straddling the fence between the sportier G37 and softer S60. Lexus’ trump cards in this competitive set are image and reliability. Lexus has a better brand value proposition than Volvo or Infiniti, and reliability is unquestionably higher than the BMW or Audi competition. So, 5 years later would I take the second best girl to the automotive prom? No, I’d probably take a BMW 335xi, but after the initial fun wore off I’d probably be left to dream about the IS350 AWD all over again.

Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for the review.

Another perspective on this car can be found here.

Performance statistics as tested:

0-30: 1.93 seconds

0-60: 5.18 seconds

Average economy: 22.5MPG overall

Facebook followers: Steve S: The biggest difference with the RWD model is the slimmer rubber out back, combined with the AWD it causes a little less grip in the dry but a more balanced feel. Tony J: The A4 offers a better feeling interior. Phillip W: Power slide? In a Lexus? Yes, but only just. Scott C: The suspension is fully independent front and rear. Up front we have double-wishbones with coil springs, monotube gas-pressurized shock absorbers and the usual hollow stabilizer bar, out back we get a multi-link setup with coil springs, inverted monotube gas shock absorbers and another stabilizer bar. It is the same basic setup as the RWD model with only slight geometry changes where required.

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