Lexus’ IS350 blends comfort, style and AWD in a sporty package

Even the IS350’s back end takes on a sporty, quick look

Although it has been dubbed a sport sedan, just the Lexus name will tell you their IS 350 AWD sedan is more luxury than sporty. And it goes up against some tough competition from BMW’s 3 Series and Audi’s A4, which are, for example, more sporty than luxury.

Powered by a 3.5-liter, 306-hp V6 that generates 277 lb/ft of torque and coupled, in the AWD model tested, with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The FWD version comes standard with an 8-speed auto trans. EPA rates the combination at 19 city, 26-highway mpg, while the FWD model comes in at 19/28 mpg. As such, there’s not much difference but here in the Snowbelt, the AWD option is needed.

Acceleration from this powertrain is a linear explosion of power. On interstate’s, passing situations are similar in nature.

While the IS 350 may not handle like a true sports car it can still hold its own in sharp tight turns taken at speed. There’s virtually little body lean in so doing. Spirited drivers can toss it in the turns and it will hold the line with confidence. A well-tuned steering effort assists in these handling maneuvers.

Ride quality on Bridgestone 18-inch low profile tires is fairly smooth on good roads, but road imperfections and unimproved railroad crossings come through into the cabin on poor roads. However, the nicely padded and extremely supportive front perforated leather seats hug the torso ever so intimately. So much so that when entering the car for the first time the seats’ wing caught my $39 iPhone case and busted it. (Lesson learned: wear the phone in the front of the body, not the side.)

The back seats can only accommodate two adults and because of the severely sloping roofline, a head duck is necessary otherwise you’re looking at a bruise upon ingress/egress. The low profile rear seat headrests are nice and they allow decent rear visibility.

Instrumentation is somewhat unique in that there’s only a center-mounted speedometer that displays speed in digital form, and a tach surrounds it in analog form. It also shows what gear the trans is in.

HVAC controls are easy to use and it utilizes fingertip sliders for driver/passenger temperature control. There’s also a mouse that selects a myriad of functions including GPS nav. But it’s not conducive to use while driving.

On a more static selection, another console rotary dial offers the driver Eco, Normal and Sport S/S+ modes. And below it a flush button for Snow mode for use when getting stuck or for getting underway from a stop on slick roads.

Since the test car had the optional F Sport package ($3,450) containing a long list of goodies like the 18 inch tires, TFT tunable instrument cluster, LED headlamps, special grille, trim, aluminum sport pedals, heated steering wheel, adaptive suspension, plus the Nav package ($2,995) with pricey Mark Levinson Surround sound audio, voice command Lexus Insider, Lexus Inform infotainment system, rearview camera and more. This brought the base price of $42,300 to $50,525 with a $925 delivery charge.

The IS350 garnered the top five star government safety ratings for overall crash worthiness, four for frontal driver/passenger crash, five for front/rear seat side crash and five for rollover. All good marks that Lexus vehicles are accustomed to.

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