2014 Lexus IS350 AWD: Making its own way

28 Jul 2014 | 1,348 views | One Comment
By Don Hammonds Lucky for buyers of entry level luxury sports sedans! Each of the entries has its own niche, its own personality and market. To us at Automobile Journal, its not so much that one model is better than another, rather, its more important that you know which one of the models on the market suits your personality and needs best. BMW Three Series is clearly the choice for those wanting a dyed in the wool,  high performance sedan with superb handling and a pedigree  to die for...but not so much on the luxury and amenities side of the equation. Cadillac CTS is just the ticket for those looking for flash, eye-catching design and plenty of high tech ambiance, along with a storied American heritage. The Infiniti Q50, which replaces the G Series, certainly has the technology and performance, but this is the one for those looking for plenty of luxury, creature comforts and the latest features. So where does that leave the new Lexus IS350?   We think this one fits the buyer who wants the sleeper, the high performance sedan that will blow the minds of unsuspecting competitors.  It may not be them all, but it sure will give them a run for the money, and provide you lots of edgy styling, high quality fit and finish, and cast iron level dependability. We also suspect that maintenance costs will be lower for the IS too.       Still, everybody knows that the BMW Three Series is still king of the hill in this market segment, and you've got to take it into account first when trying to decide what brand to buy.  For that reason, we decided to make a head to head comparison of the two cars from BMW and Lexus.      In terms of the tone they set, these two cars are as different as night and day. The BMW Three Series, in all of its many iterations, feels like energy kept in a bottle, ready to pop the cork. You always know that there's "more where that came from" when you drive it. It always seems just on the verge of taking off like a shot--all of which makes it an incredibly exciting car to drive and own. The steering precision and responsiveness is a model for the entire entry level luxury sport sedan market. It goes precisely where you aim it, and corners exactly where you cut out the path.      Where the Three Series falls short, in our view, is interior comfort and luxury--that is if that's what you value.  It comes across a bit austere and severe, but the seats are extremely supportive and second to none for brisk driving.      In contrast, the IS350 can be compared to a thoroughbred race horse.  It reaches its performance peaks smoothly and powerfully without a lot of drama--and you'll have to keep your eye on the speedometer more because it drives and accelearates so smoothly. Cornering is right on the money too, but again, don't look for any spine tingling thrills here. The emphasis in designing the new IS350 was to make it more of an enjoyable car to drive, as well as a better handling and riding car as well. So the company had a laundry list of things they wanted to change. First, the styling.  It's definitely more controversial than the past generations of the car, which, in our view, makes it a far more fascinating one to look at. We love the spindle grill and the aggressive tone of the front end, and the swoopy side character lines along the flanks lead nicely to the sexy rear end design, and they also give the car a look of fleetness.  The interior is far more substantial looking than ever, too, with interesting two tone color schemes, gauges that look like luxury watches, and double stitching everywhere.   Next, Lexus engineers focused on a stronger platform and body.  New bracings and crossmembers were added, and the strength that comes from providing additional spot welds, adhesive body bonding and laster screw welds made for a much stiffer and stronger body. There was something else too. Apparently Lexus got a lot of pushback about the fact that you could not get 60/40 split fold rear seats, which have been present for some time on the competitive models from  other brands. Because engineers had made changes resulting in a stronger, body, the company now can offer those much desired 60/40 split fold rear seats on the new IS. Overall, the new IS is close to 70 pounds heavier, the car is  about four inches  longer, there's more badly needed rear seat room  because the wheelbase is close to 3 inches longer,and there's 13.8 cubic feet of space in the trunk.      One of the nicer features on the IS350 is the adaptive suspension which is controlled by a knob operated by the driver. It comes in ECO, Normal, Sport and Snow settings, and makes it possible for the driver to set the car up more precisely for whatever conditions the driver wishes to conquer.  While the effect isn't as pronounced as we've seen on other brands, there's still enough there to change the car's personality.     Our model had a base price of $41,700, which included a 308 horsepower, 3.5 liter V6, with 24 valves,, a dual overhead cam, direct and port injection, variable valve timing and 277 lb-ft of torque. The engine was  backed by a six speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, electronic control with intelligence, and of course, the full-time all wheel drive.      Other standard features included antilock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist, 17 inch aluminum wheels, dual chrome exhaust, SmartAccess with Push Button Start/Stop, heated ten way power drivers seat, and a heated eight way power front seat for passenger, Bluetooth, Safety Connect with automatic Collision Notification, stolen vehicle location, emergency assist button, and enhanced roadside assistance. Options included the F Sport Package, which included LED headlights, F Sport Split five spoke wheels, a TFT instrument panel, heated front F-Sport seats, perforat4d leather steering wheel and shift knob, Silver Performance trim, black headliner, adaptive variable suspension and addition of a Sport S+ mode, a nav system,  Mark Levinson premium audio with fifteen speakers, and 5.1 Surround Sound, HD radio with real-time traffic and weather and many other goodies. Final price was $49,615. The Lexus IS350 is rated at 19 city, 26 highway and 21 miles per gallon combined.  It uses 4/.8 gallons of gas per 100 miles, and the annual fuel cost is $2,700. If you buy the IS350 AWD, you will spend $2,000 more in fuel over five years.                                      

One Comment »

  • work from home said:

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    I’m absolutely enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.

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