Lexus has always been playing catch-up with its German luxury rivals on the sale charts, but there are plenty of reasons why the Japanese brand’s new IS 350 F Sport should be on your shopping list.
1. IF LOOKS COULD KILL
Lexus has always had more conservative styling, but this new IS is different.
Revised looks complete with a wide grille, body panel creases, a wide and low stance, striking 19-inch charcoal alloys and plenty of black highlights give it a sporty edge unlike any IS that has come before it.
The head-turning exterior shows the brand’s intention for this new IS, which is a focused and engaging drive.
2. SMOOTH OPERATOR
The IS 350 sits atop the new mid-size sedan range and ditches the four-cylinder engines in the lower grades for a 3.6-litre naturally-aspirated V6 unit making 232kW and 380Nm. This is paired with a quick shifting eight-speed automatic transmission driving the rear wheels.
That combination sounds like quite a performance variant on paper, but the reality is a smooth and comfortable tourer rather than a hot and spicy sports sedan.
Well sorted suspension soaks up all the bumps and lumps for a comfortable ride, while smooth acceleration and direct steering makes for an enjoyable drive.
Fuel economy is a rude shock at a claimed 9.5L/100km and you’ll see double-digits most of the time.
3. SAFE AS HOUSES
If safety is a priority then you are in the right place.
You’re protected by 10 airbags and a range of active and passive safety tech that is hard to match.
Auto emergency braking will stop for cars, cyclists and pedestrians, and lane keep assist will stop you from drifting out of your lane without being overly assertive. Rear cross-traffic alert senses passing cars and brakes automatically, making reversing out of driveways and tight spots a breeze.
4. THE PRICE IS RIGHT
Value is more than skin deep for the IS. The circa $84,000 drive-away price is similar to rival machines from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, but you get the added appeal of the smooth V6 engine compared to more highly strung turbocharged four-cylinders.
Lexus also guarantees their vehicles for four-years/100,000km, beating all but Mercedes-Benz, which has moved to the industry standard five-year warranty. Capped price servicing of about $1400 over three years keeps expenses down.
All Lexus vehicles get access to their Encore benefits program, which provides services such as a complimentary loan car when your vehicle is serviced, 24 hour roadside assistance, deals with some of Australia’s most exclusive hotels, gourmet luxury experiences and five cents a litre off Caltex fuel.
5. IT’S A TIGHT SQUEEZE
The Lexus interior is a highlight, with top-shelf finishes and materials used throughout. But space is at a premium. Drivers and passengers of the taller and broader variety will find the cabin tight and claustrophobic.
High-quality sport seats give you a warm embrace, keeping you in place during spirited driving. Both front seats are heated and ventilated – the latter is a winner on steamy summer days, and the brand’s airconditioning is second to none.
A giant 10.3-inch display with touch control is a welcome move away from the laptop style touchpad-only controls.
The standard 10-speaker stereo was a let down for a range-topper. You can pay $3000 extra for the enhancement pack, which comes with a booming 17-speaker Mark Levinson stereo.