Vehicle Style: Luxury sedan
Fuel Economy (claimed): 9.4 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 10.9 l/100km
With a gutsy 3.5 litre V6 under its bonnet and beefed-up suspension, the IS 350 is the missing link between the unexciting IS 250 and the awe-inspiring IS F.
The mid-grade IS 350 F Sport adds an extra dash of sportiness thanks to its interior fit-out and suspension hardware, and is our pick of the range.
- Quality: The IS 350’s interior is typical IS, however seats pinched from the IS F and a black headliner give it a more premium appeal. The silver dash trim is a tad plain, but the quality of materials and construction are both superb.
- Comfort: The heavily-bolstered seats of the F Sport give excellent support and comfort, and are electrically adjustable and heated. The cabin is snug, but once you’re settled there’s enough head and legroom up front.
Although improved over previous models, the rear seats are short on legroom. Most adults will also struggle to get comfortable in the centre seat.
- Equipment: Standard on the IS 350 F Sport are rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing xenon headlamps, LED daytime running lights, satellite navigation, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth phone integration, a 13-speaker audio system with six-stacker CD player, heated front seats, a reversing camera and 18-inch alloys.
A moonroof is the only factory-fit option.
- Storage: The boot isn’t especially large at 398 litres, but there’s a shallow tray under the boot floor as well as a ski port in the rear seat backrest.
ON THE ROAD
- Driveability: With 233kW and 378Nm, there’s no shortage of power or torque from the 3.5 litre V6. It’s a flexible powerplant with a strong mid-range and plenty of top-end power, but the engine’s capabilities are unfortunately let down by the slow-shifting six-speed automatic.
It functions well in day-to-day driving, but flicking through the ratios manually during a spirited sprint can be frustrating due to slow upshifts and downshifts. To its credit though, it will hold the engine against the redline in manual mode.
- Refinement: As is usual for a Lexus, refinement is excellent. There is some tyre roar on coarse roads, but otherwise the IS 350’s interior is well isolated. In fact, the F Sport - being the sports model - could do with a bit more aural drama from the exhaust note.
- Suspension: Suspension compliance is excellent; the IS 350 F Sport’s ride over rippled tarmac and through lumpy corners is well-controlled and relatively isolated - the F Sport’s suspension tune is firmer than other IS 350 models, but not unbearably so.
It would benefit from a bit more roll stiffness, however, as long sweeping corners produce noticeable body lean. Tyre grip is good, but a sportier compound would make it even better.
The electrically-assisted steering is light around town but firms up at higher speeds. There’s not a huge amount of feedback, but the steering direct and responsive.
- Braking: Big four-piston calipers grip 334mm ventilated rotors up front, and are backed up by two-piston calipers and 310mm rotors at the rear. Braking force is excellent, and we experienced no fade during spirited downhill driving.
- ANCAP rating: Five stars
- Safety features: Stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD, brake assist, dual front airbags, dual front side airbags, full-length curtain airbags, dual front knee airbags, front pretensioning seatbelts.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
- Warranty: 48 months
- Service costs: TBC
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
- BMW 335i sedan ($108,200) - The 335i is an exceptional performance sedan, but its almost $40,000 premium over the IS 350 F Sport is hard to justify - especially considering the Lexus is slightly faster in a straight line.
That said, it has a better transmission and outstanding chassis dynamics. (see 3 Series reviews)
- FPV GT ($71,290) - FPV’s brawny new supercharged V8 is an outstanding powertrain, and the GT can certainly be hustled quickly. The much larger GT doesn’t feel as nimble as the Lexus though, and can’t equal it in the luxury stakes. (see FPV reviews)
- Audi A4 3.2 FSI ($91,000) - Slower and lacking power and torque, the V6-powered A4 is also $20,000 more expensive than the IS 350 F Sport.
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The Lexus IS 350 F Sport scores highly because of its exceptional value and willing performance.
There are areas where it could be improved - like its outdated infotainment and sat-nav software, and slow-shifting six-speed automatic - but on the whole the IS 350 F Sport is a very enjoyable performance sedan.