2017 Lexus IS350 F Sport AWD

Susan Frissell

Introduced at this year’s New York International Auto Show, the 2017 Lexus IS350 sedan takes on a look a little bit more individual. While it must be difficult to design a four-door sedan today that stands apart, Lexus gave it a shot with their controversial front end grille. for them.

What we liked were quite a few things, including the smooth powertrain, unparalleled quality, ride and handling. Are its looks ‘individual”? We’re not just sure. The IS350 feels a little heavy at times, but solid and the new look is a nice departure from the rather boring ES350.

Competing with the big boys-Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Lexus has a niche a little different: the “executive sedan” market. The tried-and-true Lexus owner doesn’t very easily leave the brand and in this fact, Lexus has built an empire. Hard to beat the Lexus commitment to customer satisfaction-from day one-to unmatched reliability.

In its own ‘niche,’ the IS350 is still powered by the naturally aspirated V6 engine, while others have gone to turbo fours or sixes. It seems to work for Lexus, and with 306 horse, is pretty satisfying.

While a total vehicle price of $49,578 seemed high to us, that’s the price you’ll pay when playing in this field. Starting just over $41,000, the IS350 we drove had a few big ticket options, including the F Sport Package. Adding the sportiness we like to the IS350, the F Sport Package includes an F Sport front bumper and spindle grille, 18-inch F Sport Split 5-spoke wheels, FR 225/40R18, RR 235/35R18 summer tires on the outside, while inside the car is equipped with the TFT instrument cluster, heated and ventilated front F Sport seats, perforated leather steering wheel with F Sport logo, shift knob, Black headliner, aluminum pedals, back-up monitor, Silver performance trim, F Sport suspension, ($3,155).

Additional options on our test IS350 included Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert and Heated outside rearview mirror ($600); AVS Navigation system/Mark Levinson Audio System, Audio 5.1 surround, 15 speakers, 835 watts, 10.25 inch display, Remote touch interface, Lexus Enform Destinations, App Suite, Voice Command, Lexus Insider, Electrochromatic Auto-Dimming Rearview Mirror ($2,835), Body Side Moldings ($199), and Illuminated Door Sills ($425). All high-end options.

Our 2017 IS 350 came in a handsome Atomic Silver color, almost resembling a light gold. Although not a color that particularly stood out, still, it was handsome in this sedan.

The driver controls the stereo and navigation-among other functions-with the click-mouse device. Although it seems a little dated, we’re used to it now. One would expect, though, a more up-to-date system with Android and Apple devices. Hard to beat the sound emanating from this Mark Levinson, 15 speaker system. Concert hall quality.

The brake assist warned us a few times about following too close. A good example of paying attention when behind the wheel. The IS350 cabin is small by comparison, although we find this part of the IS’ charm. It feels more agile and sporty. There isn’t much space to store items, however, such as a phone, extra keys, etc. The center console provides two cupholders, the USB cable hookup, but not a convenient phone holder apparatus.

The design on the 2017 IS is third-generation, and a tad more distinctive, especially with that front grille. A bit edgier, the new look more more up-to-date. Opinions will vary when eyeing the IS’ backend, with its downward sweep. You’ll like it or not. We like it.

Although there may not really be anything to notice in the IS’ cabin, it’s pure Lexus and we especially liked the F Sport red seating. While when first introduced, the center analogue clock was hip (started by Infiniti), it now feels dated, and perhaps a little out of place in high-tech times.

All functions are easily operated, and although it seems as though there are numerous buttons, we are accustomed to them, and find it intuitive. The seats are very comfortable and hug the driver well. The 8-speed automatic transmission shifts effortlessly. The 3.5-liter, V6 engine with 306 horse is more than adequate to move the IS’ almost 4,000 pounds.

Perhaps the weight of the IS is why this sedan feels heavy. At times it feels a little clunky, but not ponderous. Maybe just dated? Not a bad thing because at the same time, it makes the IS feel solid. We always fall into driving the IS very quickly and comfortably and find that it would be a preferred daily driver if having to make a choice.

The IS’ weight doesn’t seem to affect its performance, either. Claiming a 0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds, the IS350 does a fairly good job of getting out front and center. The 3.5 V-6 engine is smooth and quiet. Although we don’t care much for the paddle shifters, the F Sport mode feels more itself in Sport+ mode.

Can one think of this IS as a ‘sport’ or performance car? Probably not. It’s more of a luxury, or nearly so, sedan. If you want to stay with Lexus and be sporty, aim for the RC. We don’t really match it with the BMW or Audi sedans.

Most buy Lexus brands for their dependability, and after-sales service/attention. They haven’t always-at least until just recently-been competitive in terms of styling and pizazz. More so, a little dull, yet great cars. Ride quality is better than average, as expected, and the cabin is for the most part Lexus quiet; some road noise when highway driving. The IS takes rougher road surfaces well and remains on point; adaptive damping taking up most of the slack.

Safety equipment abounds, with eight airbags (including knee bags for front seat occupants), ABS, stability and traction controls, blind spot sensor, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, auto emergency braking, forward collision detection, brake assist and driver attention detection. The IS scores a “5,” the highest rating possible.

There isn’t much to complain about in the ES350. We wonder, though, if the lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert, rather than a vibration, are not always caught or heeded. This is a matter of getting used to these features, we thin. The only complaint here is that both lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert are too polite – a little more information as to what’s going on would be helpful.

What can one really say that is negative about a Lexus product? The Lexus experience is legendary, and owners buy again and again, as well as hold onto their cars for years. For those who claim the IS feels a little old, this fact matters none to Lexus followers. As it gets closer to the competition, it still maintains what makes it a Lexus. And many are just fine with that.


MSRP: $41,370; total vehicle price $49,579, destination $995
Engine: 3.5-liter V6 24-valve, dual overhead cam, Direct injection, VVT-I, 277 lb.-ft. torque, 306 hp.
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters, AWD
Wheelbase: 110.2 in.
Length: 184.3 in.
Width: 71.3 in.
Height: 56.3 in.
EPA Fuel Economy: 19/26/21 mpg.
Fuel Tank Capacity: 17.4 gal.
Curb weight: 3,737 lbs.
Trunk space: 10.8 cu.ft.
Warranty: 4 years/50,000-miles basic; 72 mth/unlimited corrosion perforation
6 yr./70,000-miles powertrain; 12-mth servicing intervals

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