Lexus’ answer to demand for a performance-oriented compact sports sedan is the IS 350 F Sport, which is around the same size as an Audi A4, Mercedes C-Class or BMW 3 Series. Fast cars in this class have always been favourites for me, especially if they offer something extra in performance and cosmetics and this Lexus delivers on that score.
The car is now available with all-wheel drive and that’s the way my tester came. AWD is a great asset in a performance car as it safely places all the power right where it belongs – straight to the road via all four wheels when needed. This is a performance sedan you could really trust for a long trip across the mountains in winter. My car was equipped with Bridgestone Blizzak winter tires, which are the best I’ve ever used on ice and snow. They do wear quickly on paved surfaces though, so it’s best to use them when you know you’re going to be encountering icy conditions as I did earlier this year.
With the various cosmetic upgrades that come as part of the F Sport package, this is a great looking car and mine was especially eye-catching in its Ultrasonic Blue Mica, a colour that seems to be popular with Lexus buyers right now. It’s good to see some of these brighter colours coming back as we seem to have gone through years of ‘sameness’ with so many shades of silver grey chosen for vehicles. My test IS looked very spiffy with its 18-inch alloy wheels in a gunmetal colour.
IS 350 power comes from a 3.5-litre V-6 which really gets this car off the mark quickly. With 306-horsepower, it needs watching in urban areas because you’re up over the speed limit very quickly indeed. It’s exceptionally smooth and responsive and also refined and vibration-free – this is Lexus after all and that kind of silky power delivery is expected. The only transmission is a 6-speed automatic but I had no complaints at all. The transmission can be set for various levels of performance – I used ‘eco’ around town to save fuel and to take a little off the edge off the acceleration levels.
Given the engine’s high torque levels, it makes for a very flexible driving experience and the car is just as happy around town as it is on a fast mountain road like the Coquihalla Highway. The driving position is just about perfect with optimal positioning of steering wheel, pedals and seat. The seats are very well sculpted and hold everyone in place, especially up front, with great effectiveness. The instrumentation and switchgear is ‘busy’ but an owner would soon get used to the impressive array of controls. I was happy to see one of my favourite ‘pamper the driver’ features – a heated steering wheel.
The car is a delight to drive, thanks to the Lexus engineering team paying lots of attention to the suspension of the IS F Sport. Like all Lexus products it’s built to the highest possible standards of assembly and design. It’s a very luxurious car that’s even better thanks to the F Sport package and the numerous goodies that come with the upgraded specification.
BODY STYLE: Four-door sports sedan
ENGINE: 3.5-litre direct-injection V-6, 306-horsepower
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
PERFORMANCE: Zero to 100 km/h in approx 5.6-seconds
PRICE: Base MSRP $51,900