Growing up, Lexus was never big on my car radar. It seemed to fit my parents’ (heck, grandparents’) generation just fine. But I knew, when it was my turn behind the wheel, I’d be shooting for something a little different. That was, however, until 1998 rolled around. That’s when the IS first came to production in the United States. With one of the first cars to have Altezza taillights, and luxury-meets-fast lane looks, I was hooked.
Fast forward to 2014, and the third generation of the IS is still going strong. We recently got our hands on the 2015 IS350 F Sport. Read on to see how it went.
The IS has always been known for spicing things up. It’s Lexus’ successful attempt at winning over the entry level luxury sport sedan crowd. It’s got aggressive looks that pair nicely with the direct-injected V6, in direct contrast to many class competitors who opt for a turbocharged four-cylinder as the engine base. Lexus made tremendous strides to improve the vehicle’s balance and luxury, comfort, performance and tech toys. But is it enough to sway the masses from a BMW 3-Series or Cadillac ATS? That’s what we were about to find out.
The exterior of the car is mighty-fine looking. Although it keeps a similar shape as its predecessor, the new IS has a striking appearance. The lines move effortlessly from front to back and swoop in all the right ways. The headlights and upgraded LED running lights are a plus, too.
Stepping inside the car you’re rear end is greeted by aggressively-bolstered seats. The center console is raised to a comfortable height, keeping all of your controls easily within reach. It’s much more of a “cockpit” feel than prior models. The beefy steering wheel gives poise and confidence, while the large display screen is placed near enough to the windshield to keep your eyes safely on the road.
The ride tends toward comfort, though offers plenty of road feel to transmit a sporty confidence on winding back-roads. Add in the revised double wishbone front/multilink rear suspension and you’ve got a relaxed drive while cruising coupled with appropriate handling when on the track. The steering has a nice weight to it.
The gearbox as tested was the six-speed paddle shift. It doesn’t feel particularly quick through the gears, but the transitions are smooth and easily within reach. We miss the days of a stick on the gearbox, but when you learn that the take rate of a stick IS was only 1%, you understand why.
Our favorite part of the car was the instrument panel. It’s a hybrid digital, tachometer and speedometer with great design. It slides from side-to-side to reveal more menus and is large enough to give a quick read on the road. This all, of course, was inspired by the LFA and makes everything else seem less interesting in comparison. Much of the infotainment is controlled by the push-button joystick on the center console. It’s a little difficult to use, but quickly learned.
Overall, we think Lexus did it right. They’ve created a car that’s easy on the eyes, incredibly fun to drive and comfortable to sit in. The value is hard to argue with. Sorry BMW.
Learn More: Here
Engine: 2.5-liter V6 or 3.5-liter V6
Power: 204 hp at 6,400 RPM, 185 lb-ft at 4,800 RPM (IS 250)/ 306 hp at 6,400 RPM, 277 lb-ft at 4,800 RPM (IS 350)
Transmission: Six- or Eight-Speed Automatic with paddle shift
0-60 Time: 7.7 seconds (IS 250 RWD)/5.6 seconds (IS 350 RWD)
Top Speed: 143 mph
Drivetrain: Rear- or all-wheel drive
Curb Weight: 3,461 lbs (IS 250 RWD)/3,593 lbs (IS 350 RWD)
Seating: 5 people
MPG: 21 City/30 Highway/24 Combined (IS 250 RWD)
19 City/28 Highway/22 Combined (IS 350 RWD)
MSRP: Base price $35,950 (IS 250 RWD)/$39,465 (IS 350 RWD)