There are plenty of small sports sedans on the market, but those seeking one with Japanese engineering and build quality should give this Lexus IS350 a test drive.
The IS350 is a nice-looking vehicle, especially with its Ultrasonic Blue Mica paint job. But one look under the hood proves more impressive, as this Lexus boasts a 3.5-liter V-8 that cranks 311 horsepower. It is hooked to an eight-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode. The fuel economy claimed is 20/28 mpg.
The IS350 we tested featured the optional F-Sport package. It includes larger alloy wheels, summer tires, special instrument cluster, limited slip differential, adaptive suspension and interior trim.
A control knob offers eco, normal, custom, sport and sport-plus modes of operation.
This package racks up an additional $3,195 over the $41,930 base price, but with other extras like navigation, an 835-watt stereo, LED headlights, auto-dimming mirrors, a rear sunshade, park assist, sill lights and a cargo net, the $52,608 tab, while not inexpensive, falls in line with the competition.
Upon testing this vehicle, we racked up 450 miles in one week. The results were impressive. It reaches 60 mph in 5.6 seconds, takes tight corners with ease, has a smooth ride and features strong brakes. The body structure is solid and has no rattles or leaks. The fuel economy was 17 mpg in the city, with 27/29 on highway trips. The seats are comfortable, and most controls are easy to operate.
The only complaint worth mentioning is the poor sun visor design. Lexus does not offer enough slide adjustment to block the sun through the side windows, which caused my face to get baked by the sun on a hot day. This is a serious oversight that needs to be corrected.
But overall, the Lexus IS350 is a nice, solid car that loves to be driven hard, yet is a pussycat in daily commuting. It is a good alternative to the European competition.