2014 Lexus IS 350 F Sport Sedan (3.5L V6 8-speed Automatic)
Driven On 3/12/2013
Even though Lexus says the IS was redesigned with enthusiast driving in mind, the new car, even the F Sport model, remains a few clicks off the top sport sedans in terms of handling feel. But its new interior is superbly made, and the longer wheelbase has made for a more livable rear seat.
PerformanceThe V6 is smooth but sneaky quick, with 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds. This larger, heavier IS has lost some of the handling feel of the previous model. The BMW 3 Series remains the car to beat, at least when it comes to performance.
The V6 is unchanged, remains pleasant at all times. The IS 350 is one of the quickest cars in the class. New 8-speed automatic aids fuel economy, blips throttle on downshifts.
The F Sport's upgraded pads were resistant to heat and fade on the track. There was a minor amount of instability when braking from very high speeds. No touchiness around town.
Steering could be a bit more direct, but it's not bad considering this is electric assist. Weighting is appropriate for enthusiasts in Sport+ mode.
The F Sport comes with two-mode driver-adjustable suspension, but it's constantly adapting between nine different levels regardless. Very good grip and a superbly-planted chassis.
Supple throttle delivery, smooth-shifting automatic and most folks will appreciate the light steering effort in Normal mode.
ComfortComfort and luxury are two big parts of the Lexus IS game. We can't recall softer leather seats, ever. Even the F Sport model has a comfy ride, despite its sporty intentions. The cabin always keeps outside noise out.
The seats are covered with beautifully soft perforated leather. The F Sport seats have added side bolstering for cornering. Oddly, the passenger-side center armrest has cupholders.
For the most part the F Sport's adaptive suspension delivers an even ride, with only occasional harshness. Even when the suspension is set to Sport+ it's totally livable.
On the highway you can't hear any engine or wind noise. At full throttle the V6 remains smooth, never obnoxious. Above 5,000 rpm the intake sound generator gives an extra snarl.
InteriorThe IS interior is generally a great place to spend time, with excellent control placement and a good driving position. Sore points include the lack of a front storage bin and poor rear head room. Leg room is better, though.
The lower driver's seat position is a plus. Most controls have a quality feel, although the Remote Touch Controller is finicky. New finger-sliding temp controls work perfectly.
Very easy and natural to get in/out up front. The rear doors don't open super wide, and you have to duck a bit to keep from hitting your head on the roof.
Head room is decent up front with generous elbow room. Leg and knee room have been improved in the rear, but head room is still tight for most adults.
A- and B-pillars are slim but the C-pillars are quite large and the rear beltline swings upward. Rear window is wide but not tall. Optional rearview camera has large screen.
The front door pockets are wide and have cupholders (rears do not). No front bin, awkward divider shelf in glovebox. Only average-sized center armrest bin. Trunk has wide opening.
ValueSuperb build quality and good durability mean Lexus vehicles hold their value well. The interior materials have a top-shelf feel, and for many that's worth the extra price you pay up front.
Build Quality (vs. $)
Very good materials and workmanship, as we've come to expect from Lexus. Different textures, surfaces and plenty of padded leather. The seats are fantastically supple.
The F Sport adds Adaptive Variable Suspension, LFA-type instruments, high-friction brake pads, 18-inch staggered-width tires and F Sport styling tweaks.
Neither the IS 350 nor the F Sport come standard with navigation. And you'll have to pay extra for safety-related items such as a blind-spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert.
Lexus predicts the IS 350 will garner a 19 city/28 highway/22 mpg combined rating from the EPA. That's a 1-mpg improvement on the highway due to the new 8-speed automatic.
The IS 350 has a 4 year/50,000 mile basic warranty and 6 year/70,000 mile drivetrain coverage. The basic warranty is average, but the drivetrain coverage is better than most.
Free roadside assistance for the first 4 years with unlimited miles. The first two scheduled maitenance visits are also complimentary. Lexus has a top reputation for durability.
Fun To DriveOn a fun-to-drive measurement, we actually preferred the previous IS 350 F Sport, as it was a bit more lively, more engaging, with better steering and a playfull tail. The new one will probably prove superior in pure numbers.
The IS 350, F Sport or regular, is plenty competent on a back road. But more than anything the IS delivers a thoroughly quiet, comfortable and luxurious sport sedan experience.
You could say the new IS, particularly the F Sport version with its wild honeycomb grille, has a bit too much personality. The V6 now comes with an intake sound generator.