2017 Lexus IS 350

2017 Lexus IS 350 Review

The 2017 IS 350 is a luxury-oriented sedan that sits at the top of Lexus' entry-level offerings.
3.5 / 5
Edmunds overall rating
author
by Jason Kavanagh
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

The 2017 IS 350 sits at the top of the automaker's entry-level IS luxury sedan lineup. It cedes sport-sedan ground to others in the segment, but its robust V6 power, high-quality interior trimmings and surprisingly smooth ride still make for a satisfying sedan.

The IS 350, the current generation of which was introduced in 2014, has yet to receive a significant overhaul outside of the addition of an modestly warmed-up F Sport trim level. Nevertheless, its combination of comfort and refinement continues to propel it to relevance today. The IS 350 was never the most outwardly sporting handler, though any flavor of IS 350 — F Sport or otherwise — is certainly competent on a back road. But more than anything, the IS delivers a thoroughly quiet, comfortable and luxurious small luxury sedan experience with a V6 that out-punches similarly priced German four-cylinder rivals.

That the IS 350 is available with all-wheel drive broadens the sedan's appeal for those who live where things often get slick, though AWD models give up two gears in the transmission to rear-wheel-drive variants. Oddly enough, the potent IS F variant hasn't been reprised in this generation of the Lexus IS, and its absence stands out as an obvious gap in the lineup.



What's new for 2017

For 2017, the Lexus IS 350 receives largely cosmetic changes. The revised front end styling consists of a new grille, headlights (LEDs this year) and air intakes, while the back end receives different taillights and exhaust tips. Every IS has additional standard safety features this year, including forward collision warning and mitigation. Finally, a few minor cabin tweaks round out the changes to the IS 350.

We recommend

Though there are the IS 200t (turbo four-cylinder engine) and IS 300 (detuned V6) versions available, we'll assume you're interested in the top-dog IS 350. There is just the one trim level, so the real decision-making occurs when faced with how to equip it. The F Sport package adds a bit of handling and styling verve but doesn't transform the car. We recommend the Premium package and then adding the backup camera. If you're an audiophile, you'll love the Mark Levinson premium audio system. Beyond that, there's the Luxury package. It has a lot of items, but they're not all must-haves.



Trim levels & features

The 2017 Lexus IS 350 is available in one trim level, with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. Rear-wheel-drive models get an eight-speed automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive variants have a six-speed auto. No manual transmission is available. The sole trim level on offer has a solid complement of standard equipment including keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone climate control, a sunroof, premium vinyl upholstery (NuLuxe in Lexus-speak), a 10-speaker, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking.

Optional features are primarily clustered in packages, with a handful of items available as stand-alone options. The big-ticket package is the Luxury package, which bundles together a rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring, a heated steering wheel, parking sensors, automatic wipers, leather seats with memory function and wood cabin trim. The rearview camera is available separately. There is also a Mark Levinson premium audio package, a navigation package and two other smaller packages.

An F Sport package is available on IS 350 and IS 200t models (reviewed separately), but only the IS 350's F Sport variant receives continuously variable dampers. It is intended to improve handling acuity without adversely affecting the ride quality. This package furthermore includes unique exterior and cabin trim, summer or all-season tires on 18-inch wheels, heated seats with unique trim and higher-friction brake pads.



Trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions, although trim levels share many aspects. The ratings in this review are based on our full tests of the 2014 Lexus IS 350 (3.5L 6-cyl.; 8-speed automatic) and 2016 Lexus IS 200t (2.0L 4-cyl. turbo; 8-speed automatic).

NOTE: Since these tests were conducted, the current IS 350 has received just revisions. Our findings remain broadly applicable to this year's IS 350.

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall3.5 / 5

Driving

3.0 / 5

Acceleration3.0 / 5
Braking2.5 / 5
Steering3.0 / 5
Handling3.0 / 5
Drivability4.0 / 5

Comfort

4.0 / 5

Seat comfort2.5 / 5
Ride comfort5.0 / 5
Noise & vibration4.5 / 5

Interior

2.5 / 5

Ease of use2.5 / 5
Getting in/getting out3.0 / 5
Roominess2.5 / 5
Visibility3.0 / 5
Quality4.0 / 5

Utility

2.0 / 5

Small-item storage2.5 / 5
Cargo space2.0 / 5

Driving3.0

The 3.5-liter V6 is ultra smooth and respectably powerful. Handling dynamics aren't this car's strongest suit, though you can still have fun whipping this luxury compact around a bend or two.

Acceleration3.0

This IS 350 is not as quick as the class equivalents, but the V6 is super smooth and makes decent power. It achieves 0-60 mph in 5.8 seconds.

Braking2.5

The brake pedal travel is surprisingly short and stiff for a Lexus and lacks a sense of stopping power. In our emergency panic-brake test, an IS 350 stopped from 60 mph in 123 feet, which is long considering the summer tires.

Steering3.0

The electric steering builds effort that provides a natural and direct response, but it lacks road feel, which is important if your front tires ever lose grip. The IS fails to provide confidence in this area, critical for spirited driving.

Handling3.0

Even with the stickier optional summer tires, the IS has a tendency to push over the limits of front tire grip. Quick directional changes are more to its liking than long, sustained corners, so choose your back roads accordingly.

Drivability4.0

Power is more than sufficient, but the eight-speed automatic transmission makes response feel languid at times. Full-throttle downshifts take about a second to select the right gear, which is too slow if you're trying to get out of the way.

Comfort4.0

Excellent ride comfort and the serene quietness of the 2017 IS 350's cabin are big standouts in the comfort category. We were also happy with the seats until sitting in the saddle for a few hours, which took a small toll on our lower backs due to some mismatched lumbar ergonomics.

Seat comfort2.5

There's adequate lateral seat support, and the optional ventilation and heating works well. The amount of lumbar support is adjustable, but the position is fixed and sits too high to provide long-distance comfort for an average size driver.

Ride comfort5.0

The IS 350 delivers ride quality that combines solid body control with smooth compliance at all the right times. Bumps and impacts are absorbed without issue or the marshmallowy float indicative of an overly soft suspension. Very good.

Noise & vibration4.5

Great attention went into the IS' cabin soundproofing. Road and wind noise is sufficiently silenced, and you don't hear much even under full ABS braking. Quiet cabins are more comfortable but can also promote calmer reactions in emergencies.

Interior2.5

The 2017 IS 350 struggles with finding a balance between innovation and complication. The infotainment system interface lacks user-friendly qualities, and basic cupholder ergonomics were an afterthought to laying out a visually appealing interior. This is a cabin with mediocre functional usability.

Ease of use2.5

Lexus' haptic joystick interface for the infotainment system is cumbersome to use, and it snags smartphone charger cords with ease. The touch sliders for the climate control — which look cool and work well — are the best cabin features.

Getting in/getting out3.0

Even with the easy-entry retracting steering wheel, it's not difficult to graze a knee against the column climbing into the driver seat. The rear door openings are on the smaller side and could prove difficult for less flexible passengers.

Roominess2.5

Cabin space is not abundant. For an average-sized driver, the center tunnel console is needlessly wide and the armrests can feel intrusive. The rear seats have less legroom than in some competitors, and the center seat has marginal headroom.

Visibility3.0

Forward visibility is great. Rear headrests don't impede the view directly rearward, but huge rear pillars and a high body slope create blind spots when reversing. The optional parking sensors and rearview camera are recommended.

Quality4.0

Other than the steering-wheel leather that looks and feels like wrinkled skin by the thumb holds, this interior is done well. The seats have quality stitching, and all contact surfaces are soft with tight panel fit and solid door seals.

Utility2.0

The small trunk that doesn't fold flat and limited interior storage conspire against the 2017 IS 350's utility.

Small-item storage2.5

Storage up front is limited to the armrest, the door pockets and the glovebox.

Cargo space2.0

At 10.8 cubic feet, cargo space is on the small side for the class, and a significant step from the trunk floor is created by the rear seatbacks when folded forward.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.