The life of a sport sedan isn't easy, what with a never-ending procession of new competitors offering livelier performance, sharper handling and the latest gee-whiz features. The 2017 Lexus IS 350 manages to hold its own against this onslaught, however, thanks to its gutsy V6 engine, upscale interior and unexpectedly civilized ride quality.
While the compact IS 350 may be outmatched by other sport sedan competitors in terms of all-out performance potential, it still manages to be entertaining on a winding back road. The fact that its smooth, powerful V6 can go head-to-head with the turbocharged four-cylinder engines under the hoods of its comparably priced German rivals adds to its sporting mdash; if not downright sporty mdash; demeanor.
The availability of all-wheel drive also makes the IS 350 attractive in parts of the country where driving conditions can quickly turn ugly during certain times of the year. EPA fuel economy estimates are decent, ranging from 22 mpg combined (19 city/28 highway) with standard rear-wheel drive to 21 mpg combined (19 city/26 highway) when equipped with all-wheel drive.
While mechanical changes are few for 2017, there are tweaks that keep the Lexus IS competitive: fresher front and rear styling, bright LED headlights, and a host of new safety features like forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking.
Though there are two other Lexus IS models (the turbocharged four-cylinder IS 200t and the less powerful IS 300), once you settle on buying an IS 350 the major decision-making is done: There is only one trim level to choose from. While this standard model comes fairly well-equipped, it does lack a few significant amenities you might expect in a car in this price range.
You won't find genuine leather upholstery and wood trim, power seat memory settings, heated steering wheel, blind-spot monitoring, parking sensors or a rearview camera. All of those come bundled in the Luxury option package. On the electronics front, options include a navigation system and a Mark Levinson premium audio system. The F Sport package brings distinctive styling touches inside and out along with summer (or all-season) tires on 18-inch alloy wheels, an adaptive suspension designed to improve both handling and ride quality and beefier brake pads.
Making all those upgrades even more enjoyable are the IS 350's quiet passenger cabin and a smooth ride that manages to give the space a sense of calm assuredness. Downsides here include the infotainment system's awkward haptic joystick interface and cupholders that seem like an afterthought. The small rear doors can make entering and exiting a challenge for larger passengers, as can the limited legroom when they finally settle inside. Trunk space is also in short supply.
On the road, Lexus IS 350 is fun to drive. The strong V6 provides plenty of power and the handling is respectable. Steering feel and braking distances both fall short of the class leaders, however.
All things considered though, this is still a strong choice among compact sport sedans. Let Edmunds help find the right 2017 Lexus IS 350 for you.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.