2018 Lexus IS 350

2018 Lexus IS 350 Review

Sharp style and attractive value make the Lexus IS 350 a smart pick for a small luxury sedan.
3.5 star edmunds overall rating
author
by Dan Frio
Edmunds Editor

Based on the Lexus IS 350's looks alone, you might take its aggressive style — the pinched grille, prominent air intakes, and sweeping body lines to the back — as the sign of an uncompromising performance car. But don't let its looks fool you. The IS 350 is foremost a cruise and comfort machine.

Much of the credit goes to the Lexus' cabin, which stands out in both design and quality, and the IS 350's smooth ride quality both around town and out on the open highway. There are also generous standard features and plentiful options. We particularly like how adaptive cruise control and a forward collision warning system with pedestrian detection and automatic braking come standard.

The focus on comfort doesn't mean the IS 350 is a wet blanket to drive. With its 311-horsepower V6, the 350 is the fastest version of the IS lineup. But the reality is that rival luxury sedans with six-cylinder engines (as upgrades) do offer quicker acceleration and often have sharper handling abilities. You just have to ask yourself how much that really matters. Overall, we think the IS 350 offers a pleasing blend of the qualities most luxury sedan shoppers will want.



what's new

For 2018, the Lexus IS 350 adds more horsepower, a rearview camera and, on rear-wheel-drive F Sport trims, a limited-slip differential. Adaptive front headlights are optional.

we recommend

Though you can get the IS 300 in either turbo four-cylinder or detuned V6 versions, we'll assume you're here because you're interested in the top-dog IS 350. There is just the one trim level, so the real decision-making comes in how to equip it. The F Sport package adds some handling and styling verve but doesn't transform the car. It's worth getting for the 350. We'd also add the Comfort package for its, well, comfort features and safety tech. Skip the Navigation package if you can since it comes with the frustrating Remote Touch interface.

trim levels & features

The 2018 Lexus IS 350 is a five-passenger small luxury sedan that tops the IS lineup. It's only available with a V6 engine, which can be paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive or a six-speed auto with all-wheel drive.

The IS 350 rear-wheel-drive model starts with a V6 engine (311 hp, 280 pound-feet of torque) and eight-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel-drive versions use a six-speed automatic.

Standard features include 18-inch wheels, LED headlights, a sunroof, heated side mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable front seats, simulated leather upholstery, 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks, Bluetooth, a 7-inch color display, and a 10-speaker sound system with dual USB ports and an auxiliary audio input.

Standard tech and safety features include a rearview camera, automatic high beams, lane departure warning with lane-keep steering assist, adaptive cruise control, and a forward collision warning system with pedestrian detection and automatic braking. All-wheel-drive models also come with heated front seats.

The IS 350 offers a handful of options packages, among them the Comfort package, which adds automatic wipers, a power-adjustable steering wheel, driver- and passenger-seat memory settings, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.

The Navigation package replaces the standard infotainment control dial with Lexus' Remote Touch mouse-type controller and adds a navigation system with a larger 10.3-inch display. A 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system is also available, but only when bundled with the navigation system. 

For those who want to dial up the sporting factor, the F Sport version adds a full-mesh front grille, a revised front bumper, twin-projector LED headlights, staggered-width 18-inch wheels (with either summer or all-season tires), a sport-tuned suspension with continuously variable dampers, a limited-slip differential (rear-wheel drive only), upgraded brake pads, an intake sound generator that amplifies engine noise during acceleration, heated and ventilated front sport seats with enhanced bolstering, perforated leather trim and a special sport-oriented gauge cluster.

Some of the IS 350's stand-alone options include adaptive headlights, a power rear sunshade and front and rear parking sensors.

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 test of the 2016 Lexus IS 200t F Sport (turbo 2.0L inline-4 | 8-speed automatic | RWD). Note: The 2018 Lexus IS 350 has a different engine, but most our findings remain applicable.

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall3.5 / 5.0

Driving

3.0 / 5.0

Braking2.5 / 5.0
Steering3.0 / 5.0
Handling3.0 / 5.0
Drivability4.0 / 5.0

Comfort

4.0 / 5.0

Seat comfort2.5 / 5.0
Ride comfort2.5 / 5.0
Noise & vibration4.5 / 5.0
Climate control4.5 / 5.0

Interior

2.5 / 5.0

Ease of use2.0 / 5.0
Getting in/getting out3.0 / 5.0
Roominess2.5 / 5.0
Visibility3.0 / 5.0
Quality4.0 / 5.0

driving

edmunds rating
Handling dynamics aren't this car's strongest suit, though you can still have fun whipping this luxury compact around a bend or two. The IS 350's V6 is the best of the IS lineup, though other rival sport sedans offer more potent six-cylinders.

comfort

edmunds rating
Excellent ride comfort and the serene quietness of the 2018 IS 350's cabin are the big standouts in this area. We are also happy with the seats, though sitting in the saddle for a few hours can take a small toll on your lower back due to some mismatched lumbar ergonomics.

seat comfort

edmunds rating
There's adequate lateral seat support, and the optional ventilation and heating work 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 comfort

edmunds rating
The IS delivers solid body control with smooth compliance at all the right times. Bumps and impacts are absorbed without issue, yet there's no hint of a marshmallowy ride or overly soft suspension tune. Very good.

noise & vibration

edmunds rating
Great attention went into the IS 350's cabin soundproofing. Road and wind noise is sufficiently silenced, and you don't hear much of the engine. Quiet cabins are more comfortable and can promote calmer reactions in emergencies.

climate control

edmunds rating
Lexus managed to make the climate controls easy to use while adding cool touch sliders that adjust the temperature flawlessly. The system had no problems maintaining a comfortable cabin temperature, and the optional heated and ventilated seats are stellar.

interior

edmunds rating
The 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 efficiency.

ease of use

edmunds rating
Lexus' haptic joystick interface for the infotainment system is still cumbersome to use and manages to snag USB phone cords with ease. We'd stick to the base system if possible.

getting in/getting out

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

roominess

edmunds rating
The cabin space is not abundant in the IS 350. For an average-size driver, the center tunnel console is needlessly wide and the armrests can feel intrusive. The rear seats offer less legroom than in some competitors, and the center seat has marginal headroom.

visibility

edmunds rating
Forward visibility is great, and the rear headrests don't impede the view directly rearward. But huge rear roof pillars and a high body slope create blind spots when reversing. A rearview camera comes standard for 2018, but optional parking sensors are recommended.

quality

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

utility

edmunds rating
The smallish trunk (10.8 cubic feet) doesn't fold flat. The unevenness limits what you can carry with the seats down. Small-item storage up front is limited to the armrest bin, the door pockets and the glovebox.

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.