Four hours—what can you do with that? Plenty. But when we’re talking seat time in one of Lexus’ more exciting—and affordable—offerings, four hours might as well have been four minutes. It’s simply not enough. However short the driving experience, nonetheless it was an exciting one. But you already knew that. Equal portions tease (in that I can’t own one, yet), pleasure and performance, Lexus is ready to drop its third gen IS platform, with the IS 250 and 350 first (the IS C and IS F are both expected to come a year later). But besides the two standard issue models, each has an F Sport variant that are also worth taking a look at. The one that will probably grab you most, I’m betting, is the 350; of the two, it receives the IS F’s highly-coveted, eight-speed, Sport Direct Shift transmission. On top of the already-impressive 306 horsepower 3.5L V6 2GR-FSE (the same engine found in the previous gen), the automatic trans can be controlled via paddle shifters (or by traditional shift lever selection) and features an all-new G-force Artificial Intelligence system—that means it’ll automatically drop into an optimum gear and downshift pattern based on G force.
Being a complete redesign, there are the inevitable pros and cons that come with the territory. The front end is a toss-up, I’d imagine, for most people; I’m not opposed to it. This time the LED daytime running lights are separate from the headlights; both the 250/350 come standard with HIDs but can be upgraded to dual projector LEDs. What may throw most aftermarket aero designers for a loop (besides figuring out what to do with the DRL situation) will be the spindle grille, as the hourglass design falls right in line with the IS’ elders, the GS and LS—and will either need to be completely replaced but at the same time might do simply with a lip spoiler. The back end has really nice lines that lead all the way out to the rear trunk/bumper, but what may come as a nice surprise to enthusiasts is that Lexus (similar to the Scion FR-S) has tailored the rear wheel wells to be nearly flat on the inner portion, giving you more track and options when it comes to wheel fitment. You will not need to roll these fenders (I’ve checked).
From there, the 250 and 350 share other similarities; both chassis have been made more rigid, incorporating new laser-screw welding and adhesive body-bonding techniques/added spot welds to help provide that extra strength. The rear suspension is now multilink while the front suspension and steering are derived from the GS. While the standard models come with a new Drive Mode Select, featuring Eco, Normal and Sport modes, the IS 350 F Sport will also have an Adaptive Variable Suspension that’ll give two settings to further fine tune the car’s handling: Normal, for daily driving, and Sport S or Sport S+ for sportier movements. As you c+an
probably guess, my test car was left strictly in Sport S+. AWD
variants come with a Snow mode. Anyone care to piss people off with a beyond awesome stereo package? Then forget starting at the bottom with the OEM unit, go straight to the top with the Mark Levinson Premium Surround System as it’s worth its weight in premium sound with 835 watts and 15 speakers. Overkill? Do yourself a solid and go for a demo run.
F Sport packages are undoubtedly a good premium option if you’re looking to get more out of the new IS, considering that they helped elevate the second gen IS. Nothing beats having OEM quality, and so both the 250/350 will receive special 18-inch wheels, tuned suspension and various interior/exterior tweaks. The IS 250 F Sport (and all 350s, standard or F Sport) come equipped with an intake sound generator that’ll help produce a meaner growl as the engine climbs up the rpm and springs to life. My personal favorite feature from the F Sport models is the TFT instrument gauge, inspired by the LFA halo car, which uses the same moving center ring for a crazy, badass cluster. Actually, the entire interior is LFA-inspired, so everyone wins on all fronts.
Anyone who becomes the proud owner of an IS 350 F Sport (or any IS model) should take comfort in knowing that they’re going to enjoy the car for a lot more than my four hours (lucky bastards). It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.
That New Car Smell
2014 Lexus IS 350 F Sport
Engine 3.5L V6 2GR-FSE with VVT-i
The Power 306hp at 6,400rpm; 277lb-ft at 4,800rpm
Scale Tipping 3,593lbs/3,737lbs (AWD)
Layout Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive/Front-engine, all-weather-drive
Transmission 8-speed Electronically Controlled automatic transmission with ECT-I with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters/6-speed Electronically Controlled automatic transmission with ECT-I with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters (AWD)
Footwork & Chassis Front double wishbones, rear multilink; optional VGRS for IS 350 F Sport RWD
Wheels & Tires 17x7.5" aluminum alloys with 225/45R17 all-season tires; optional 18x8"/18x8.5" aluminum alloys with 225/40R18, 255/35R18 (RWD summer/AWD all-season) tires
At the Pump 19/28/22 (city/highway/combined); 19/26/21 (AWD)
The Competition BMW 335, Mercedes Benz C350
Deep Thoughts There is no better gateway drug to the Lexus empire than with the IS models. But treat yourself right; get the 350 F Sport. You’ll thank us later.