Well, as far as weeks go it’s been a good one. That’s because I’ve enjoyed every moment behind the wheel of the 2017 Lexus IS 350 F Sport. This is a fun to drive compact luxury sedan with great performance, an interior that shines and an incredible sound system that I’ll be dreaming about long after I regretfully give up the keys to my tester.
From the get-go, there is no mistaking the IS for a Lexus thanks to its very recognizable spindle grille on the front end. The grille works well with this sedan and doesn’t overpower it. The F Sport features a black mesh within the grille to make it stand apart from its siblings.
It’s a pretty car with angular lines on the front that sweep down the side. There are some tweaks for 2017 like more aggressive angles, larger functional cold air intakes along with revised headlights and taillights.
The IS has LED daytime running lights and headlights and the F Sport has LED high and low beams as well. In the rear, there are tweaked taillights for 2017 along with new rectangular dual chrome exhaust tailpipes.
I’m a fan of the F Sport’s larger 18-inch Alloy five-spoke wheels along with the new for 2017 Caviar color.
The interior of my F Sport impresses from the moment you open the door. You’re immediately greeted by glorious red leather bolstered seats that fit me like a glove, perfect for taking tight corners. The driver’s seat is 10-way, 2-way lumbar power adjustable and both front seats are heated and ventilated.
You can tell designers spent a lot of time on the cabin. It’s well laid out, snug and envelops the driver in soft-touch, refined materials. I’m a fan of the perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters and the steering wheel-mounted controls are a breeze to operate. I also really love the motorized LFA-inspired TFT-combination tachometer. It cleverly retracts and slides over to show all of your menu items which you can scroll through. The one thing that did catch me by surprise is the push button stop/start sits high behind the steering wheel, so I had to reach for it.
You also can’t miss the massive center console area — or as I call it — command center. You could run the world from in there. It houses the new, larger, high-resolution color 10.3-inch split-screen multimedia display, the dual A/C with touch sensitive controls, and Mark Levinson sound system. I will say that Lexus’ Remote Touch Interface System is a little finicky. You have to get the feel of the mouse-like controller to achieve precise control. A stand alone map button is a nice touch because it provides easy access to the navigation.
The F Sport comes with silver performance trim throughout the cabin, aluminum pedals and special badging on the steering wheel. The IS comes standard with an auto dimming mirror and moonroof. My tester has a rear view backup camera with dynamic grid lines.
As for the back seat, the IS is a compact luxury sedan — so don’t expect a ton of legroom or headroom. Trunk space is fine and tie-down points allow you to safely secure cargo and there are 60/40 folding rear seats.
The IS 350 F Sport RWD delivers a respectable 306-horsepower thanks to the 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V6 engine mated to an 8-speed automatic. No turbo, so no lag. It delivers 277 pound-feet of torque and hits 0 to 60 in 5.6 seconds. The IS could stand to be a little lighter for a better time and more fuel efficiency.
My tester is a rear-wheel drive machine but AWD is available. The sport-tuned adaptive variable suspension monitors and adjusts the shock absorber setting at each wheel depending on your drive mode and style. High-friction performance brake pads set the F Sport apart from its siblings.
Normal mode provides the optimal balance of performance and fuel efficiency. Eco saves fuel but gives up some performance. The S and S+ modes are where you’ll really see what this engine can do. You also know you’re in Sport mode because it turns the outer ring of the tachometer to white. S+ mode unlocks all of the performance you can really feel it too. It shifts at a higher rpm for quicker pickup, provides even tighter suspension and increased steering response.
Outstanding doesn’t begin to describe the optional 15 -speaker 835 watt Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound audio system. It delivers incredible sound quality and it’s worth the extra $2,835 for the Navigation/Mark Levinson package. If you’re not blasting the radio, the ride is quiet and you don’t worry about road noise since Lexus used sound dampening asphalt sheets in both the roof and floor pan.
Being under the umbrella of its parent company Toyota, there is no lack of safety. All IS models come now with the Lexus Safety System Plus. So you’re talking a pre-collision system, lane departure alert with steering assist — another feature I really liked. It also includes intelligent high beams, high-speed adaptive cruise control. My tester also added on Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert for an additional $600.
All said and done, my test vehicle came in at slightly under $50,000 and that includes the F Sport package, audio/nav system and several add-on safety features. But even then the range-topping IS is less expensive than the BMW 3 Series or Audi A4.