LEXUS IS350 F SPORT
In the clash of the compact sports sedans, the nimble European heads the heavier and thirstier Japanese rival, says Craig Duff
The sticker price is just about it for the F Sport, unless you want to drop $2500 on a moon roof. Default gear includes a 10.3-inch infotainment screen, eight-inch digital driver’s display, 15-speaker audio, adaptive suspension and LED headlamps. Lexus’s warranty is four years/100,000km. Service intervals are 12 months/ 15,000km — the first visit is free; the next two cost $1162.
Beyond the spindle grille, a polarising feature, the Lexus looks the part inside and out (Sports Luxury pictured) and the finish is superb. A 480L boot is on a par with the A4. Rear head and legroom is acceptable for all but the tallest adults. The clarity of the infotainment screen is brilliant but the controller operation and menu selection still aren’t as intuitive as in the Audi.
The IS turns the rear wheels via a 3.5-litre V6 (233kW/387Nm) and an eight-speed automatic. The 0-100km/h sprint takes 5.9 seconds. The automatic works seamlessly but still can’t disguise the engine’s thirst. Official fuel use is rated at 9.7L/100km; Carsguide used up to 11.6L.
Five stars from ANCAP. Ten airbags cushion occupants if you crash the IS — and to do that you need to confound a full suite of accident-avoidance software. Autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lanedeparture and blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert are standard at this specification.
This is not your typical Japanese drive. Lexus has tried to make the F Sport a half-decent driver’s car and has succeeded without taking away the suppleness around town that is the more expected trait of this marque. The IS350 feels heavier on its front wheels into the turns than the Audi, reflecting the kerb weight of more than 1680kg (the A4 is 1510kg).