War­ren Brown

The Washington Post Sunday - - AUTOMOTIVE - War­ren Brown war­ren.brown@wash­post.com

War­ren Brown shares his re­view of the 2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport sedan.

corn­wall, n.y. — There is a lot of hubris in global au­to­mo­tive mar­ket­ing — lots of brag­ging about race­track testing, about a car’s abil­ity to hug curves and ac­cel­er­ate from 0 to 60 mph in six sec­onds or less.

The com­pa­nies are so earnest and they spend so much money, tal­ent and pro­duc­tion time on th­ese mes­sages, you’d think that all of us drive on race­tracks, or care­fully mon­i­tor stop­watches as we move from “stop” to “go,” or oth­er­wise op­er­ate our au­to­mo­biles in driv­ing en­vi­ron­ments where speed is the only salient fac­tor.

We don’t — cer­tainly not most of us, any­way.

I did none of that race­track-cow­boy stuff in my week and nearly 1,200 miles be­hind the wheel of the 2015 Lexus IS 350 F Sport all-wheel-drive sedan.

I sped, yes. It is hard not to speed on In­ter­state 95 and the New Jer­sey Turn­pike, where the me­dian traf­fic speed, the ac­tual speed at which cars and trucks are mov­ing, is about 75 mph.

But much of my driv­ing was done in the high-road en­vi­rons of New York’s Bear Moun­tain and Storm King Moun­tain re­gions, which fea­ture nar­row, twist­ing roads and oc­ca­sion­ally thick, rapidly de­scend­ing fog. Go­ing too fast here is an in­vi­ta­tion for an al­tar of flow­ers and crosses placed along the road at the es­ti­mated point of your demise.

There is also the mat­ter of night driv­ing here, which is best done care­fully in weather fair or foul. Dark­ness comes with a vengeance in th­ese parts, wrap­ping the roads in a black­ness that en­cour­ages you to praise God for the in­ven­tion of high-in­ten­sity-dis­charge head­lamps. It helps if those head­lamps are op­tion­ally “in­tel­li­gent,” as they were in the IS 350 F Sport that I drove. That means the head­lamps au­to­mat­i­cally, tem­po­rar­ily ad­just to low beams on dark roads when traf­fic ap­proaches in the op­po­site di­rec­tion.

I like that fea­ture, as I do the many other ad­vanced elec­tronic safety fea­tures avail­able in the Lexus IS 350 F Sport at a price sev­eral thou­sand dol­lars be­low that of a sim­i­larly equipped BMW335i all-wheel-drive sedan.

Not that the Lexus IS 350 F Sport all-wheel-drive sedan is in­ex­pen­sive. It starts at $45,750 and eas­ily could reach $50,000 with op­tions. But in the world of high-per­for­mance en­try-level luxury au­to­mo­biles (es­ti­mate $40,000 to $50,000), it ap­pears to be a good deal. It cer­tainly is com­pa­ra­ble in value to the Audi A4 and BMW 335i.

Just don’t get taken in by Lexus mar­ket­ing fea­tur­ing quotes from a 2013 Road & Track mag­a­zine ar­ti­cle tout­ing the IS 350 F Sport’s mostly track per­for­mance as bet­ter than that of the BMW 335i. It is func­tion­ally mean­ing­less brag­ging.

Most of us will never drive any car the way auto-mag­a­zine jour­nal­ists drive test ve­hi­cles on man­u­fac­turer-spon­sored track days, or in oth­er­wise sanc­tioned su­per-high-speed driv­ing en­vi­ron­ments (think a top speed, elec­tron­i­cally limited, of 131 mph). Driv­ing that way in the real world would land us in jail, in the hos­pi­tal or in a grave.

What you re­ally need to know about the IS 350 F Sport sedan is that it is the per­fect traf­fic mate for cities such as the Dis­trict of Columbia, Bal­ti­more and New York. It fits well in those places, ma­neu­ver­ing eas­ily through tight ur­ban traf­fic.

The sus­pen­sion sys­tem — in­de­pen­dent, dou­ble-wish­bone coil springs with elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled shock ab­sorbers and sta­bi­lizer bar up front; mul­tilink with coil springs, elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled shock ab­sorbers and sta­bi­lizer bar in the rear — works well on rea­son­ably main­tained roads. But the sys­tem is no match for rut­ted, pot­holed ur­ban pave­ment.

Would I take the IS 350 F Sport all-wheel-drive sedan over a BMW 335i or Audi A4? Prob­a­bly not. BMW per­sona and per­for­mance are hard to beat. And Audi, hands down, of­fers one of the best au­to­mo­tive in­te­ri­ors avail­able any­where at any price.

But Lexus puts up a good ar­gu­ment against the BMW 3-Se­ries in the mat­ter of value. Lexus just seems to of­fer more for the money, even with op­tions. That makes more sense to me than fast 0-to- 60 ac­cel­er­a­tion times.


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