2018 LEXUS IS 350 AWD
Sporty IS lineup boasts something for everyone
There’s something for everyone in the Lexus IS lineup with no fewer than 10 configurations and three powertrains available for the entry luxury sport sedan. New for 2018 in Canada is an IS 300 rearwheel-drive version that joins IS 300 and 350 all-wheel-drive models. Our tester was the IS 350 AWD with the optional F Sport Series 3 package ($2,900) that offers a spate of features that add a sporty touch to the four-door sedan. The IS has been a staple in the Lexus lineup since model year 2000 and is now in its third generation. With sedan sales on the decline, the IS has not been immune to the downward trend as the NX and RX sport utility vehicles now set the pace on the Lexus sales charts. As the entry car line in Lexus showrooms, the IS has sold 854 units in the first quarter of 2018, down eight per cent from a year earlier. Not in BMW 3 Series territory, but still solid numbers nevertheless. Styling wise, the IS is a well-proportioned car. The face is a “love it or hate it” proposition with its signature Lexus spindle grille flanked by a pair of air intakes, giving it a performanceoriented look. Yet the IS is more about luxury, style and comfort than it is about go. That’s not to say that the 3.5-litre V6 in our tester was a dog, far from it. With 311 hp and 280 lb/ft of torque, the car moves out nicely and has decent power off the line and in passing situations. But even in sport mode, the IS doesn’t give one a feeling that out-and-out performance is its crowning feature. Take it out on winding back roads and it provides a fun ride, but with perhaps less of the sportiness than one would expect from its sporty looks. It’s simply a car that does most things well. It’s fun to drive, comfortable yet tight inside and with a stylish look and feel both inside and out. This generation has been around since 2014 but there have been minor tweaks here and there over the years. The entry powertrain for 2018 is the IS 300 RWL, featuring a 2.0-litre twin-scroll turbo charged... story
four-cylinder that makes 241 hp, but a peppy 258 lb/ft of torque. Power is transferred to the rear wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission with sport direct shift control and sequential multi-mode shifter.
Second up is the IS 300 AWD that has a 3.5-litre V6, rated at 260 hp and 236 lb/ft of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and features an advanced all-wheel drive system that automatically sends power between the front and rear axles as needed.
The 350 AWD that we tested has the same powertrain configuration, but here the 3.5-litre V6 is tuned to produce the 311 hp.
As mentioned earlier, the IS a stylish sedan that is well proportioned with an aggressive stance. I quite like the front-end treatment with the signature Lexus spindle grille and the auto-leveling LED headlamps and LED daytime running lights, but many have an opposite opinion.
The F Sport package adds a distinctive mesh grille along with larger cooling ducts to help reduce brake fade and exclusive 18-inch F Sport wheels.
Also included is a unique heated three-spoke steering wheel, adaptive variable suspension, 15-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound audio system, heated and ventilated front sport seats, power moonroof and a number of other technology and appearance features.
One neat feature in the F Sport package is the snazzy instrument cluster that Lexus says is inspired by the LFA supercar.
The cabin itself is comfortable, although tall passengers will find it a tight fit in regards to head and legroom in the rear. Beautiful leather and upscale-looking accent pieces add to the luxury feel.
I liked the snug fit of the sport seats but would prefer a longer seat bottom to add more leg support. On the road, the interior is quiet and the ride smooth except on the worst of roads.
The infotainment system has a huge 10.3-inch display screen with nice graphics. I found the haptic touch joystick on the centre console to be finicky to use and the cupholders to be in an awkward position behind the driver and passenger.
Otherwise, there’s not much to gripe about here. With all-wheel drive as tested, the IS 350 is a car that can handle all that Canadian weather can throw at it with a touch of comfort, class and luxury.
The interior of the IS 350 is nicely done. Shown here is the top-end IS 350 AWD cabin with leather seating and a number of F Sport package features.
The IS 350 AWD comes with a 3.5-litre V6 engine that is tuned to produce 311 hp and 280 lb/ft of torque. It is combined with a six-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters