2018 LEXUS IS 350 AWD

Sporty IS lineup boasts some­thing for ev­ery­one

Waterloo Region Record - - Wheels - Lorne Drury/Metroland Me­dia

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

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