The executive bulk
I enjoy driving a Lexus sedan. There’s something about the executive bulk of their cars that inspires me. I feel like somebody, and they are just that much different from the other luxury brands to satisfy my desire to be somewhat alternative. So it was with great anticipation that I awaited my turn to drive the Lexus IS 350 E.
It arrived in a popular white paint job with the ubiquitous black leather upholstery. Aside from the boredom of driving yet another white car (good resale value), I was impressed with its looks; although I found the 17-inch wheels dwarfed by the sheet metal of this sedan.
There is ample space to accommodate 18-inch wheels and this is reserved for the more expensive models; thus lifting the appearance of the IS350 to near perfect levels. An advantage of the smaller wheels is that they give the IS350 E a more forgiving slow speed ride than that of the IS350 F-Sport.
The design lines and eye-catching spindle grill on Lexus’ latest IS and GS ranges are a delight with their brooding, aggressive and sporty look. The lowered profile in front, along with a slight flare above the wheel arches, add to the curvaceous yet angular appearance of the car. Swooping LED running lights in the front and L-shaped emphasis on the rear taillights add an interesting design element to the IS350.
Climb inside and your eye is immediately arrested by the 7-inch, very generously sized infotainment centre. It can be navigated using Lexus’ unique ‘mouse’ control which is operated with your left hand. The intuitive system offers you insights into all the workings of this sedan as well as a range of choices to navigate to from your radio station selection to system set-up to navigation maps, blue-tooth and more.
Up-to-the-minute detail is available to drivers at the push of a button on either the main infotainment screen or a small multi-information screen set between the rev counter and the speedometer. Interior finishes include a paper-thin wood veneer finish with brushed aluminium inserts and bright analogue clock central to the dashboard.
I found Bluetooth set-up to be simple and intuitive and far easier to pair this time around than previous experiences of trying to sync my phone’s functionality with that of a Lexus, or else I’ve just finally grasped the technique properly!
The sound output was crystal clear and worked perfectly up until the day I was due to return the car when, for reasons unknown, it stopped working completely and no amount of fiddling with the set-up would bring it back…
I’m guessing solar flares may be responsible!
The interior is roomy with exceptionally deep ergonomically designed seats in front that offer both heating and ventilation options. The front seats are electronically multi-adjustable so that you can find that perfect driving position. The spacious interior is mirrored at the back where ample leg room was evident despite the driver’s seat being pushed well back.
A large boot finishes off the space offerings with ample place for those golf clubs, several boutique store bags and more. Comfort levels are controlled through a dual climate control system which, on a warm day, is somewhat noisy but at least effective.
The part I love most about a Lexus is the actual driving experience and the IS350 was no different. A tremendous amount of power is packed into the 3.5l V6 petrol engine. With an output of 228 kW at 6500 revs, you’ll feel the need to occasionally put your foot flat on the accelerator just to hear the delightful howl from the engine as the IS350 surges forward. I loved the feeling and bemoaned my commuter lifestyle from permitting me more opportunities to stretch the IS350’s legs.
The drive is smooth and comfortable, there is a little bit of body roll most noticeable in tight corners, but no more than you would expect from an executive level sedan. The IS350 delivers an impressive amount of power for such a large car and this is delivered in a long, smooth pull away as you ease down on the accelerator. Safety features include ABS, ESP, 8 airbags throughout including front knee airbags, parking sensors and a rear view camera for reversing.
The 8-speed automatic gearbox provides prompt response, especially when running through the paddle shifts for manual transitions. Switch over to sport mode and you’ll notice a discernible hardening of the drive, with the steering firming up and the comfort levels taking a nose-dive.
But oh, how that engine can roar as you put your foot down. It must be noted, that despite keeping the car in normal driving mode with as much of an economical bent as possible, the IS350 is a thirsty beast. We averaged a rather poor 11.4l/100km with some mostly conservative mixed driving.
This was well above the claimed 9.7l/100km.
All in all, the Lexus IS 350 is a beautiful executive sedan. With a starting price of N$464 300 for all of the above, it also makes for great value for money if you’re buying into something luxurious. I would just watch how much I put my foot down or be prepared to cough up a bit more than expected on my monthly fuel expenses.