Tested: Lexus IS350 F-Sport

The first time

Do you still remember your first time? I do. It was a sunny afternoon in Strand, probably mid-2007 and I was a little bit nervous when I met the Lexus IS for the first time. Over the years I’ve driven various iterations of the compact Japanese luxury sedan, including the bonkers IS-F and brilliant IS350.

Where before Lexus may have been accused of copying other car designs and not having much of a history, the Japanese luxury brand has been around for almost a generation, reduced the amount of Corolla stalks and certainly found its own style. I still maintain that the previous IS range has aged beautifully.

I still maintain that the previous IS range has aged beautifully.

The new Lexus IS cars are built on the taught lines and sporty angles of their predecessors while the interior and many exterior details were enhanced. Angling for a younger, more dynamic audience, Lexus infused their new IS with bold lights, daring shapes, more creases and a very sporty interior.

With vastly differing and protruding surfaces, odd angles and Lexus’ gigantic infotainment screen avec mouse-like controller, the only plagiarism this car can be accused of is mimicking its own brethren. Our IS350 F-Sport test car also had marvellous sports seats and an instrument cluster similar to that in the LFA supercar.

This digital and mechanical combination of dials uses a huge digital rev-counter flanked by a myriad of customisable displays and, at the touch of a button, floats sideways to display more menus. Said button lives together with many others on the thick, adjustable steering wheel – which also adds to the car’s sporting edge.

As is customary for Lexus, the IS350 is packed with plenty of luxury features and leaves little in the way of an options list. You simply choose between the E, EX or F-Sport model depending on your taste and wallet, the three models setting you back N$449,900, N$499,900 or N$553,900 respectively.

All of them are powered by the company’s delicious 3.5-litre petrol V6 which pushes 228kW (310hp) or 375Nm through an eight-speed automatic gearbox and claims averages of 9.7L/100km and 225g CO2/km. 0-100km/h takes 5.9 seconds and top speed is limited to 225km/h.

0-100km/h takes 5.9 seconds and top speed is limited to 225km/h.

Our acceleration tests came close to the claimed figure but were almost a second off its six-speed predecessor’s time. I’m sure many potential buyers won’t mind and will gladly trade less shove for more gears, better response and consumption but a few sports saloon friends may choose a faster rival. Or buy the old IS350.

Those who don’t partake in brawls with BMW’s will simply revel in the car’s smooth and diverse abilities – the F-Sport ride can be a little choppy but it retains the previous generation’s wonderful handling. Go for a regular IS350 if you want more slow-speed comfort.

What appealed to the sports saloon connoisseur in me was the engine’s Jekyll and Hyde character. It hums its way through the lower rev range in traffic, quietly cruises at the motorway speed limit or becomes a loud, obnoxious hooligan the instant you mash your right foot into the firewall.

The very deep and amplified induction howls may not find favour with Lexus’ more sophisticated clientele but then they probably wouldn’t use full throttle very often. And who knows, perhaps they’ll even appreciate the car’s raucous antics when they speed away from the country club.

I certainly love the concept. Quiet and refined in town, noisy and fun when pawing the shift paddles through a set of deserted corners. The IS350 even offers a Sport and Sport + mode for added response, switching to a more vibrant instrument layout complete with maximum rev memory and throttle blips on downshifts.

The front end retained its slow-speed shuffle on full lock because it offers good steering feedback and turn-in at high speeds while the rear drive wheels show tendencies of breaking away at the limit. Not wanting to push any further, this tells me that an IS350 can probably get quite naughty if you switch the ESP off.

You’re more than welcome to form your own opinion but I returned the IS350 with approval and respect. It looks exciting and fresh (inside and out), is packed with lots of goodies and a superb sound system, commutes and cruises beautifully but also permits you to whip it around your favourite stretch of road.

That makes the Lexus IS350 one of my cars of the year 2013.

And remember, although it has no real pedigree, it was born out of Toyota’s desire to pursue perfection. You also get a motor-plan and what must be the best customer service currently available, all for an excellent all-round sports saloon. That makes the Lexus IS350 one of my cars of the year 2013.


Gallery


Performance

0-10km/h:    0.5s
0-20km/h:    1.1s
0-30km/h:    1.7s
0-40km/h:    2.4s
0-50km/h:    3.0s
0-60km/h:    3.4s
0-70km/h:    3.7s
0-80km/h:    4.4s
0-90km/h:    5.3s
0-100km/h:    6.4s
0-110km/h:    7.3s
0-120km/h:    7.9s
0-130km/h:    9.8s
0-140km/h:    11.1s

0-100m:        6.0s / 96.5km/h
0-200m:        9.0s / 125.6km/h
0-300m:        11.6s / 144.7km/h
0-400m:         14.0 / 159.0km/h

0-60mph:    6.0s
1/4mile:    14.0s @ 98.9mph (159.2km/h)

=====ADDITIONAL NOTES=====

Climate     Sunny, mild
Altitude    21m
Road        Dry tarmac, level
Occupants  Driver, no passengers
Fuel level    1/4

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