0:00 - 1:15 Introduction
1:16 - 2:40 Exterior Overview
2:42 - 3:00 In the Shoppe with Turbowski
3:00 - 5:35 Suspension and Aero
5:35 - 7:35 Alignment Issues and Idiotic Tires
7:35 - 8:37 Aero and Cooling
8:38 - 9:29 Lexus and Fun to Drive
9:30 - 10:24 Things that Don't Add Up
10:25 - 13:05 Under the Hood and Motor Talk
13:10 - 22:28 Driving the Car, Performance Handling and More
22:28 - 29:20 Interior Impression Good and Bad
29:21 Final Conclusions
In the early 2000s those who were into the US car scene knew the moniker Altezza. And when Lexus launched that car domestically as the “IS” many were excited. Count me as one of them. Over 10 years later in 2014 the 3rd generation “IS” was revealed with a new focus on becoming best in class.
The development focused on transforming the style and perception of the car. Styling, while always the biggest talking point, is polarizing. The biggest surprise was a huge focus on making a Lexus fun to drive. Toyota has leveraged elements that were engineered into the LFA sports car. Things like interior design and certain appointments will now trickle down into most F Sport models. As it relates to the IS350 these things help to give this vehicle one of the most interesting and enjoyable interiors of any obtainable car.
Once the sparkle wears off there is a mixed bag here. The F Sport badge is a glorified accessory package with some performance items but mostly bolt on appearance pieces. Some of these items like LED headlamps and LCD gauge package are great features, but they also raise concerns for long term cost of ownership and repair. The included F Sport wheel package looks great from the outside. However, when you realize the wheels are staggered (different size in front /rear) this means you can’t rotate the tires. This concept may not be a big deal for some but when you add 140 tread wear summer tires, replacement annually or even sooner becomes a penalty on a car that is more “sporty” than sports car.
Mechanically we don’t get a limited slip differential or manual transmission option, worse yet we don’t have adjustable camber on a car that’s going to chew through tires. These omissions are almost unforgivable on a car like this, because when you get behind the wheel of the IS350 it feels as good as many sports cars on the street.
"It's not a sports car but everything in your body says it is."
While some disregard the 3.5L motor in most conditions it is everything you want in a street car. The V6 being naturally aspirated features port and direct injection that revs to the redline smooth and consistently regardless of conditions, unlike many of the turbo competition. The direct injection gives the driver 30MPG aspirations on the highway and the port injection keeps the valve train clean unlike the direct injection only plants. And since this motor has been in production since 2006 any major bugs have been sorted and you are left with reliable yet complicated motor that should spin to 200k miles with little drama.
The RWD IS350 F Sport get the 8 Speed Direct Shift automatic transmission made by Aisin that locks the torque converter from 2nd to 8th to provide faster snappy shifts in Sport+ mode. The AWD model is only available with a 6 speed automatic. If you are going to consider the F Sport IS350 the RWD is the model to get, because the transmission helps make this car what it is. The AWD model adds bulk and the transfer case crowds driver leg room, adds weight and strips performance. Go RWD with snow tires and the already stable vehicle will be enjoyable in the winter while maintaining the fun of quicker shifting 8 speed automatic. To get the best performance we found you had to be in Sport + mode on the drive selector with traction control disabled and manual mode enabled. This allowed for 1-3 gear selection on the paddles to be very fast and you could ride the rev limiter if needed.
From seeing the potential of the D4S system on the GT86/FRS we know how much tuning potential there is with having port and direct injection. Driving the IS350 aggressively was mixed bag. The fuel cut off was right on redline while the motor was still pulling strong. Having 500-700 more RPMS on tap would help this car be even more edgy. But we know Lexus went very conservative here.
Even with all the negatives, this is a good car. The IS350 has more soul than the BMW 335i and much less stigma socially. It’s more rewarding than the Infiniti and infinitely more interesting than the Mercedes. If the buyer can live with having an automatic, some interior storage quirks and knows the costs of ownership the IS350 F Sport is the car to have.
"Where is the manual transmission option?"