2014 Lexus IS 350 F Sport Review
We go in-depth with the new 3-Series fighter.No Comments
The IS has near-perfect weight in its steering, with good feel, but as you get closer to the limit, it goes from razor-sharp reflexes to sloppy.
Lexus is in the midst of an image makeover. No longer content to be the purveyor of staid luxury models, the brand now wants to be known as one that produces both boring luxo-rides (ES) and sexy sports sedans (GS) alongside its stable of family-focused crossovers (RX, GX, LX). Kind of like BMW.
Enter the IS. The IS sports sedan is entering its third generation on the U.S. market, and Lexus had some work to do after its previous generation fell short of enthusiasts' expectations. The redesigned 2014 IS had to be a credible performance car that still coddled passengers in order to successfully challenge the 3-Series.
We sampled the car once already, now it's time for the full meal.
Handling is a different matter. The IS has near-perfect weight in its steering, with good feel, but as you get closer to the limit, it goes from razor-sharp reflexes to sloppy, with both understeer and oversteer occurring as the limit is reached and then passed. We got a short track drive in our tester at a media track day, and we found that the same car that brought us mostly joy on our favorite back road was gooey and slushy when pushed too hard. There's a Jekyll and Hyde thing here, on two levels. There's the sedate commuter/back-road banshee dichotomy, along with the fact that the IS is a great performer, right up until it isn't.
Ride is sports-car stiff but acceptable. The IS offers several drive modes - Eco, Normal, Sport, and Sport +, and it was hard to pick out changes in ride among them, but we did notice differences in throttle tip-in and response from the eight-speed automatic transmission.
There's enough head and legroom upfront, but the rear can be tight for taller passengers. We did feel coddled by the seats and felt that the materials match the price point well.
And it does all that while still being a damn good commuter. Middle managers who are looking for alternatives to Bavarian driving machines, your ride has arrived.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Drive Wheels: All-wheel-drive
Fuel Economy: 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway
Base Price: $39,465
Available Features: Dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth, navigation system, infotainment system, pre-collision warning system, lane-departure warning system, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring, USB port, heated and cooled front seats, rearview camera, Mark Levinson premium audio system, sports suspension, performance brake pads, power tilt/telescope steering wheel, satellite radio.