2019 Lexus IS350 AWD F Sport: More sports car than sedan
The Lexus IS was introduced in 2014 and has hardly been updated at all since then. The fact that it is still competitive speaks well of its original design and engineering. It is still one of the best driving compact sport sedans on the market, especially when equipped with the option F Sport handling package.
Another automotive writer joked recently that the next big trend will be cars without the latest technologies. Some of the most advanced systems are so complex, manufacturers are offering classes for buyers to learn how to use them.
2019 Lexus IS350 AWD F Sport — the V6 version of the IS, the subject of this week's test that is still at dealerships — is an example of this less is better school of thought. The five-year-old infotainment system is definately behind the curve. But it still has a CD player, so I just brought along some discs and otherwise ignored it.
As a result, I was able to concentrate more on driving the IS350, which was rewarding. Our test model came with the optional 3.5-liter V6 (hence the 350 designation), all-wheel-drive and the previously mentioned F Sport package. It drove more like a genuine sports car than a sedan, especially with the drive mode set in Sport+. The suspension was taut and steering responses were immediate. Even day-to-day commuting was fun.
The Lexus IS starts with the 300, which comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4. Either way, it is a striking looking car with contrasting exterior and interior designs. The exterior is sleek and sexy, highlighted by a large corporate-style spindle grill and subtle rear spoiler. Like other Lexus models, the interior is a throwback to the 1980s, with a stacked center console at odds with the so-called floating designs that many other manufacturers are using these days. Call me old fashioned, but I like it.
One problem is a somewhat cramped interior. All compacts are small, of course, but the Lexus IS requires some twisting to get into, the transmission tunnel extends slightly into the front floor areas, and the back seat is cramped. Designers and engineers have figured out how to carve out a little more space in some of the newer compact competitors. But there's no getting around the fact that smaller cars are, well, small. But at least the front bucket seats in our tester were among the most comfortable and supportive we've ever enjoyed.
The 2019 Lexus IS350 is not the newest sport sedan on the market, but it is still competitive because of its excellent design and quality construction, especially when equipped with all-wheel-drive and the F Sport package.
2019 Lexus IS350 AWD F Sport
Base price: $44,095
Price as tested: $53,437
Type: Compact sport sedan
Engine: 3.5-liter V6 (311 hp, 280 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive modes: Eco, Normal, Sport, Sport+, Custom
EPA estimated mileage: 19/26
Overall length: 184 inches
Curb weight: 3,583 to 3,737 pounds
Final assembly: Tahara, Aichi, Japan
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