Driven: 2014 Lexus IS350 F-Sport

2013 is turning into a very exciting year for automotive industry, which until recently still seemed to be shaking off the effects of the financial crisis.  Having reported record profits only a month ago, Toyota Motor Company has overwhelming task at hand: deliver a worthy competitor to BMW 3 series and Audi A4, and they went all in with the very impressive looking 2014 Lexus IS

After getting an initial peek back on May 20 I was waiting with excitement to get behind the wheel of one and today was my chance.


 
I had an opportunity to try out a standard IS350 as well as IS350 F Sport.

The standard IS350 is very refined, comfortable and elegant.  For a very reasonable price it gets plenty of luxury and performance.

Interior in the standard IS350 is very stylish and high quality.  L package gets the leather seats, this, however was the base model, which came with durable fabric that felt very comfortable as well.


Of course the F Sport adds some spice to the small luxury IS and after having a go, I must say, quite a lot of spice.

It starts with the design.  While the standard IS sports the same aggressive lines and front fascia, the F-Sport adds aerodynamic kit, sporty grille, and 18 inch 225/40 in front and 255/35 in rear. 
 
On the inside, the F-Sport gets aluminum sport trim, sports seats, which with optional leather package are absolutely superb,
 
as well as LFA-cloned high resolution LCD dials with tachometer ring turning red at high RPM's  Now this could seriously add some fun to a spirited driving weekend. 

The F-Sport also adds the 8 speed automatic transmission that was used in the ISF, adaptive suspension, and adaptive power steering.  All of these come into play in the Sport+ mode, only available for this grade.


While exceptionally calm and quiet, the 3.5L V6 with 318PS at 6400RPM and 380N・m of torque at 4800RPM becomes alive above 3500 RPM, however, being NA acceleration is  linear, steady and very rapid.  accelerating this 1640 kg car 0-60 takes approximately 5.6 seconds.
 
The dynamics of the F Sport model are absolutely the same, but there is an added bonus: engine noise is amplified and delivered to the cabin through dedicated speaker, with system known as Active Sound Control.  This makes driving a lot more involving and definitely appealing to enthusiasts.

Where the car really excels is around corners.  You can throw it around any bends at what seems to be any speeds and it will go around them without even a hit of loosing grip.   It is incredibly fun to drive on a twisty roads, but I will leave the power sliding and other tire destroying activity to professional drivers.

Lexus has delivered a really great car with very good performance, excellent ride comfort, incredible practicality, and if you opt for the F-Sport package it is actually a lot of fun. 
  
 
















The experience of driving the F-Sport is indeed very satisfying, but even though the aggressive look give the car plenty of character, it still lacks the playfulness of the European counterparts.  It is too obedient, too refined, it makes me wonder whether a after year of owning it would actually get boring. 
  
I feel that they could have done a bit more with the Sport + mode, for example to have it hold gears longer, or cause a bit of a backfire on the lift off.   Again, down shifts rev matching is extremely efficient, but quiet.


Nonetheless, as an everyday car, it may be difficult surpass the Lexus IS.  After all, after-fires and aggressive down shifts are only a small part of driving routine, which do not affect performance in any way.  Lexus did a marvelous job of delivering a high performance small luxury sedan to the masses. 



I am definitely not done with the IS and I hope I will bring you more test drives, reports and pictures of this car. With Tokyo Motor Show coming later this year and the Autosalon shortly after, there should be plenty for work for the tuners around Japan to tweak the incredible IS towards insanity. 



TRD is already offereing some dealers optional "enhancements".


Cost of ownership
4/5
The 3.5L V6 has improved fuel economy. It has a reliability of Toyota and can live a long life with just basic maintenance.  High car tax and expensive tires will be noticeable but shouldn't burn a hole in your wallet.  Hybrid and 2.5 V6 offer tax returns and obviously better fuel economy.
Practicality
4/5





For a small sedan it has a very roomy and comfortable interior and a very decent sized trunk. Rear seat is collapsible and there is plenty of storage in the cabin.
Appeal
5/5



Its futuristic shape turns heads while striking lines and aggressive stance makes the car look fast while it's standing still.  Designers did do a great job on this one.

Fun factor

4/5




While the F-Sport is like a video game on wheels, engine sound could be a bit better.  Acceleration and handling should keep the owner happy for a while, and if they don't the unique digital dials will.




2014 Lexus IS is on sale at Lexus Japan starting at 4,200,000 Yen for basic IS250 and 5,950,000 Yen for IS350 Sport. Price can easily reach 7,500,000 with various options.
A big shout out to Lexus dealers in Aoyama and Koishikawa for letting me drive and photograph their vehicles.

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