Road Tested: The 2017 Lexus IS350 F-Sport delivers on performance and refinement
SEATTLE, December 27, 2017 — The Lexus IS350 sedan has been a stellar seller for Lexus as it has helped fill a nice price to performance ratio with its many satisfied customers. The F-Sport line steps up the game a bit for buyers.
This car is powered by Lexus’ 3.5 liter V6,, churning out 306 horsepower with 277 lb-ft of torque. With that kind of power, we’d highly recommend going right to the all-wheel-drive model.
Frankly, even with the traction control turned-on, this is way too much power for only two wheels to handle. The F-Sport distributes power to the wheels via a slick 8-speed automatic transmission that also features manual paddle shifters on the steering column.
While I absolutely love the power and exhaust notes of the V6, it’s silliness to even consider anything other than the available all-wheel-drive option. Even on dry pavement, the stock tires can get squirrely on you, real quick during hard acceleration. Lexus equips the F-Sport with 18-inch wheels and 225/40R18 all season tires.
Inside, you’ll still see all the qualities of what makes a Lexus a Lexus. Top-notch materials, including stitched leather, carbon fiber and high-grade plastics that don’t feel too flimsy. The driver’s compartment does makes you feel as if you’re being enveloped into the car, with everything in easy reach.
The optional Mark Levinson infotainment system provides superb sound, you’ll find in any production car with superb bass response, clear mids and smooth highs. Of course there’s audio support or AM//FM/CD/MP3/WMA/Satellite Radio and Bluetooth audio. Lexus also includes a few apps that report on stocks, places for fuel in your area and even sports.
The main downside to the infotainment system however, is Lexus’ continued use of the cumbersome touchpad interface. It’s easily the worst interface we’ve seen in any modern car – the best thing Lexus could do with it, would be to toss it in the trash and start over again. The problem is the delayed response of how it moves the cursor around on the screen and how it seems to not go where you’d like it to go. Granted, mastering the touchpad does get a bit easier with practice, it still feels so antiquated by today’s standards.
Overall vehicle weight tips the scales at 3583 pounds which means the V6 still feels a bit underpowered. It’s a bit frustrating – the cars weight is unlikely to change much, anytime soon and Lexus could have overcome this with more available horsepower and torque from its turbochargers.
The F-Sport package is really Lexus’ way of saying “Drive me hard, drive me fast” and the IS350 is no exception. One can tell by the way the car nearly salivates when it sees a hard corner coming up or the way the paddle shifters taught the driver to slam through them hard. The stock tires do an decent job of holding things tight around the corners, however, we’d love to test this car with summer tires in dry weather. While body roll is present, it’s not too terrible as the independent, multilink system keeps the car feeling more on the firm side.
EPA estimates state that this car is rated for 19 around town and up to 29 on the highway but it’s unlikely most IS350 owners will see anywhere close to that as it’s all too easy to keep one’s right foot firmly planted.
Lexus goes all-out with safety as well with ABS braking, blind spot monitoring, front collision alert, enough airbags to put you and the occupants in what’d feel like a cocoon.
The benefit of owning a car like this is finding open roads where you can have some fun on. The downside to owning a car like this is – well – trying to find those kinds of open roads.
In the end, the Lexus IS350 F-Sport is a solid contender in a crowded marketplace with the likes of the Audi A4, BMW 3-series, Infiniti G50 and others. It can easily hold its own in this crowd and is one you should consider a test-drive on, if you’re looking for a solid sport-sedan driving experience.