Friday, January 21, 2011

IS 350 has what some desire -- everything

Sacramento, California – While many of us are struggling to pay the mortgage and telling little Jimmy that there’s no way we can afford to buy him that $100 Ferrari Lego set for his birthday, a few happy souls are looking to have it all.

And for those lucky few, you’ll be happy to know that you can make the automotive part of that happen with the 2011 Lexus IS 350 AWD sedan. High levels of performance, luxury and engineering come standard.

And, oh yes, the price for this top-of-the-line IS 350 is a relatively affordable $41,030. Relatively is the key word here as the recent Great Recession put the $40,000 car into the Dreamland category for many motorists.

But those of you with sufficient coin will like this one.

Even as a five-passenger sedan, the IS 350 looks sporty, with a sloped snout and an abruptly chopped back end. It looks like it will scoot at your command.

And it does.

The 3.5-liter V-6 is sport-tuned and delivers 306 horses with a rib-rattling punch. A high-tech six-speed automatic transmission is backed up by an electronic throttle control system to squeeze out just the right amount of oomph when needed.

Powerful yes, brute no. I found the tester – dressed up with more than $5,000 in extras – to be sweetly agile at high speed. The all-wheel drive system is a charmer.

The suspension was stiff enough, yet it had enough give to give me and my passengers only a mild buffeting in slalom maneuvers. Quiet interior as well. Impressive.

Also nice: Fuel mileage is 18 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. Those are pretty good numbers for a muscular V-6.

This being a Lexus, the list of luxury, convenience and safety features is as lengthy as a federal tax bill. Suffice it to say that virtually every guilty pleasure is attended to, even puddle lamps for people who want to know where to place their feet when getting into or out of the car at night.

Gripes are minor. The backseat is designed for three people, but I’d amend that to say three moderate-size pre-teens. And vision from the cockpit is not great, requiring strategic fiddling with the mirrors and quick head turns in traffic.

Overall, this Lexus is a nice package for those looking to move up from less-affordable midsize sedan fare but stopping short of a Lexus LS sedan that would put a serious dent in your wallet.

The IS 350 is worth the price. I wonder if they have a Lego version of it for me.

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