Thursday, May 8, 2014

New Lexus IS 350 walks the sport-luxury walk

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website – via the “GALLERY: Reviews of new cars” link at

This review originally appeared in the April 2014 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California Lexus knows what we like.  How else to explain the new, third-generation 2014 Lexus IS sport-luxury lineup?

Lexus has thrown so much into the newest IS that it’s hard to figure out where to start.  Good looks, good perks, high performance and lap-of-luxury interior features made the $41,700 starting price on the tested IS 350 AWD sedan seem like a steal.

Oh, wait, there’s more.  Mine had the spoil-me-rotten F SPORT package.  That added on F SPORT-branded 18-inch wheels, backup camera, variable/sport-tuned suspension, heated front seats, leather touches, a top-tier navigation system and a primo Mark Levinson audio system … to name just a few.

It also pushed the bottom line on the sticker to $49,600.  Selfishly, I didn’t care.  I was too busy lapping up that luxury.

Lexus has been known to be a bit reserved in its exterior styling in the past, but the designers loosened the belts a little this time around.  The car looks darn near purpose-built for freeway racing with an edgy front end and a sculpted raised edge sweeping low on both sides of the car.  The look is decidedly “choose me fool” brag.

And the car can back that up pretty well with its 3.5-liter, dual-overhead-cam, 306 -horsepower V-6.  My tester had the six-speed automatic gearbox, but much fun was had using the paddle shifters on the open road.

The IS 350 could blaze when asked, and in so doing, it leaves most of the surrounding traffic in the dust.  It’s very easy to feel utterly secure and downright aggressive in this ride as you quickly get used to the quick, nimble maneuvers that the car is capable is dishing up.

Trouble?  Yeah, if you don’t keep your head screwed on right, you might be surprised that you really were going 85 miles per hour when you blew past that Highway Patrol car stopped on the highway shoulder.

Happily, for those who lack discipline, the IS 350 is jam-packed with safety technology and the kind of control systems that keep the car hugging the road.  Indeed, my tester exhibited monorail-like characteristics for a week.  The vehicle seemingly kept me from putting a wheel wrong.  Lexus is aggressively touting the body rigidity of this IS 350.  Turns out, it’s the real deal.

Fuel mileage is fair at 19 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.  Volunteer passengers who rode with me loved the interior look and all the comfort/convenience goodies.

You might have figured out by now that the IS 350 takes direct aim at BMW’s popular 3 Series.  Comparatively speaking, the Lexus competes quite nicely with the BMW.

 So if you’re shopping in this segment, take my advice: Test drive BOTH lines, and take your time pondering before writing the check.  The competition here is just that close.

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