The 2008 Lexus IS350 is an entry into the highly-competitive compact sport sedan segment that the BMW 3 Series has ruled for years. While the esteemed BMW is still considered the class leader, it’s a fair and close fight for second place. The relatively-new IS350 that once lagged behind but is now worthy of such lofty competition with its first-rate safety, fine performance and ultra-luxurious cabin filled with features.
Body Styles: sedan
Engines: 3.5-liter V-6
Transmissions: six-speed automatic with paddle shifters
Models: Lexus IS350
The 2008 model of the IS350 has a new ""liquid graphite"" finish on the wheels. Meanwhile, it revised the seatbacks to offer more rear legroom, added a coin holder, and recalibrated its steering.
The 2008 Lexus IS350 compact luxury sport sedan is offered in the base trim level only. The generous list of standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels and a sunroof for the exterior, while it reserves most of the finer gear for the plush interior. A sport suspension package is available for the rear drive models only. It is called the X package and features firmer suspension calibrations, larger tires, 18-inch wheels, and alloy foot pedals. Adaptive bi-xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers, and parking assist are also available.
The long wheel base and wide stance provide a muscular appearance that is still somewhat refined and offers loads of style, making for a great looking car bound to get noticed. Sleek and low to the ground the look defies the four-door stigma and indicates that performance is lurking beneath.
The high-end cabin of the IS350 comes standard with power front seats, leather seating, automatic dual-zone climate control, and a premium audio system with a six-disc CD changer and auxiliary audio jack. Most of the optional features are bundled into packages and include driver seat memory, adaptive cruise control, a power rear sunshade, a navigation system, Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio, and a Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system. Heated front seats are optional on the rear-drive model and standard on the all-wheel-drive versions. All varieties of the IS350 can come with ventilated front seats.
The interior of the IS350 is a practical work of art. While the leg and headroom in the rear are lacking, this quibble is outshined by a cabin that uses high-quality materials, is well-designed, and offers many luxury features. The interior is free of noise and vibrations making for a very peaceful ride.
Performance & Handling
The IS350 uses 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 306 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque powering a rear drive system. The only transmission option is a six-speed automatic with paddle shifters. With a zero-to-60-mph time of 5.6 seconds, the IS350 offers real sports car performance and driving thrills. The paddle shifters allow gearbox control and quick shifts but doesn’t quite rival some of the in class automatics.
The only quibble with the performance of the IS350 would be a lack of feel in the steering. But it's quite precise as the grip is confidence inspiring, and the suspension is tuned to almost perfection. This all makes with some real driving enjoyment, and the lack of a manual transmission is somewhat mitigated by the paddle shifters that give more driver interaction. The optional X package further adds to the excitement by improving the grip and suspension handling even more.
The 2008 Lexus IS350 receives a great safety rating. This luxury sports sedan receives top marks in government crash safety tests due to an impressive list of safety equipment. Standard equipment includes traction control, anti-lock disc brakes, and stability control. Airbag placement covers front-seat side and full-length side curtain. Options include a pre-collision system (PCS) that combines with a Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. PCS makes use of a radar sensor to detect obstacles in front of the car. If the computer system decides that a collision can’t be avoided, it pre-emptively retracts the front seatbelts, stiffens the suspension, and pre-initializes brake assist so increased braking is applied as soon as the brake pedal is pressed. Also included is Lexus' Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management system. This concept combines the electronic stability system with a host of other dynamic controls for a safety system that is not merely just a list of gear but truly a system.
EPA Fuel Economy
Lexus IS350: 18/25 mpg city/highway
- V-6 engine
- Interior quality
- Safety technology
You Won't Like
- No manual transmission
- Lack of rear legroom
- Lack of headroom
A solid attempt to make a sporty four-door that rivals the mighty BMW 3 Series.
If You Like This Vehicle
- BMW 335i
- Audi A4
- Cadillac CTS
- Infiniti G35
- Mercedes-Benz C350