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2014 Lexus IS 350 F Sport Road Test

The 2014 Lexus IS 350 F Sport is athletic, but how does it compete in a tough segment?

What It Is
A delicious luxury sedan that satisfies the need for comfort and fun.
Best Thing
Provides the ultimate in comfort with a smooth ride and luxurious interior.
Worst Thing
Handling is too stiff.
Snap Judgment
Lexus has now made a fun, sexy car that holds its own against competitors.


For the 2014 model year, the Lexus IS 350 F Sport underwent a makeover to rival all makeovers. It gained an aggressive spindle grille, fiercer headlights, and a high-end interior befitting of a true sports sedan. Finally, it doesn't look like a Toyota in a fancy dress. But while it now looks worthy to outrace a BMW 3 Series, don't be fooled. At the end of the day, the IS 350 F Sport maintains its essential Lexus DNA, which prioritizes comfort and luxury over thrill-inducing performance. We would argue that it's just as worthy as other competitors on the market, but for different reasons.

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What We Drove

Buyers can get a bare-bones, no options IS 350 for $39,465. Standard features include 10 airbags, automatic collision notification, brake assist, 10-way power driver seat, HD radio with real-time traffic, Bluetooth, power moonroof, and full color display.

The model we drove, however, was much more expensive thanks to a number of optional features. Our IS 350 was decked out with the $3,620 F Sport package, which adds LED headlamps, new wheels, F Sport seats, a sportier suspension, Sport S+ driving mode, and aluminum pedals. Other extras on our test model included navigation, premium 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, backup camera, and Lexus Enform with App Suite to access mobile accessories in the car. All in all, the model we tested goes for $48,269, including an $895 destination fee.

No matter which IS 350 you choose, you get the same engine. Under the hood is a 3.5-liter V6 engine that puts out 306 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. This is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters that gives drivers some of the perks of manual control.

The Commute

Lexus succeeds in providing a comfortable and effortless ride in the IS 350 F Sport. Acceleration comes swiftly with the push of the pedal, and drivers will have no problems passing lesser cars on the highway. To take performance to a whole new level, the Sport S+ mode makes the experience even more enjoyable. Drivers will also enjoy the smooth-as-butter transmission that makes the car feel like it glides over the roads.

Despite its capable acceleration, it is not the top performer in its class. Zero to 60 mph takes 5.6 seconds, a little slower than the BMW 335i. Still, most will be quite satisfied at the pick-up performance of this Lexus. What we did find a noticeable issue was with the car's handling. The car feels stiff through turns compared to competing vehicles.

Finding my way through the streets of Los Angeles wasn't too much of a problem with the car's navigation system. However, the nav system, as well as the entire infotainment suite, is controlled by a wobbly Remote Touch controller that acts as a computer mouse. While it may appeal to computer aficionados, its position on the right side of the console makes it hard to operate on the road. This high-tech mouse feature clashes with some of the more old-fashioned elements in the car, including a single CD player and a tiny analog clock that is impossible to read while driving.

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The Grocery Run

When we were loading up for the week, we didn't expect the Lexus to fit as much as an SUV, but we were a tad disappointed. The trunk wasn't quite large enough to fit two bulky suitcases, making it difficult for traveling. However, it managed to fit a medium-sized ice chest and several grocery bags. While small, the trunk is actually on par with the BMW 335i and Acura TSX. But chances are, buyers of these cars aren't going to need to transport three kids. Groceries for two can easily fit in the car. When you're planning to feed the whole gang, take the Camry.

Luckily, other parts of the IS 350 F Sport are quite convenient. It is easy to park in tight spaces. The rear seats can be folded down in a 60/40 split for those who need more room on the go. But while transporting other people, most passengers have just enough space in the back row. Squeezing a third passenger in there is a bit tough, considering a center aisle protrudes into the foot area.

The Weekend Fun

There's nothing more exciting than taking a red sports car home for the weekend. Not just red—but Matador Red.

We enjoyed this car's balance of fun and comfort during long rides on the highway. There are four driving modes available: Eco, Normal, Sport, and Snow modes, making it ideal for any driving situation you may encounter. As a road-tripper car, however, we would prefer something more practical. Fuel economy, which is rated at 19/28 mpg city/highway, is not ideal for long trips. The BMW 335i achieves better mileage, coming with a start/stop feature that sips fuel. But in terms of comfort, nothing beats the Lexus. The seats, front and back, feature a soft material that makes it comfortable for long periods of sitting.

Features buyers will enjoy on long trips include standard HD Radio, Gracenote album art, MP3 player USB integration, a 90-day subscription to SiriusXM Satellite Radio, and a badass one-touch moonroof.

A Few Photos of this Vehicle

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Summary

The Lexus IS 350 provides a solid value in its segment, often beating out its fiercest German rivals. A generous offering of features, a solid driving experience, and extreme comfort characterize this entry in the compact luxury car marketplace. When selecting a car in the IS family, we would recommend opting for the IS 350 over the less powerful IS 250. On that note, we would recommend the F Sport for buyers looking for an extra kick, but it is not necessary for the overall experience. But the Matador Red? That's a definite yes.

Spec Box

Price-as-tested:
Fuel Economy
EPA City: 19
EPA Highway: 28
EPA Combined: 22
Cargo Space: 12 grocery bags, but not enough room for two large suitcases
Estimated Combined Range: 383 miles
Intellichoice Cost of Ownership: Excellent

1 comments
Black Dynamite Online
Black Dynamite Online

Another auto journal becomes a Lexus IS fan, and joins the bandwagon.

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