2019 Lexus IS 350 AWD review

2019 Lexus IS 350 AWD review
The third-gen Lexus IS has been on sale since 2013 and has benefited from few updates in the meantime. Our tester was an Atomic Silver IS 350 with all-wheel drive, the most expensive model in the lineup. A base IS 300 (formerly known as the 200t) starts at just under $40,000, though our well-equipped tester toped out at $50,780. Rather than the 300’s 2.0-liter turbocharged I4, the IS 350 uses Toyota’s tried-and-true 3.5-liter V6 churning out 311 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. That’s less than models like the BMW 340i and Mercedes-AMG C43, but still a good amount of grunt.

Options on this car include the $2,365 F Sport package. Changes include accents on the front and rear bumpers, F Sport 5-spoke 18-inch wheels, a digital instrument cluster, perforated leather on the steering wheel, and a few F Sport logos sprinkled throughout. Other options include adaptive lighting for $300, upgraded audio and infotainment system for $2,845, and a heated steering wheel for $150.

Senior Editor, Green, John Beltz Snyder: My drive in the IS was a symphony of frustration. Here are the highlights …

The mouse-like control for the infotainment system is hidden behind the gear selector. The mouse/pointer/slider is far too sensitive and kept skipping over what I wanted it to land on. When I went to rewind my audio, it changed the infotainment display to a completely different screen, presumably because the mouse was inadvertently moved in one direction or another while I was clicking. I didn’t see a way to change the sensitivity, just the feedback force, and that was no help. I was listening to an audiobook on the Audible app, but it would show that I was playing a different album or just wouldn’t show anything at all. Whether or not it had been playing beforehand, my audiobook would just come on automatically after any time I used a voice command in the car. The infotainment screen is tucked so far back that it’s nearly blocked by the stuff around it, like the vents below it and the hood above the instrument panel. If I were shorter, it would have been a problem.

A couple complaints not related to the infotainment: The wipers didn’t automatically swipe when I called for the washer fluid. It just squirted fluid onto the windshield and left it there. The touch-sensitive slider for the temperature is an annoying way to change the settings, especially when you have to swipe it more than once to get the temperature you want. The suspension is an unfortunate combination of squishy and crashy, making huge drama of any pothole. There was no practical place to put my phone and keep it handy, especially if I wanted to use it for navigation instead of the car’s infotainment system. (Also no spot for my trusty Nalgene, but that’s not unusual).

It’s a really fun car to accelerate, though.

Road Test Editor Reese Counts: John has done a decent job of highlighting a lot of the IS’ faults, especially with the infotainment system. I can’t disagree with him, but I did walk away with a much more favorable view of Lexus’ sport sedan.

First off, these seats are phenomenal. Lexus seems to mold all their seats for my particular body — 6 feet tall and an admittedly hefty 220-pound curb weight. Our tester had the F Sport package with sport seats that seemed to strike a great balance between sporty and comfortable. There was enough bolstering to keep me planted without feeling claustrophobic. The faux leather feels great, too, and will likely hold up better than the real thing. The rest of the interior (save for the infotainment system) is handsome, too. It feels both premium and distinctly Japanese, not some German knockoff like some Cadillac products. That said, the cupholders are small, and John’s right about there being no good place for a phone.

I dig the naturally aspirated V6, too. With all-wheel drive, the IS 350 hits 60 mph in 5.7 seconds. A rear-drive IS is slightly quicker, presumably because it weighs less. In the scheme of things, that may not seem impressive, but anything below 6 seconds is pretty quick. There’s a good amount of torque, and the engine pulls hard toward redline. Lexus and Toyota know how to make a great V6. The steering is quick and provides a good bit of feedback, though it does lag behind most of the competition. And the ride is on the firm side, though I’d like to drive one without the F Sport package.

Overall, I dig the IS, though not enough to recommend one. Its driving dynamics feel dated, the ride is too firm, and the infotainment blows. It’s too bad, because everything needs seats as great as this Lexus.

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