The 2017 Lexus IS sedan comes in three distinct models -- the IS 200t, the IS 300 and the more powerful IS 350. The IS 200t is available only with rear-wheel drive, while the IS 300 AWD comes only with all-wheel drive. The IS 350, meanwhile, can be ordered with either rear- or all-wheel drive.
The IS 200t is powered by a 2.0L twin-scroll turbocharged and intercooled 4-cylinder that produces 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It is mated to a Sport Direct-Shift 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. The IS 300 AWD features a 3.5L V6 making 255 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque. It is paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission and paddle shifters. Finally, the IS 350 benefits from a more potent 3.5L V6 that delivers 306 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. It is puts power to the rear wheels through a Sport Direct-Shift 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters. Both transmissions feature Sport, Normal and Eco modes, and will match engine revolutions during downshifts when set in Sport mode.
All engines feature variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-i) to help boost economy and efficiency. As a result, the IS 200t offers 33 mpg on the highway, while the IS 300 AWD returns an estimated 26 mpg on the highway, and the IS 350 is rated at 28 mpg.
Suspension across the lineup is fully independent, courtesy of double wishbones up front and a multilink setup in the rear. The IS 200t and IS 300 AWD ride on 17-inch, 10-spoke alloy wheels, while the IS 350 RWD sits on 18-inch alloys.
All IS sedans come nicely equipped with standard features like HID headlights, LED daytime lights, dual-zone climate control, a next-generation Remote Touch Interface and 4.2-inch color display, power tilt/telescopic steering wheel, power moonroof, HomeLink universal transceiver, a 60/40 split-fold rear seat, Bluetooth, iPod connectivity and satellite radio. Additionally, each IS benefits from a suite of 10 airbags.
All IS sedans can also be given the F Sport treatment, which improves handling with unique 18-inch wheels, high-friction brakes and aggressive suspension tuning. Exterior and interior design elements are also upgraded, including special instrumentation and F Sport heated front seats. On IS 300 AWD and IS 350 F Sport models, the intake sound is more aggressive, which creates a more sporting engine note.
Other optional equipment on the IS lineup includes a navigation system, a backup monitor, power rear sunshade and intuitive park assist, which aids in parallel parking the IS. The Premium Package includes heated front seats, twin projector LED headlights, and a backup camera. The Premium Plus Package includes power tilt and telescopic steering and rain-sensing intermittent wipers, while the Luxury Package boasts a blind spot monitor, special leather and wood trim, headlamp washers, a heated steering wheel, parking assist and more.
The Lexus IS is getting old. The Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and newcomer Genesis G70 offer a fresher experience -- even the current BMW 3 Series, which is actually a year older than the IS, feels newer inside, with more up-to-date tech. The Lexus brand as a whole is a powerhouse in the luxury car space, yet the IS posts lower sales numbers than all of its German competitors.
But that's not to say it isn't competitive -- maybe just overlooked. If you're looking for an alternative to those other compact luxury sedans, there are ways in which the Lexus IS is still pretty appealing.
Even without the zippier F Sport package that I'll get into later, the standard IS 350 is sporty enough. It may have been around longer than its stablemates, but the IS' chassis still feels segment-competitive.
The Good Sports car-like chassis makes everyday driving feel like canyon-carving.
The Bad Lack of modern tech reminds you this car has been out for half a decade.
The Bottom Line The Lexus IS 350 offers a class-competitive driving experience, but overall, it feels behind the curve.
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