Lexus launched the newest generation of the IS in 2006, with the IS 250 and IS 350. The IS then became the platform for Lexus' BMW M3 competitor, the IS-F. Now Lexus offers a la carte F Sport components to hot up the standard IS models.
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We looked at a 2009 Lexus IS 350 kitted up with F Sport engine and suspension accessories. In addition, Lexus included some cosmetic and handling updates for the 2009 model year.
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The IS 350 uses a 3.5-liter V-6 with a unique dual-injection system, combining port and direct injection. Visible in this picture is the wide tube of the F Sport air intake.
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This IS 350 sits lower to the ground than a standard IS 350, because of the F Sport lowering springs. The ride quality is harsher than with the standard IS 350, but the handling is better.
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Wheels and brakes have also been upgraded with F Sport accessories. These brakes give the IS 350 excellent stopping power, and are easy to modulate with the pedal.
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Suspension upgrades include Bilstein-sourced shocks, sway bars, and a chassis stiffener. The result is a car that stays flat in the corners.
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These exhaust pipes are also an F Sport upgrade. They produce an aggressive note.
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Lexus luxury is evident inside the car, but the cabin electronics have not been updated since the 2006 launch.
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There aren't any steering-component upgrades from the F Sport accessories, but steering benefits from the rigidity of the car.
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The speedometer and tachometer on the IS 350 each have an amber, illuminated ring that lights up when you go over a certain speed or push the redline.
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The six-speed automatic in the IS 350 is fine for normal driving, but a letdown for sport driving. You can use manual mode to hold third gear, which has a wide power band, but the sport mode tends to stay in fourth gear.
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Paddle shifters, attached to the steering wheel spokes, let you manually select gears.
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The navigation system in the IS 350 looks good and works reasonably fast, but lacks any advanced features.
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A Mark Levinson audio system uses 14 speakers and a 300-watt amp to deliver excellent sound quality.