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Roadshow Video Reviews
2011 Lexus IS 350 AWDA BMW 3-series with a Japanese accent.
It's the Lexus that's everything Lexus usually isn't- lean, understated, sporty and rather modestly priced. Let's see if that makes the 2011 IS 350 a glimpse of the future or a red-haired stepchild and check the deck. You could be forgiven for thinking this IS is all knew for model year 2011. There was a late 2010 refresh that really tidied up the inside and the out very tastefully. But it's still basically the same second generation platform that goes back now to about 2005. To me, this is the most direct Japanese attack on the 3 Series. With the cleanness of purpose that seems a [unk] more serious than an Infinity G. Nice and purposeful the cabin on this IS. It's lacking some of that quietly overwrought elegance of a typical Lexus. We've got real business-like material here like rubberized leatherette. Everything is in mostly a matte black, but a lot of standard Lexus [unk], this head unit we've seen it a hundred times. Liked it 99 of those. You've got a really good looking map on this car. This has been in place for, I think 3 years now. And it's one of the best rendered map interfaces in the business. Dedicated button right here for destination to get you right to the business of either an address, a point of interest, you have this Destination Assist from Lexus. They have the Enform Telematics System on this car, and of course, usual previous destinations and such are there as well. The system's hard drive base, though response isn't all that good. I guess the hard drive is what gives us a lot of the visual richness but it's not really snappy. I've seen faster systems. And it doesn't give you any place to rip music to. Now, the audio system on our car has been bumped up. We have the Levinson Sound System. Our guy here has 14 speakers, 300 watts driving them. 7.1 Surround. You can pop in a CD or a DVD, as you can see. Sources are AM and FM. No HD Radio on this Lex, satellite radio that's gonna bring you Sirius. We have our CD/DVD as I mentioned, you've got your multi-disc changer right here. Bluetooth in this case means not just hands-free but we also have Bluetooth Streaming, A2DP Stereo Streaming from your smartphone that has the same, and most of them do these days. Standard Aux jack here in the console, as well, kind of your emergency back up in this day and age. And the USB port, which is also here by the Aux- is gonna give you a place to plug-in your iPod as we have in this case or a USB thumb drive. Hear your 3XM Services on this guy's sports, stocks, and weather. The data here is fed by a satellite radio so you don't have to have a tethered internet connection from your smartphone, which is another way that a lot of vehicles are doing these days. Under the hood is a 3 1/2 liter Quad cam V6. It's a nice motor, delivering 306 silky horsepower, and 277 foot pounds of torque. That'll get you up to 60 in a brisk 5.7 while delivering 18255 mpg. Now, for comparison, an IS 250 4-cylinder with an automatic gets you 2130 mpg, quite noticeably better. But a 250 with a manual is sort of a disappointment- less power, less smoothness, and only a 1-2 mile per gallon improvement on the economy- not worth it. One choice transmission on a 350, it's an automatic only. And that's gonna be a 6-speed automatic- not the most modern thing today but perfectly adequate. Shiftable sport gate on the left, back and forth there. Paddles on the wheel, down shift on the left, up shift is over on the right. [unk] indications you can set up on the instrument panel is a little rocker over here, you can hardly see it. I can go to, you know, tire pressure and a bunch of other stuff like that. But what I'm really interested in is speed indicator and [unk] indicator. I can actually set those so that I get a flashing warning right there is my needle- now watch me move that around. And that's where I wanna get basically a shift light. So let's say I'm a lame fool and I wanna get my shift [unk] 4 grand, or I really wanna blow the seals out and I wanna get my shift light at the red line. I do that and then I set it. Now, when I get to that point, I get this Amber Corona that's gonna blink when I'm at that point- kinda cool. Same thing can be done for a speed over on the speedometer there. Not a very big car or all hard to see out the back of, I mean, as modern cars go these days. But when you go into reverse, you do have a standard rearview camera of pretty good clarity. I thought it did well on a lot of different light and weather conditions. Interestingly, optional are the parking sensors. Camera standard, sensor optional. That's kinda how I like it. A lot of things that I like about this 350 on the road- first of all, the V6 is, you know, it's a Lexus V6- it's a great motor. Smooth, ready, forceful, though this is not a massively powerful car. But I'm okay with that. The 6-speed is not one you're going to regret. The Drive Mode is pretty responsive. But a nice balance Lexus-like smoothness. Get into the sport gate and it really makes the right amount of difference and a real difference. A lot of cars, you know, sometimes, you're not quite sure what's happening when you go there. How they've calibrated that this guy really gets sharp and perky and alert. But at the same time, doesn't go too far. It doesn't hold every damn shift to 6 grand or anything ridiculous like that. This is basically the Japanese 3 Series. But what does that mean? It means that it's got a little more compliance in the suspension. It is something a little what- it's a little airier about the cabin, if I recall correctly. This car feels very livable in a way where you don't have to go out sport-driving to really enjoy it every time you drive it. And a nice thing about the IS now is they've taken it up a notch- in its looks, in its presence I think in the spaciousness of the cabin, it just really feels like a car for all seasons. Okay, let's price this guy. An IS 350 all-wheel drive is 42 grand delivered. Now, there's one key option to lay on there to get it CNET style with just one checkbox. And that is hard drive nav, plus Levinson. The Levinson Audio System, the hard drive navigation rig. You're also going to end up with DVD playback in that, should you wanna watch a movie, parking your car, enhanced Bluetooth and you get those 3XM Information Services, plus Lexus Enform Telematics. 3900 bucks.