“2018 Lexus IS 350 4-Door Sedan”
An Entry Level Performance Inspired Luxury Sedan
Lexus is generally thought of in terms of producing luxury level vehicles, ranging from entry to premium status. The pioneer of the Lexus sports performance set first came in 2001 in the form of the Lexus IS F, which cranked out a healthy 400 horses from a V8 engine delivered to the rear wheels. It was the first Lexus to offer the F Sport option package, to compete with Audi’s S Line, BMW’s M Sport and the AMG models of Mercedes-Benz. The 2018 Lexus IS 350 has borrowed some of its spirit and inspiration from the LFA Supercar. – an extremely limited edition, race-ready creation.
There are three power sources and two drivetrains available. The 2018 IS 300 and IS 350 are available in RWD and AWD. Both offering an optional F SPORT model that enhances the style and handling agility. The IS 300, in RWD form, features a 2.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine with intercooler that produces 241 hp and a wide torque range of 258 lb.-ft. from 1,650-4,400 rpm. The IS 300 RWD comes equipped exclusively with the eight-speed Sport Direct Shift (SPDS) automatic transmission that integrates advanced G-force Artificial Intelligence (G-AI) system to intuitively select gears. Steering wheel paddle shifters are also available. Lexus provides all-season grip with the IS 300 AWD model with a 260 hp, 3.5-liter V6 that produces 236 lb.-ft. torque in a range from 2,000-4,800 rpm. The AWD models use a six-speed automatic transmission.
The IS 350 RWD delivers exhilarating performance from a longitudinally front mounted 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 311 hp and 277 lb.-ft. of peak torque. The RWD model uses the eight-speed Sport Direct Shift automatic transmission, featuring a Drive Mode Select system with up to five driving modes, tailoring the car’s combination of economy, comfort, performance and handling characteristics. All IS sedans feature ECO, NORMAL, SNOW and SPORT modes. Equipping the IS 300 with the F SPORT package also adds Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), controlled with SPORT S, SPORT S+ and customizable drive mode.
Visually, the 2018 Lexus IS 350 model showcases a sleeker and much more aggressive exterior look than their predecessors, with a seemingly lower stance. The blacked out “B” pillar and bright surround trim gives the aerodynamic sedan a coupe-like persona. Fresh from its redesign in 2017, the front fascia of the IS leads off with striking headlamps and large air intakes in the front bumper. The air intakes flow off the fenders, framing a grille that folds back at a higher point, emphasizing its road-hugging stance.
The hood is sculptural, with its raised center portion flowing rearward from the top of the Lexus signature “Spindle” grille that features a more three- dimensional design with a chrome-plated frame and darker gray insert both top and bottom along with standard LED headlamps. Beneath those, the L-theme LED daytime running lights provide a dramatic daytime glow.
Comfort and Convenience
Inside, the driver-oriented cockpit design also draws its inspiration from the Lexus LFA supercar. The dashboard is divided into two separate zones – a display zone and an operation zone, providing drivers a more comfortable and ergonomically ideal interaction with the vehicle’s control systems. The long wheelbase and a special front-seat design increases rear seat legroom and the rear features standard 60:40 split-folding seats. There are soft touch finishes throughout, including padding on the center console sides. An F SPORT Package is available for both models, offering a Silver metallic trim analog clock with surface-emitting illumination. The Lexus IS also comes equipped with safety and technology features that include Enform Safety Connect and Enform Service Connect. Both are now complimentary for the first 10 years of ownership.
The navigation system provides enhanced capability via the second-generation Lexus Remote Touch Interface multi-function control device. The RTI is the go-to control forth audio, driver’s phone and more. Available in conjunction with the navigation system, the Mark Levinson ® Premium Surround System showcases life-like sound reproduction, with 835 watts powering 15 speakers. “Enter” buttons on either side of the RTI on the center console make the system easier to use. The standard Display Audio system incorporates HD Radio™, Bluetooth® audio, a vehicle information display, and complimentary traffic and weather data provided via HD Radio. Also available for this audio system is the Scout® GPS Link app. With the app on the driver’s smartphone, turn-by-turn directions appear on the car’s central display screen.
My test vehicle was the 2018 Lexus Is 350 in the rear-wheel drive configuration. The exterior wore an Atomic Silver metallic finish, with the interior executed in Black with Red accent panels. The base price was set at $41,830. Extras ran the final total up to $47,804., which included: the Lexus Comfort Package Memory System for the Driver’s seat, outside mirrors and power tilt/telescopic steering column, Blind Spot Monitor with Cross Traffic Alert And Rain Sensing Wipers; the Adaptive Front Lighting System; combined Navigation and Mark Levinson Audio Systems; the Premium Plus Package with heated and ventilated front seats; Trunk mat, Cargo Net, Wheel locks and rear bumper and Glove ox Appliqués, and Delivery, Processing and Handling Fee.
The regular IS versions are very attractive and sporty in their own right in terms of their appearance, but the most dramatic design expression is exhibited by the IS F SPORT version models.
Power delivery is what one would expect from the 3.5-liter Vp-6 that exudes a most pleasing sound. In terms of handling characteristics, the IS 350 RWD displays heightened feeling of agility. The F SPORT models in their base form, except for those with the available Adaptive Variable Suspension, actually performed no better than non F SPORT models, since they are mechanically identical. There are other available enhancements to add to the raw performance potential. There is no manual gearbox available, with the reasoning given that today’s automatic transmissions are capable of delivering a higher level of performance than virtually any mere mortal.
The ride quality is firm and stable, but is not at all harsh. The interior ambience seemed well above average, especially considering the pricing structure of the entire stable. The seats of the IS models were exceptionally comfortable and supportive, while F SPORT seats provide the best support during spirited maneuvers.
Bottom-line, even though the 2018 Lexus IS 300 and Lexus IS 350 are categorized as entry-level luxury sedans, they should be considered as a cut above that ranking. The entire IS lineup delivers good looks, sumptuous interior comfort along with a high degree of satisfying, sporty performance. It may not outperform BMW’s 3-Series on the track in terms of overall handling prowess, but it can definitely hold its own. It’s a sure bet to attract younger, upscale tuner types.
Add the comprehensive warranty program which consists of: a 48 month/50,000-mile basic limited warranty with roadside assistance for 48 months/unlimited miles, a 72 months/70,000 miles powertrain and restraint system coverage along with 72 months of corrosion perforation protection coverage, regardless of mileage, and the 2018 Lexus IS 350 makes for a sound choice in a sporty, luxury sedan.
SPECIFICATIONS: 2018 Lexus IS 350 4-Door Sedan RWD
Base Price: $41,830.
Price as Tested: $47.804.
Engine Type and Size: 3.5-liter DOHC, 24-valve V6 with dual continuously VVT-I and electronic fuel injection
Horsepower (bhp): 311 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque (ft./ lbs.): 277 @ 4,800 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed Sport Direct Shift automatic with GF AI SHIFT control and steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.
Drive Train: Longitudinally mounted front engine / Rear or AWD
Suspension: Front – Double wishbones with high-mount upper arms, coil springs, gas-filled shock absorbers and stabilizer bar.
Rear – Multilink, coil springs, gas-filled shock absorbers and stabilizer bar.
Brakes: Power-assisted Four-wheel, power-assisted disc brakes, ventilated front and rear. with Anti-lock Braking System and Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Brake Assist, Vehicle Stability Control and Traction Control – all systems integrated with Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management system.
Tires: Bridgestone Turanza EL400 225/40 R18 Front/ 225/35 R18 Rear mounted on 5-sculpted spoke alloy wheels = machine face with anthracite painted inners.
Wheelbase: 110.2 inches
Length Overall: 183.3 inches
Width: 71.3 inches – mirrors folded – 79.8” extended Height: 56.3 inches – unloaded
Curb Weight: 3,583 lbs
Turning Circle: 34.2 ft.
Fuel Capacity: 17.4 gallons
EPA Mileage Estimates: 20-mpg city / 28-mpg Hwy
Drag Coefficient: .0.28
0 – 60 mph: 5.6 seconds
Arv Voss is a Northern California based freelance motoring Journalist and member and past officer of several noted Automotive Journalist organizations who contributes regularly to a number of national and international media outlets. He reviews not only cars, trucks and SUVs, but motorcycles and unusual wheeled vehicles as well.