Test Drive: Undeniably appealing
Published: 06/04/2017 12:00 pm
The 2017 Lexus IS 350 sedan ticks all the right boxes for performance, quality, technology, and efficiency
Lexus has always been known for near obsessive levels of build, and the 2017 IS 350 is no different with a great spread of plush materials interspersed with satin finished metal and smooth leather, meticulously put together. The work to the 2017 Lexus IS, which stands for Innovative Sedan, is designed to bring the third generation sedan’s looks in line with the new Lexus image. The compact entry level, luxury-sedan market is one of the most competitive out there but the 2017 Lexus IS stands out. The styling is part of the reason, and one look at the gaping grille and sharply angular lines explains why this luxury sports sedan turns heads.
The original styling of the current IS proved so popular that Lexus has kept the essence of car’s exterior appearance intact. However, the entire front fascia of the new model has undergone a transformation, highlighted by new headlamps, large air intakes in the front bumper and an evolution of Lexus’ spindle grille. The bumpers, with incorporated air intakes, flow dynamically from the fenders, giving the new front end a high level of aggressiveness. The bodylines and side styling have been left alone, even the mirrors and side skirts have carried over from last year’s model. While the changes to the latest IS are modest in the scheme of things, they do make for a more appealing and assertive drive.
It comes as no surprise that the IS 350 interior is impeccably assembled with high quality materials everywhere. The seat design is unchanged but the quality of leather and craftsmanship is a class act. Whilst the second row is a little limited with headroom the seats are deeply bucketed, comfortable and offer a reasonable amount of space for a compact sedan. The Lexus IS is a tidy size for a luxury car and the cabin is tight, not cramped, but this adds to the sporty feel.
The new, chunky multifunction steering wheel presents well with powered height and reach adjustment it carries buttons for operating the cruise control, sound system and phone. The infotainment screen has been increased from seven inches to 10.3 inches and comes with inbuilt satellite navigation. The redesigned control system sits
farther back in the centre stack giving the interior a much sportier look whilst ‘enter’ buttons have been added to the sides of the remote touch interface making the system much easier to use than before.
Music lovers will appreciate the premium Mark Levinson sound system with CD/DVD player, digital radio reception, Bluetooth connectivity for audio streaming, and ten speakers. Smart key entry allows the driver to drive away without removing the key from their bag or pocket whilst dual zone climate control allows different temperatures to be set for each side of the cabin.
Engineered for enhanced performance, the V6 engine in the IS 350 has been retuned to crank out 306 horsepower and 277lb-ft of torque; with an ability to reach 100 km/h in six seconds, this Lexus demands attention. The previous IS favoured comfort over dynamism, but this new version is clearly centred on a sporty image with advanced paddle shift transmissions ensuring the exhilarating performance of this IS model is at your fingertips. Show it a corner and the 350 responds with hardly any body roll, remains poised, agile, and inspires confidence through the nicely judged steering. The IS remains a great option for enthusiastic drivers, with a commendable balance between ride and handling. The V6 is powerful with excellent ride comfort and the serene quietness of the 2017 IS 350's cabin is a big plus.
The Drive mode enables you to make the IS more responsive or efficient with a simple turn of a dial. Opting for the Sport mode makes for a more responsive and engaging driving experience taking the thrilling performance of the IS to the next level.
The 350 has character, emitting a satisfying snarl when driven harder and its accurate and well weighted steering points the car nicely with high levels of grip and good balance. The Lexus has always been a fun car to drive, and improvements to the suspension from November 2016 have made it even better.
The IS 350 gets the Lexus Safety System+ suite of features including 10 SRS airbags, two-stage dual front airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, front and rear side airbags, and full-length curtain airbags. A reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, LED daytime running lamps, auto-on and auto-dip headlamps, and auto windscreen wipers, are also standard, as are seatbelt reminders for all five seats. A pre-collision system uses a camera and millimetre-wave radar to ‘look’ for other vehicles and pedestrians ahead of the IS.
The system provides audio and visual alerts and brake assistance when a potential crash is detected. If the driver does not take any action after the warnings, the system automatically brakes the car, and can bring it to a halt before the impact if needed. The pedestrian side works between 10 and 80km/h; the vehicle aspect works at any speed over 10km/h.
With impressive powertrains for 2017, top-to-bottom refinement, and Lexus' unbeatable build quality, the IS remains an undeniably appealing choice in a very popular sedan segment. This sedan ticks all the right boxes for performance, quality, technology, and efficiency. It will also almost certainly get you that ‘against the grain’ appeal as you park alongside colleagues and their predictably German rivals in the office parking lot.