The Lexus IS lineup is the sportiest of the Japanese luxury brand’s offerings, at least for us normal folk, so it should come as no surprise that the 2014 Lexus IS350 F Sport is sportier than its predecessors in every way.
The introduction of the original IS sedan brought out a sportier side of the Japanese automaker, with each revision since the compact luxury sedan has gotten progressively edgier, sportier and more luxurious. The new IS350 F Sport is no exception. The exterior of the 2014 IS350 is more aggressive than ever and the interior contains all the amenities of a proper luxury car. The real fun sits where you cannot readily see it, the drivetrain, suspension and chassis improvements have all culminated into the most engaging Lexus sedan that I have driven.
The IS line has a sportier, edgier exterior design than other models, so while the 2014 IS350 sports the same basic design elements as the rest of the brand, yes that includes the bowtie spindle grille, the new IS sedan is easily the most aggressive of the current Lexus sedans. The F Sport package takes that already aggressive look a step further with a unique front fascia and grille insert. Also unique to the F Sport package is a lower front fascia with sharp lines that lead into massive brake cooling ducts. Joining the unique front fascia is a striking headlight design, with angular LED daytime running lights mounted below the free floating HID projection headlight assemblies. The overall car, with the quickly sloping hood line and the high, swooping fenders looks ready to pounce to say the least.
The IS350 F Sport doesn’t fall short when it comes to interior looks either. The front seats of the 2014 Lexus IS350 F Sport are leather wrapped, offer cushiony comfort without being too soft and have support in just the right places to keep the driver and front passenger firmly in place during hard cornering and braking. The seats are obviously sport inspired, but Lexus did find a good balance in that they did not make the sides too hard nor did they make the seats too narrow. The back seats are in a bench design so the bolsters aren’t nearly as deep, but who hoons around with backseat passengers anyway? The back seat will seat three on paper, but I wouldn’t put more than two people back there due to the elevated center. The cabin is otherwise very roomy, you can easily accommodate 4 people over 6 feet tall.
The cabin of the 2014 Lexus IS350 F Sport keeps all the goodies within the reach of the driver while he or she is seated comfortably in the driver’s seat. The IS350 has a large touch screen mounted high on the dash, instead of leaning out of your seat to use it though you can control everything via the Lexus mouse-thing located on the center shift console. The system puts full control of the entire infotainment system at hand.
While the steering wheel predictably allows the driver to make adjustments to the sound system, the wheel of the IS350 F Sport also offers control of the stunning driver information display. Borrowed from the LFA supercar, the IS350 F Sport features a thin film transistor (TFT) cluster design with a large tachometer that slides from the middle to the right. When the driver wants the RPM, speed and gear selection to be the featured information, the large circular gauge slides to the middle with other gauges around the outside. With the push of a button the tach slides to the side – exposing a large screen that will display sound system information, navigation details or vehicle settings.
On to what we really care about, this is the sporty Lexus afterall. The 2014 Lexus IS350 F Sport AWD is powered by a 3.5L V6 that sends 306 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels via a six speed automatic transmission. You can expect fuel economy figures of 19 around town, 26 on the highway and 21 combined. My combined for the week was 22. I got slightly better than 26 on highway and slightly worse than 19 in the city. Fuel economy figures for the 2014 Lexus IS350 could certainly be better, but odds are that if you are considering the IS350 F Sport with all wheel drive, fuel economy is less important than how the car drives.
Simply put, this is one of the best driving Lexus models that I have ever driven. I spent a fairly normal week with the IS350 F Sport, but I couldn’t help but push it when I had the chance. On paper, the Lexus IS350 F Sport’s V6 engine seems about 50 to 100 horses short of where I would like it but the car feels quicker and more powerful than you would expect. A stock IS350 F Sport is capable of running through the quarter mile in the high 13 second to low 14 second range. Those times compare favorably to times of quite a few V8 powered sedans on the market today and thanks to all wheel drive launching the car is fantastic.
Part of the IS350 F Sport package is the adjustable drive mode system which adds a unique Sport+ option. Sport+ adjusts the suspension, steering, throttle input and shift behavior of the IS350. Sport+ yields give you aggressive steering and suspension tuning along with increased throttle response and a adjusted transmission shift pattern which allows the F Sport push higher revs and get out of corners nice and quick. Sport+ mode offers the stiffest ride of any setting, but it isn’t violent. There are of course also paddle shifters if you want to take shifting into your own hands. Some paddle shifted automatic transmissions handle shifting as more of a suggestion, this transmission shifts when you tell it to. Also, this transmission system has a rev matching setup that allows you to get into lower gears as you enter a turn and come rocketing out in your ideal gear.In fact I would happily spend all day every day in Sport+. Regardless of the drive mode chosen, the cabin of the IS350 F Sport is very quiet, almost to a fault if you want some exhaust or engine notes to accompany the ride.
Lexus has done a remarkable job over the past few years of adding more sportiness into their entire lineup, Sure, the output of the IS350 isn’t going to strike fear into other cars on the road, but it is surprisingly quick and nimble. The IS350 F Sport truly offers the best of both worlds, it’s super fun to drive without negatively impacting the ride quality that luxury owners expect. If you want raw power, a radio dial set to 10 to hear over the exhaust note and a racing seat this is not the car for you. If you want luxury styling, luxury seating, high tech accommodations and enough power to have fun the IS350 F Sport delivers.