DETROIT — Whoa!
That was our first impression of the 2017 Lexus IS 350. This IS really felt like a luxury sports sedan.
It was powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine that made 306 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. We had the rear-wheel-drive version of the sedan, thus, it was mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
We thought the car handled pretty well when in sport mode. It had some spunk under the hood and it was almost as quick as it looked. At roughly 3,600 lbs. the IS 350 was nimble, assertive on the road and mean-looking. The car was fast enough that we never really put our foot into it because there was never enough uncluttered road.
The front fascia was accented with new headlights, larger air intakes in the front bumper and what Lexus said was a new evolution of the spindle grille that folded back at a higher point a made the car look like it was lower, thus, more ground hugging.
The reshaped hood was raised in the center and flowed rearward from the top of the grille. LED headlamps were standard. Beneath them were L shaped DRLs that were LEDs. We had the F Sport trim that featured an exclusive three-dimensional F-mesh pattern in the grille that had jet black metallic coating that was also used on the brake ducts.
In the rear there were L shaped LED light guides that had been triple layered within the taillight housing. There were also new rectangular chrome exhaust tips. Our F Sport had five double spoke 18-inch wheels.
Lexus said the interior had been upgraded but we couldn’t tell. However, don’t get it twisted. The IS 350 interior was great to begin with. It was minimalist and to the point, which is want you want in a sports sedan.
We had leather seating, dual automatic climate controls, heated and cooled front seats. However, for $50,000 we thought the steering wheel should have been heated too. But it was an option.
The seats were comfortable, there was a moonroof and we were so engrossed with the driving experience that we never bother to climb in the back seat. Still, we did check it out just before they picked up the car. We were moderately surprised.
There was plenty of head and hip room. Leg room was pretty good in the back too. Although the car was listed as a five-passenger sedan a fifth person would have difficulty straddling the rather sizable tunnel for the drivetrain. Two people can get in the back seat with relative ease.
It had what Lexus is branding SmartAccess; just pull the handle and the front door will open; no button to push. But there was push button start/stop and we thought it thoughtful that they put the button up high on the frame of the instrument cowl where it could be easily seen and reached.
Lexus said the cupholders design was new. Set farther back on the console, they certainly kept drinks out of the way. The climate control panel was also revised; it was intuitive and easy to use. The analog clock was easy to see and it seemed a throwback to a more elegant time. So was the use of volume and tuning knobs for the radio. The audio system was not completely new age.
Lexus Safety System+ is now standard. It included a pre-collision system, lane departure alert with steering assists, intelligent high beams and high-speed radar cruise control. Our test car was also equipped with blind spot alert and cross traffic alert. The car also had a rearview camera.
The IS 350 had voice controls, a navigation system, satellite radio, USB and auxiliary jacks as well as a 12 volt plug. Standard was a Siri® Eyes Free mode that let iPhone users tell their phones to play music through the iTunes library or get turn by turn navigation.
With the MyLexusandBeyond mobile app for iOS, customers can remotely view information about maintenance alerts, warning light notifications and a vehicle health report. It will also send email and notifications for vehicle diagnostics as well as other information.
Even though the 2017 IS 350 is a great car, Lexus is doing all that it can to stay connected with its owners and attract new buyers.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.