2017 Lexus IS 350 F Sport
Better at luxury than athletics.
By Cherise Threewitt, Contributor, Car-ED.com | July 2018
What is this vehicle?
The 350 F Sport is the top-tier trim of the Lexus IS compact sport sedan lineup. Although Lexus emphasizes the “sport” aspect of the IS, particularly in models fitted with the F Sport performance and appearance package, this car is a lot less sporty than we expected.
Though our test vehicle was a 2017 model, the IS carried into the 2018 model year mostly unchanged. If you’re shopping for a 2018 Lexus IS, keep in mind that V6 models (including the 350 F Sport reviewed here) get a bump of 5 horsepower and the rearview camera is now standard instead of optional.
Who is this vehicle for?
This car is a good choice for buyers who are shopping for a compact luxury sedan and care more about comfort and sophistication than sportiness. That is because even though the Lexus IS 350 F Sport is marketed as a sport sedan, it is not quite as sporty as many of its competitors, especially the entry-level small luxury vehicles from the German brands. In short, if you can look at this vehicle simply as a well-built and competent luxury car instead of as a sporty luxury car, it is probably a good fit for you.
Why is this vehicle important to you, the buyer?
The Lexus IS lineup has a competitive starting price, a little higher than average for the class but not out of line with expectations, despite its high overall level of quality. That is why the Lexus IS is a good choice for a buyer who might be considering entering the luxury market for the first time. Every IS comes standard with a bunch of active safety and driver assistance features, which add value and help offset the slight price premium over competitors who might not include those features. The IS also has a lot of trim levels and packages available, which makes it easy to customize, and there is always some importance in that.
Interesting facts about this vehicle!
The 2017 Lexus IS 350 F Sport comes powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine that is rated for 306 horsepower, paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters on the steering wheel. The 2018 model gains 5 horsepower. The Lexus Drive Mode Select system includes Eco, Normal, Sport and Snow modes.
The F Sport package, which costs $3,155, includes an exclusive sport suspension system and summer tires, along with numerous exterior and interior styling components. We especially liked the F Sport steering wheel, which is trimmed in perforated leather and features paddle shifters.
The price of our test vehicle provided by Lexus was nearly $20,000 over the base price of the IS. Though we liked all the accoutrements and accessories, particularly the F Sport package, we feel this Lexus would be a more compelling purchase, as it relates to its segment, in entry-level form.
What Impressed Us / Top Likes:
The Lexus infotainment system can be kind of hit-or-miss in our experience, particularly when it comes to pairing a phone via Bluetooth. However, the IS 350 system worked fairly seamlessly even though it appeared to be the same system we used in previous Lexus test drives.
The F Sport-exclusive sport seats are quite comfortable and the two-tone upholstery gave the cabin a sporty look.
We’ve mentioned it before, in previous Lexus reviews, but the Atomic Silver paint that coated our IS 350 is a great color. It even manages to stand out in a sea of silver and champagne cars.
Items to Make Better (Least Favorite Things):
The front of the cabin felt just a little cramped. It’s not a small vehicle inside, so it felt more like a design issue than a space issue. In particular, the low seating position results in the sensation that the center console is boxing you in.
The driving dynamics were, frankly, mildly disappointing for a car that is advertised as a sports sedan. It’s certainly competent. It’s quick (once you floor it, that is) and responsive and stays planted, even in standard rear-wheel drive configuration (all-wheel drive is available). However, it’s just not as enthusiastic as other Lexus vehicles, or some competitors in the segment. If this were primarily targeted toward luxury car shoppers rather than sport sedan shoppers, we’d have no gripe at all with its performance.
Segment and Competitors:
The Lexus IS is marketed in the small sport sedan segment, which includes a number of entry-level luxury vehicles. Notable competitors to the Lexus IS include:
- Alfa Romeo Giulia
- Kia Stinger
- Audi A3, A4 and A5
- BMW 2-Series and 3-Series
- Tesla Model 3
- Cadillac ATS
- Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Frankly, there really isn’t anything truly unique about the Lexus IS, though that isn’t necessarily a problem. However, the base IS does provide more standard advanced safety features than many competitors. In short, the Lexus IS is a well-rounded small luxury car with a fair price.
Pricing and Availability:
MSRP starts at $37,825 for the 2017 Lexus IS sedan in base trim. The Lexus IS 350 F Sport tested for this review has a sticker price of $48,584 before delivery and handling fees. The 2018 Lexus IS, which is available now, starts at $38,210.