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Heels On Wheels: 2011 Lexus IS 350 Review +VIDEO

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2011 Lexus IS 350

COMPARE: Lexus IS 350 Specs

By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel


The Lexus IS series represent Toyota’s entry-level luxury sedan lineup. The IS 350 comes with the larger 3.5-liter engine as opposed to the smaller 2.5-liter found in the IS 250 and both can be had as convertibles. These 4-door sedans offer the thrill of fancy looks and performance but remain reasonable modes of travel – meaning they are functional for everyday driving and don’t cost as much as a Mercedes.

I drove a 2011 Lexus IS 350 with a 306-horsepower 3.5-liter DOHC 24-valve V6 engine and Dual VVT-I paired with a 6-speed Electronically Controlled Automatic Transmission with intelligence (ECT-i). Standard equipment on all IS 350 vehicles include: push-button start; 10-way power driver’s seat; moonroof; wood and leather trimmed interior; 13-speaker premium audio system; Bluetooth capabilities; integrated turn signals in side mirrors; and dual-zone climate control. Price as described comes to $41,030. Optional packages, like $1,320 heated and ventilated seats; or a $3,905 navigation system, are available.

Watch the Lexus IS 350 promo video

If you’re closely following the IS series, the 2011 model sees some slightly revised front styling and interior trim (like new wood grains and silver finish on the steering wheel). A new F Sport Package offers special suspension, 18-inch wheels and F Sport badging. Also, the IS 350 adds all-wheel drive mode.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: As always, Lexus offers a refined interior feel found in the center console, leather seating and overall cabin design. The IS series is a smaller sedan, so don’t expect to stretch out too much like you would in the ES series – you’re positioned rather snug in the cockpit.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates the 2011 Lexus is 350 as “Good” in frontal and side impact crash tests, but “Acceptable” in rollover or roof strength. The IS 3560 has all Lexus safety goodies including: ABS; Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM); Smart Stop technology; EBD; advanced airbag system; and safety connect. The IS 350 models feature standard HID headlamps with LED daytime running lamps and headlamp washers, whereas the 250 doesn’t.

Cost Issues: No matter the luxury brand, you can expect optional packages to cost thousands. The IS 350 is no exception to this rule. While the $3,905 navigation and premium audio system is nice, if you’re looking to save money, the standard stereo system is sufficient (one less speaker) and this smaller ride doesn’t need a backup camera – have your co-pilot use an iPhone instead for navigation as Toyota locks system commands for safety purposes while in drive.

Activity & Performance Ability: The 3.5-liter engine uses a direct injection system and is able to hit 0-60 in 5.8 seconds, making it an aggressive road contender. The ECT-i transmission is intuitive and tapered during immediate acceleration. As typical with most Lexus sedans, I found the IS 350 to be a thoroughly enjoyable ride on small and windy back roads – but I wouldn’t quite present it as having sport car status. What is nice about the addition of AWD is those that love the series can now have the grip desired in both the larger and smaller powertrain.

The Green Concern: Fuel economy estimates for the IS 350C are 20-city/27-highway for an average of 22-MPG. With AWD, the numbers average 20-MPG. The Acura TL with SH-AWD gets an average of 21-MPG.

FINAL PARTING WORDS: Although the 2011 Lexus IS 350 possesses sporty looks and acceptable sporty performance, this 4-door sedan is more exciting when isolated for its affordable luxury than when pitted against contenders like the Acura TL or BMW 3-series.

2011 Katrina Ramser