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2014 Lexus IS 350

By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

The Lexus IS 350 dishes up the perfect size of performance, luxury, and high-tech, wrapped up in – well – the perfect-sized sedan. It’s an instant charmer without resorting to over-the-top tricks to get there, thanks to smart interior construction, an evergreen design with a few modern twists, and an efficient drivetrain arrangement. The new F SPORT edition, a popular package that has done an excellent job drawing attention to other models in the lineup, distinguishes the IS 350 even more.

I drove a 2014 Lexus IS 350 with the 306-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine, eight-speed Sport Direct-Shift automatic transmission with paddle shifters and rear-wheel drive. Also available in the smaller IS 250, both vehicles are available in one trim with all-wheel or rear-wheel drive and a performance FSPORT package differentiating them. My test drive came with the following standard features: ten-way power driver’s seat; perforated NuLuxe two-tone leather upholstery; leather-trimmed steering wheel with mounted controls; leather shift knob; moonroof; dual-zone climate control; Lexus Display Audio screen; voice recognizing commands; center console controller; eight-speaker premium audio system; Bluetooth; XM Radio; and push-button start. Price as described comes to $39,465.

Having spent time at one-day media event with the IS 250, I was excited to have the IS 350 for a longer test drive. A main competitor would be the Acura RLX, which I was also recently able to test drive.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: The IS 350 is more conservative than flashy in design, with a modern touch found in the grille. The inviting cabin features black trim against rich taupe-colored upholstery and brown wood trim accents. Lexus deserves praise for its ability to push the technology envelope. There are touch-sensitive electrostatic temperature switches for the climate control; a radio cache feature to never miss a minute of a live game during a call; and avoidance safety technology like Rear Cross-Traffic Alert. Much of this cost extra in optional packages, however. The also-available Entune, Lexus’s own infotainment system, offers a high-resolution display with Destination Assist, an app suite with iHeartRadio and Bing, and phonebook synchronization. FSPORT adds a lot of the performance extras, like upgraded wheels, tuned suspension, bolstered seats, and of course, the badging.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has not yet tested the 2014 Lexus IS 250/350. However, the 2013 model gets mixed scores – ratings of “Good” in moderate overlap front and side crash test; “Acceptable” in roof strength and head restraints; and “Poor” in small over lap front – and what’s interesting is the website just recently started providing images the vehicles after testing, so you can see for yourself how a model does in each category. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the 2014 Lexus IS 350 an overall rating of 5-Stars (its lowest score was 4-Stars in frontal crash). Standard safety equipment includes: ten airbags, Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management system; Anti-Lock Brakes, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Traction Control and Vehicle Stability Control.

Cost Issues: The Lexus IS 250 with no packages starts at $35,950 – the most expensive model is the IS 350 FSPORT with all-wheel drive at $45,230. But Luxury and Premium Packages, along with technology upgrades, easily add another $4k to any model.

Activity & Performance Ability: The Lexus IS 350 is a spirited and connected drive, mainly due to a smart shifting transmission and excellent steering wheel feel. Yet as I mentioned in my intro, a vehicle with a well-balanced offering of qualities means you won’t get performance that puts you on the edge of your seat, as found in a BMW. But that might be what consumers want and what makes the Lexus IS 350 so appealing in my opinion: an accessible sport-oriented sedan for real-life drivers.

The Green Concern: The Acura RLX has a fuel economy advantage at 20-city/31-highway for a combined 24 miles-per-gallon; while the Lexus IS 350 with rear-wheel drive gets 19-city/28-highway for a combined 22 miles-per-gallon. Not ideal for a vehicle of this smaller size.

The 2014 Lexus IS 350 is a straightforward entry-level luxury sedan, with just the right amount of performance, technology and luxury – a perfect fit you can feel on all levels the moment you get behind the wheel.

2013 Katrina Ramser