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By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

The Lexus IS 350 is small luxury sedan perfection with its sleek looks both inside and out, supported by excellent performance from two engines: a new 255-horspower 3.5-liter V6 engine with standard all-wheel drive and a more powerful 306-horsepower V6.

I drove a 2016 Lexus IS 350 with the larger 3.5-liter V6 engine paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission (rear-wheel drive) and Drive Mode Select featuring Eco, Normal, Sport and Snow. Engines distinguish the trims, with my Lexus IS 350 F SPORT test drive featuring the following standards: ten-way power driver’s seat; perforated leather upholstery; heated front seats; leather-trimmed steering wheel with mounted controls; 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; eighteen-inch alloy wheels. Price as described comes to $40,870 without options (such as the F SPORT package).

Revisions for the 2016 Lexus IS lineup include the new IS 200t, which replaces the IS 250. The IS 200t features a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 241 horsepower and an overall fuel economy of 26 miles-per-gallon; so the IS lineup offers three engines total.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: One of the biggest draws to this particular smaller sedan is the design, which is quite striking (especially the headlamps and grille), giving it a larger presence. Quality interior materials and a perfected center console make the IS 350 very inviting. There are touch-sensitive electrostatic temperature switches for the climate control; a radio cache; and avoidance safety technology like Rear Cross-Traffic Alert. Much of this is found in optional packages, however. The F SPORT edition, a popular package that has done an excellent job drawing attention the IS lineup, adds extras like upgraded wheels, tuned suspension, and bolstered seats for $3,545. Navigation with an upgraded seventeen-speaker Mark Levinson audio system and remote touch interface with an App Suite for $2,645. Illuminated door sills are $425 and a suite of safety technology adds another $600.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has tested the 2016 Lexus IS 350 with ratings of “Good” in moderate overlap front and side crash test. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the 2016 Lexus IS 350 an overall rating of 5-Stars. 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: If comparing the Lexus IS lineup as a whole, the IS 200t with no packages starts at $37,325 with my 350 F SPORT trim and packages topping out at $44,710.

Activity & Performance Ability: Having also test driven the IS 200t immediately after the 350, the Lexus IS lineup hones in on its spirited drive through a range of fine-tuned engines and sport-oriented suspension to give ordinary drivers an authentic taste of expensive European performance (but without associated expense). For a smaller sedan, you’ll be convinced rather quickly the IS 350 can bring bigger-sedan attitude. Of course the F SPORT add-ons do bring a firmer feel to the road.

The Green Concern: The Lexus IS 350 with rear-wheel drive and various driving modes (including Snow) gets 19-city/28-highway for a combined 22 miles-per-gallon. Perhaps not ideal for a vehicle of this smaller size, so consider the IS 200t which nets 22-city/33-highway for an overall EPA-rating of 26 miles-per-gallon.

There’s a lot to love with the 2016 Lexus IS 350, a smaller entry-level luxury sedan that has perfected its performance, technology and style – you’ll be wooed by both V6 engines as well as the IS 200t’s turbocharged four-cylinder.

©2016 Katrina Ramser

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