It’s an exciting time to be looking for something in the compact luxury sport arena. It’s been bustling with new additions and more players are stepping in to try their hand in the pot. While the Germans have always been present, and present strong, in this segment, the Japanese aren’t taking things lightly. Lexus has always had the luxury, and, later on, they began raising their game in the ‘sport’ department too. The company needed a stylish, sporty and capable compact luxury sedan which also stirred the performance senses. This, then, is the 2015 Lexus IS 350 F Sport.
The most dominating aspect of the 2015 Lexus IS 350 F Sport is the front, with its purposeful X-shaped layout and chrome grille, with the shapely projector headlamp clusters, standard on the IS 350 F Sport, leading into some sharp creases down the side and into the sleek tail-lamp clusters which look like they’ve emerged from ripped bodywork. Very neat indeed. The swooping but generous roof-line points to good head-room, even in the rear. The trunk looks tight, but affords 13.8 cu ft of storage. That’s more than sufficient for a weekend trip out of town with your buddies, or family.
Elegant but very sport-oriented is the best way to describe the interior of the 2015 Lexus IS 350 F Sport. The dark theme layout with black upholstery and aluminum-finish trim accents add the necessary racy elements to ensure the interior matches the sporty exterior. The head-liner feels premium and the fit-and-finish levels are top-notch. The seats are quite plush and very supportive. There is a good amount of room in the front, but the rear can feel a bit snug for tall passengers. To keep things cool, the climate control maintains a pleasant ambient temperature with the center-console housing a very contemporary set of controls.
In the driver’s seat, the digital instrument cluster immediately grabs your attention. It has been inspired by the LFA supercar and, hence, looks very exciting; even egging you on to push just a little bit harder to see the red needle rise into the upper reaches of the rev range, doing an excellent job of keeping your eyes wide open in the process! The chunky three-spoke steering wheel feels just right to hold too, and gives a bird’s-eye view of the big rev-counter dead-center.
A fast, sport-luxury car must have all the safety requirements, and the 2015 Lexus IS 350 F Sport has all the boxes ticked there too. Dynamic braking and speed control are regulated by ABS with EBD and Brake Assist feature for sure stopping, with further support from the traction control system. More preventive safety features in the form of the blind-spot monitor with cross-traffic alert and the pre-collision system with dynamic radar cruise control are also available. Finally, a class-best 10-airbag setup ensures maximum protective safety for occupants.
In the days of turbocharging and downsizing, it’s quite a pleasant surprise to find a refined, smooth and rev-happy V6 under the hood, and that’s exactly what the 2015 Lexus IS 350 F Sport packs. Push the Start/Stop button on the dashboard and the engine roars to life.
Displacing 3.5L (213.6 cu in), the six-cylinder motor uses four valves per cylinder with Dual VVT-i – four cams with intelligent variable valve timing on both the inlet and exhaust valves. It delivers 306 hp at 6,400 rpm and a hefty 277 lb-ft of torque from 4,800 rpm, with a good chunk of it building up as peak torque range approaches. While the competition does offer around the same power and more torque, the additional two cylinders the IS 350 packs are telling indeed. The balance of delivery is very appreciable and the progressive thrust is something which surely ups the excitement level.
An 8-speed Direct Shift automatic – with paddle shifters – lifted straight from the high-performance RC F, allows you to take control and really enjoy the power band this V6 delivers, especially when it’s going to the rear wheels. The blast from standstill to 60 mph is dismissed in 5.6 seconds, while the quarter-mile is blitzed in just 14 seconds. The top speed for the IS 350 F Sport is electronically limited to 143 mph. The suspension on the F Sport feels taut and the drive modes further allow the ride quality and performance to be fine-tuned depending on the situation. Feedback from the steering wheel is also very good and gives a decent feel of the road surface. The grip from the 255mm rear rubber is also good and lets you take corners hard and with ease. Thus, credible, confidence-inspiring handling are always top priority.
For those who prefer AWD, there is also an IS 350 F Sport AWD model available from $1,595 more. It brings a more assured feel with all wheels putting down the power. The transmission on the AWD model, however, is a 6-speed unit with paddle-shifters. The top speed is also limited to 131 mph.
The 2015 Lexus IS 350 F Sport comes standard with 4-year/50,000 mile basic warranty, a 6-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty, as well as a 6-year, unlimited-mile rust and perforation warranty for the sheet-metal for your long-term peace of mind for many, many miles.
The 2015 Lexus IS 350 F Sport comes like a breath of fresh air in the segment crowded with German sedans. The Mercedes-Benz C-Class and BMW 3 Series are the targets in the crosshairs and this Lexus is showing no signs of relenting. The sharp styling and unique design language, coupled to that sporty and comfortable interior and the engaging performance on tap make it a serious alternative to its rivals. Let’s also not forget the reliability that Lexus are noted for.
Specific Make/Model & Trim Package: Lexus IS 350 F Sport
Base Price for this model: $44,155 ($45,750 for AWD)
Body style: Four-door, sedan
Engine & Torque: 3.5L V6, 24-valve, quad cam, naturally-aspirated, gasoline, 306 hp @ 6,400 rpm, 277 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic with paddle-shift, RWD (6-speed, AWD)
Curb weight: 3,593 lbs (3,737 lbs AWD)
Wheels & Tires sizes/specs: 18”, 225/40 R18 front, 255/35 R18 rear
Warranty: 4-year/50,000 mile basic, 6-year/100,000 mile powertrain, 6-year, unlimited-mile rust and sheet-metal perforation
Fuel economy EPA MPG: 19 City / 28 Hwy / 22 Combined (19 City / 26 Hway / 21 Combined for AWD)
0-60 MPH, Quarter Mile: 5.6 seconds, 14.0 seconds (5.7 seconds for AWD)
Top Speed: 143 mph (limited), (131 mph for AWD)