IS 350 and F Sport
Some ladies thrill to power and handling. If you’re one one of them, the completely redesigned 2014 Lexus IS 350 and the even more aggressive Lexus F Sport are for you.
By Tara Weingarten
The Big Picture
I’m a sucker for sporty handling and swift acceleration, especially when its dressed in luxury. The all-new 2014 Lexus IS is the third-generation of this sports sedan, and it is completely reimagined. Spicier, more muscular and masculine, more fulfilling of the promise of the moniker “Sports Sedan.”
The Lexus team took a gaggle of automotive journalists onto a Texas racetrack and had us compare the 2013 Lexus IS F Sport to the BMW 335 and the Mercedes Benz C-Class.
You might imagine that the entry-level Mercedes couldn’t keep up, and that its handling was flabby and unimpressive. We also predicted that the BMW 335 would stick in the corners and power through the straightaways. Both brands lived up (or down) to our expectations. But none of us were sure the 2014 Lexus IS could adequately compare to the BMW on a fast racetrack. Guess what, ladies? There’s a new contender at the top of the sport sedan segment. The 2014 Lexus IS F Sport not only accelerated quickly at all RPMs but it handled predictably and beautifully in the turns.
The 2014 Lexus IS comes in three engine and spec types: a gas-sipping IS 250, a more powerful IS 350, and the performace-oriented F Sport.
An Inside Job
Of course, few, if any, of us will be taking our sport sedans to a racetrack. So what’s important here? The place where we spend all of our time: inside the car. And here’s where the 2014 Lexus IS really leaves the BMW 335 and Mercedes C-Class in the dirt. Lexus does luxury well. It offers comfortable seating, attractive styling, touchable materials on the dashboard and door panels, and soft ambient lighting (which makes our wrinkles virtually disappear).
All trim levels of the 2014 Lexus IS get steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. These are fun to use on twisty roads where quick up and down shifts are called for. The IS’s interior has a cockpit feel, with crisp gauge readouts, a thick molded steering wheel that feels solid and substantial, and a centrally located analog clock on the dashboard. Plus, there are heated and cooled front seats for driver and passenger. Backseat riders get improved lumbar support. Seating is a leather-look vinyl material, but in my opinion, it’s tough to tell the difference. It is lighter weight than leather, which can contribute to improved fuel economy.
The 2014 Lexus IS gets a modern makeover on its climate controls. Just glide a finger over the temperature and fan slides to adjust them. It seems like a small touch, but these little luxe features add up to a comfortable and pampering cabin. There is just one feature that’s out of place in an otherwise pleasing environment: a hard plastic hub on the steering wheel, topped by a big plastic L (for Lexus) looks and feels cheap.
If you’ve ever been rear ended on a highway, you know the drama of the situation. I have been rear ended in a Lexus, and have seen that the car’s crumple zones absorb much of the crash, forsaking the car in favor of saving its driver and passengers. The Lexus I was driving was totaled, and I walked away without injury. I know first hand that Lexus makes vehicles that perform well in crashes. To that end, each trim level of the 2014 Lexus IS wears 10 airbags standard. It also has safety features you might not think of, like adjustable high beams, which automatically dim at first sight of an oncoming car.
A Blind Spot Monitor with Cross Traffic Alert is an added cost option. This alerts the driver when another vehicle is in the car’s blind spot. And the Cross Traffic Alert system beeps and flashes lights if a person or vehicle is about to pass into the Lexus’ path while backing up. Very handy in a crowded parking lot. And should you run low on gas, don’t fret if you’ve bought the (optional) Navigation system. When the 2014 Lexus IS runs low on fuel, the nearest gas stations pop up on the navigation screen, and the system gives turn-by-turn directions. A great feature for flighty teenagers and procrastinators alike.
To make each drive as good as it can be, there is Lexus Drive Mode Select. Choose “Eco” for fuel efficiency, “Normal” for comfort, Sport to hold gears longer before shifting and tighter steering, and “Snow” for, well, safe driving in icy and wet conditions. But that’s just the start with the 2014 Lexus IS. With sport styling and paddle shifters, this is not a granny car, though grannies who love dynamic driving will prove me wrong.
On the track, the 2014 Lexus IS is nimble, easy to control, fun to push fast, and sticks in the corners. Should you find yourself driving hard and braking hard, a new technology will respond to the vehicle’s G-Forces and will apply just the right amount of brake power to safely get you through the turns.
On the highway, the IS’s polite street manners take over, and the car is comfortable as a daily commuter and family ride.
The 2014 Lexus IS 250 and IS 350 come standard with six-speed automatic transmission. The 2014 Lexus IS F Sport is equipped with a more efficient 8-speed automatic transmission.
Gizmos And Tech
This third-generation Lexus IS has great improvements when it comes to technology. Keep track of fuel economy for you and another driver separately with a new digital readout. Call it a friendly competition between you and your spouse or kid. A new info/navigation screen can be divided to show two or three features – like a navigation map, the audio channel, and climate info all at once.
Commuters will love this: A web-enabled (with Navigation package) or HD radio-enabled traffic feed is updated every 10 minutes. And weather is reported every 20 minutes. But best of all, if you’re listening to a favorite song or talk show and a call comes in over the Bluetooth, the song or program will pause for up to 20 minutes while you take the call. Just one complaint: the 7″ navigation/info screen seems tiny against the expansive dashboard. And there is unused space around the screen, so it’s a mystery why the engineers didn’t make the screen larger to fill the empty space. Still, it’s hard to fault much with the 2014 Lexus IS. It’s a whole lot of fun!
I love to drive, especially on curvy roads. The test track gave me a safe place to put the 2014 Lexus IS through its paces. Tight steering, great traction, predictable handling, good acceleration, with the added benefit of contemporary and comfortable styling inside and out. The new IS is for those who love a sporty ride but still have the need for a backseat and trunk.
Sexy new styling
Excellent handling and acceleration
Smallish navigation screen