The 2017 Lexus IS350 F Sport could be one of the finest all-around four-door sedans I’ve driven in a long, long time. From its aggressive looks to its impeccable drivetrain, this rear-wheel-drive orgasm on wheels gave me a week of fun and performance.
Lexus redrew its smallest sedan in 2013 and made it a powerhouse of design and performance. From its aggressive, front end with a triangulated black diamond grille and jutting nose to a distinct upper body line and lower protective guard, rearward to a lightly upswept trunk area punctuated by two nearly-hidden exhaust pipes, the 2017 Lexus IS350 F Sport is a handsome and exceptional conveyance.
In particular, I appreciate the drivetrain of this Lexus. It has a straightforward, directly-injected 3.5-liter V-6 engine that features 306 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 277 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm. Redline is around 6,700 rpm. Mate that to an eight-speed automatic, shiftable transmission (including paddle and floor shift capabilities), four different drive modes (eco, normal, sport s and sport s+) and the choice of a sedate ride can be obtained, as well as this Lexus’ enviable near-racetrack worthiness.
The F Sport-tuned independent suspension at both ends offers double wishbones at the front and multilinks to the rear, aided by fully ventilated disc brakes. With the Lexus IS350 F Sport run in sport s mode, the suspension and electronic power steering tighten for better control of forward motion and more fun on back roads (there were plenty of aggressive driving opportunities in rural Indiana). Lexus fits 225/40R rubber to the front and 255/35R rear, all mounted on split, five-spoke 18-inch alloy rims.
Mileage is a bit meager from the 17.4-gallon tank and premium fuel is proscribed for this 3593-pound sedan. During my nearly 1,000 miles with the Lexus IS350 F Sport, I managed to eke an average of 25mpg, a bit better than the federal label of 19/28/22. With steady, modulated driving, 400 miles on a tank-load is possible. Using the radar cruise control helps and it’s possible to change the approach distance on the system. Toyota’s traditional cruise control stalk still does the job.
From the exterior, this atomic silver (a delectable pewter) Lexus IS350 F Sport looks muscular and, with its red leather interior that continues. Upscale luxury is imbued within this Lexus, with heated/cooled front sport seats that are delectably supporting for long trips of more than a few hours. In fact, there was a message on the prominent screen that asked if I wanted to take a rest as I barreled from Chicago to Indianapolis my first evening, heading towards NHRA’s 63rd U.S. Nationals, the biggest drag race of each year. No thanks. Unneeded.
The driver has many options in fitting the Lexus IS350’s screens to show information that’s necessary for any drive. Directly in front, there’s a digital-only speedometer within the large tachometer. To the left lie a temperature gauge, outside temp and clock, while the right side is taken with the fuel gauge, odometer and trip odometers. The screen changes from benign accents in Eco to attention-requiring white/red in both Sport modes.
Using the steering wheel-mounted info page button on the right side, where active lane departure assist and radar cruise control’s distance monitoring are located, moves the tachometer and all other primary info to the right side of the screen, while allowing the driver to access other information. To the left on this tactile steering wheel are audio/phone controls, all of which are pretty straightforward.
This Lexus’ central stack is one of the few areas that doesn’t have soft-touch plastics; this cabin has so much soft content that finding hard material is somewhat unusual. While there are no hidden areas in the central stack or at its base, the storage area cum armrest has a couple of USB plugs, a 12-volt and auxiliary, with a very nice carpeted floor. Ahead of this well-placed armrest/storage is the multi-media interface that features a joystick allowing any front-seat occupant to dial the system using on-screen menu.
This car’s infotainment center is part of that joystick at the base of the central stack. Using the Menu button, one can access many varieties of information about the car, in addition to the customary entertainment options. One thing I wish it didn’t do is force a driver to access the 10.25-inch color display in order to know range and mileage figures. That should be part of the steering-wheel mounted information available. It took a while to find it.
Audio from Mark Levinson is divine. There are 15 speakers about the cabin and the sound is luscious. But the on-screen access is scattered throughout the interface, even though there are volume and tuning knobs for those that like to keep it simple. When driving it’s tough to negotiate the touchscreen and pay attention to the road. Less difficult is the navigation system, with simple input and excellent directions.
Front-seat space for both small and large occupants is ample with power adjustments, but it’s a bit tight in the rear, similar to competitor BMW’s 3-Series. There are no seat memories for the driver. Rear seat occupants do have air flow and the central pull-down armrest features clawed cup holders that spring from the front. Rear seats can be folded. The trunk is exceptionally appointed and large enough at 13.8 cubic feet; a temporary spare lies below the carpeted floor.
The 2017 Lexus IS350 F Sport as driven has a list price of $49,579. That price springs from a base of $42,365 including freight. Lexus charges extra for its blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert and heated outside mirrors ($600). It also bills $3,155 for the F Sport package that includes a variety of F Sport identifications, the wheel/tire combination, that great TFT instrument cluster, its heated/cooled front F Sport seats, the lovely perforated leather steering wheel with F Sport logo, businesslike black headliner, aluminum rubber-tipped pedals, the back-up monitor, silver performance trim and the rewarding F Sport suspension.
The sedan’s navigation system is accented by the Mark Levinson audio system with its audio 5.1 surround, 15 speakers and 835 watts of power, the 10.25-inch display, remote touch interface, Lexus’ Enform destinations (one year free) and no-charge App Suite, voice command, Lexus Insider, electrochromic review mirror for $2,835. Body side moldings and illuminated door sills are the only other options on this car, which has a two-way power sunroof (with two controllers) as part of the IS350 F Sport’s included amenities.
Lexus includes so many wonderful amenities to the IS350 F Sport, making it the best choice in its own crowded field. In addition to the IS350 F Sport with rear-wheel-drive, which is driven here, an all-wheel-drive option is available. The firm also produces a 2L turbo edition and a 3.5L normally aspirated (non F Sport), all available in a variety of sub-species. Having examined all of them, this is – without argument – the most balanced of the bunch.
Putting this many highway and backroad miles on a vehicle generally can teach its benefits and drawbacks. As you can see by the comments above, there’s very little to dislike about the Lexus IS350 F Sport and a heck of a lot to adore. From its muscular good looks to its abilities to out-perform many of its competitors, its interior amenities and excellent road manners, The 2017 Lexus IS 350 F Sport certainly gifts more to its driver and occupants than it takes away. That’s a hearty recommendation.
Words and Photos by Anne Proffit