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2017 Lexus IS 350 F Sport RWD
The 2017 Lexus IS 350 F Sport is always on your side.

Price: $44,525

You can have plenty of comfortable fun with the 2017 Lexus IS 350, especially with the optional F Sport package.

This Lexus compares favorably with Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz compact sport luxury sedans. It’s fast, posh, quick-witted and comes with rear- or all-wheel drive (AWD).

I tested the rear-drive $41,370 IS 350 with the $3,155 F Sport package, which raised the price but added to the four-door sedan’s enduring fun. That package contains items including electronic power steering with good road feel, adaptive variable suspension, 18-inch split 5-spoke alloy wheels, heated and ventilated perforated leather front sport seats, aluminum pedals, back-up monitor, silver performance trim, Mark Levinson audio system, navigation system, F Sport steering wheel with responsive paddle shifters and body side moldings.

A driver can chose various drive modes (Eco, Normal, Sport and Snow). The Sport setting offers the best throttle response and handling. It provides a a slightly firmer ride that’s not uncomfortable, sharper handling and firmer steering feel. Still, the car is plenty quick and responsive in its normal drive settings, and I don’t recommend Sport mode for highway  cruising.

There’s decent  room for four tall adults in the 110.2-inch-wheelbase car, although the large front console eats space, and the stiff, high center of the rear seat is best left to the fold-down center armrest that contains pull-out cupholders that should feel sturdier. Also, a long-legged person behind a tall driver will want more leg room.  

The ride is firm but supple. The steering is fast, and the anti-lock brakes stop the car quickly and evenly. Brake pedal action feels just right. You can move quickly and safely with this car on winding roads.  

The styling is rakish. On the F Sport, the grille has an exclusive three-dimensional F-mesh pattern, with jet-black metallic coating also used on the functional brake ducts. There’s also a more sculptural hood. Some feel the Lexus grille is overdone, but the head of Toyota/Lexus likes it so that is that. (Many grilles on fabulous 1950s Ferraris are almost as large.) Different taillights and new rectangular chrome exhaust tips help complete the car’s sporty look. So do discreet “F Sport” badges placed inside and out.

The IS 350 has a strong 3.5-liter V-6 with 306 horsepower at 6,400  r.p.m. and 277 pound/feet of torque at 4,800 r.p.m. for quick response at lower in-town speeds. The engine works with an 8-speed automatic transmission with rear-drive and a 6-speed automatic with all-wheel drive. Figure on 0-60 m.p.h. in 6 seconds with the rear-drive version, although the slightly heavier AWD version is almost as fast, according to Lexus specifications.  

Estimated fuel economy is so-so at 19 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on highways with rear-drive and 19 and 26 with AWD. Gasoline with a 91-octane rating is called for, and the fuel tank holds 17.4 gallons.

The standard IS 350 has a quiet, stylish interior with a classy analog dashboard clock and items including a power tilt/slide moonroof, push-button start, dual-zone climate control, power front seats, heated front seats for the AWD version—the usual upscale stuff.

My test IS 350 F Sport’s large tachometer surrounded by an analog speedometer let me easily keep tabs on things. The rather snug interior also had a 10.25-inch LCD screen and small, clearly marked dashboard climate controls. Getting information from the dashboard screen took practice at first. The fast-paced “fasten seatbelt” chime was annoying, and the front console cupholders were set a little too far back.

Safety features included a bunch of air bags and a vehicle dynamics integrated management system that integrates anti-lock brakes, electronic force distribution, traction control, vehicle stability control, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist and high-speed dynamic radar cruise control. Standard in the F Sport package are a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert system and variable gear ratio steering.

The roomy trunk has a low, wide opening and 60/40 split rear seat backs sit flat when folded forward to enlarge the cargo area.

The IS 350 Sport felt solid, thanks partly to advanced construction techniques including laser screw welding and adhesive body bonding that help provide enhanced overall body rigidity. Rear subframe and cowl side braces help enhance handling control and steering response.