The Lexus IS sport sedan for 2014 has been redesigned inside and out, with more interior room and a bolder exterior, including the easily recognizable large spindle grille.
Eight trim levels are available, with models ranging from the base IS 250 with a 204-horsepower 2.5-liter V-6 engine to the IS 350, powered by a 306-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 with either rear- or all-wheel drive.
A six-speed automatic transmission is standard on all except the IS 350 with front drive, which gets an eight-speed automatic.
The F Sport package available for the IS 250 or IS 350 rear-drive models adds 18-inch split-five-spoke wheels, front sport seats, a special F Sport grille, sport suspension, unique front fascia, high-friction brake pads and an LFA supercar-inspired instrument panel.
Prices range from $35,950 for the IS 250 rear-wheel drive to $41,700 for the IS 350 AWD, which I drove. The F Sport package is $3,115 for IS 250 RWD and $3,620 for IS 350 RWD.
The IS 350 AWD is EPA rated at 19 mpg in the city and 26 on the highway, with a combination of 21. I drove mostly around the neighborhood and on freeways with frequent stops and managed 20.1 mpg. The drive was smooth and quiet, with good visibility except for a small area near the "C" pillar – behind the rear doors.
For 2014, the IS comes standard with more than $1,400 in previously optional equipment, including HID headlamps, paddle shifters, next-generation remote touch interface, drive mode select, dual-zone climate control, display audio, 4.2-inch color multi-information display, and L-shaped LED daytime running lights. There are 10 air bags as well.
Also, for the first time ever industry-wide, the multimedia system brings real-time traffic and weather without a subscription. Still, the base price of the new IS 350 is 2.1 percent lower than that of the model it replaces.
Those LED daytime running lights were arranged in a sharp "checkmark" shape under the HID headlamps. An all-weather package included headlight washers, windshield deicer, heated steering wheel and enhanced interior heater (for faster heat output).
A "character line" curved from the middle of the front fender to the integrated rear spoiler; and the rear fender joined the bumper in a line curved around the end of the taillights down to the wheel well. The rocker panels had a curved lip. The taillights had an Art Deco look, with parallel right-angled accent lines.
The interior was inviting, with plush quilted-leather seating; soft-touch materials on the door panels, dash, console and armrests; and more curves on the dash and door panels.
While the IS 350 holds five passengers, I found the rear a little cramped, with only 32.2 inches of legroom, and the rear middle seat was narrow and hard with no legroom. Front legroom was 44.8 inches – maybe the front passengers would split the difference. The middle seat did have a tether hook for a child seat.
The 10-way power adjustable driver's seat (with lumbar support) was especially comfortable and easy to position. The rear seatback easily folded in a 60/40 configuration by lifting a lever at the upper outer corner to add versatility to the family sedan. The center console was efficient, with two cupholders located within easy reach, a USB port and an auxiliary input under the armrest in a felted cubby, and a small, flat recessed tray beside the shifter for portable electronics, coins – or a box of nuggets.
Rear outboard bucket-style seats were equally comfortable, with two pop-out cupholders on a pull-down armrest in the middle.
The multi-information display in front of the driver showed audio, phone and trip information, as well as data from the Intuitive Parking Assist – an option comprising sonar sensors on the bumpers to warn the driver when objects are detected in close proximity
Lexus's premium audio system included HD radio, Gracenote album art, and an MP3 player. SiriusXM satellite radio came with a three-month trial subscription and shared the screen with Bluetooth media streaming and hands-free phone.
Safety Connect with automatic collision notification, stolen-vehicle location, emergency-assist button and enhanced roadside assistance also shared certain functions on the screen with the optional backup camera.
There was an ample trunk, with 13.8 cubic feet of cargo space, a wide opening, several tie-downs and a first aid kit.
The bold, spirited lines of the IS 350 were eye-catching and exciting, reminding me of a colt kicking up his heels and darting around.
2014 LEXUS IS 350:
–Base price: $35,950
–Price as tested: $46,585
Prices exclude destination charge.
ABOUT THE WRITER:
Emma Jayne Williams' auto reviews appear in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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