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IS350 Review

50 posts in this topic

pow    106

19 December 2005

By Robert Farago

Jinking through traffic somewhere above the ton, it quickly became apparent that the Lexus IS 350 wasn’t the ideal car for the job. The erstwhile sports sedan bumped and jiggled over surface imperfections like a tied-down tunermobile. It rolled through directional transitions like a luxobarge, helming with unacceptable imprecision and unwelcome lean. While the powerplant provided more than enough shove for the work at hand, the IS 350’s dynamics drew a definitive line between “doable” and “enjoyable.” If further proof were needed that I was in the wrong car at the wrong speed, the BMW M3 keeping pace provided it.

After a few polite lead exchanges, the M3 dropped the hammer and disappeared. I rejected the idea of visiting V-Max. The IS 350’s 3.5-liter V6 holsters a surprising percentage of the mighty M3’s oomph (at a fraction of the price), but it’s no Bimmer beater. More specifically, maxxing-out a 3-Series anything is like driving through the tunnel of love compared to the baby Lexus' Autobahn of Doom. Who needs THAT kind of excitement? Indeed, why would anyone suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous ride and handling when any number of similarly priced cars offer a more pleasurable driving experience?

It’s all about the big O: ostentation. The IS 350 may be as manic as a radio controlled Kyosho Inferno, but the Lexus badge on its nose and tail tells the world that its driver is a man of wealth and taste. Thanks to a few meticulously-engineered models and exceptional dealer service, US public opinion has elevated Lexus to level-pegging with BMW, Mercedes, Audi, et al. Meanwhile, back where the rubber meets the road, Lexus has lost the plot. Although the company continues to manufacturer some superlative wafty coddlers, the IS 350 is yet another Lexus displaying a stunning lack of brand consistency. It’s no more a luxury car than a Mustang GT.

Thankfully for sales, looks can be deceiving. The IS 350’s combination of sharply-tailored creases and sensual curves create a perfectly judged blend of accelerative intent and stately elegance; a recipe that's bound to make upmarket buyers feel good about driving a small car. The bland butt is a tad too Toyota, but the rest of the IS 350's sheetmetal projects all the restrained modernity that Chris Bangle failed to realize for BMW. Overall, Lexus’ mid-market model proves that their new house style-- “L-Finesse”-- is more than a pissed-off Pokemon in a Brioni suit. It’s a pissed-off Pokemon in a Brioni suit with a touch of Maserati thrown in.

The IS 350’s cabin certainly isn’t the swish inner sanctum you’d expect at this price point. Although you can’t fault the pliability of the soft-touch plastics or the leather’s Velveetatude, close your eyes, press a button and you’ll swear you’re sheltering inside a top-spec Avalon. The sooner Lexus replicates Audi’s haptic hit squad, the better. And while they’re at it, the Japanese designers should L-finesse some of that lustrous wood onto the main fascia; the dark grey plastic surrounding the IS 350’s instruments and gauges is about as classy as a quilted toilet roll holder. Still, you get some aluminum paddle shift wings and a dead cool “engine start” button…

That hooks you up to one of the most mental motors made. It sure doesn’t sound like much-- a Pontiac Grand Am’s pushrod powerplant whines to mind-- but the Lexus’ V6 is ready to go anytime, every time, all the God damn time. With 306 horses underfoot, and a six-speed automatic gearbox that grabs the next gear like a two-year-old coveting her sister’s Nintendo DS, going fast is simply a matter of forgetting to go slow. Drop a couple of cogs via the paddles, plant your right foot, and the IS 350 will punch through the ether at a ferocious clip, belied by a dearth of engine vibration. Not to put too fine a point on it, this dog will hunt.

But it won’t dance. The IS 350 is only slightly less hard-riding than a Skyline GT-R-- with none of the corresponding car control. Woe betides any hard-charging enthusiast who finds an expansion joint or a big old bump in a tight corner; the little Lexus will hop, skip and jump like a colt struggling to get out of a horsebox. Switch off the electronic Nanny, and it’s woe Nellie!-- oversteer oblivion courtesy of the sharpest yet least progressive brakes money can buy. By the same token, I pity the poor bastard who bought an IS 350 thinking he could cruise through an urban landscape without an overly-intimate exploration of the concrete topography.

In short, the IS 350 is a bad BMW, rather than a great Lexus. Shame. As I watched the M3 evaporate that afternoon, I wished I was driving an LS, SC or RX. I could have cranked-up the tunes, kicked back and… relaxed.

http://thetruthaboutcars.com/content/11350...07406/index.php

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pow    106

Wow, I'm kinda of liking this site. His opinions of Lexus are quite similar to mine: "The GS300 makes a mockery of Lexus’ well-earned rep for imperious wafting-- to the point where you wonder if the model was designed as a secret torture device for America’s nouveaux riche."

I've noticed that, for some people, buying a Lexus is a bit of a reverse snobbery thing. They're "too good" to simply buy from an institution like BMW or Mercedes, so they'd rather "defer from the pack" (even though that's the exact opposite of what they're actually doing) and buy a non-European car.

This thing is all engineering and no design, I guess for pragmatic, noveau riche Americans who have no desire for elegance, taste, or heritage. As far as styling goes, Jag has class, Mercedes has muscle, BMW has art, Audi has emotion, and Lexus has... L-Finesse...

The IS's interior is pretty $h!ty as well. I inspected one yesterday at LAIAS, and I wasn't impressed by its floppy sunroof cover, crude lower-dash materials, 1980's seat heater switches, bland wood, uninspired colors, pieced-together and unharmonious design, generic Walmart stereo system center stack, randomly scattered parts-bin switches, Brother Labelmaker fonts, loosely-fit rear seat bottom leather, afterthought tweeters, afterthought front armrest, cancerous HVAC vents, foot-operated parking brake, and inhospitable rear seat. I couldn't forget the tinny sheetmetal either... the 3-series and A4 destroy it in build quality.

As you can tell, I'm not much of a Lexus fan, either. :lol:

Edited by empowah

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I never knew an IS350 competed with an M3. :rolleyes:

uh, you ARE kidding right????

From day one the IS-cars heve been designed to shaddow the 3-series. Since the IS350 is an expensive king-of-the-hill Sports Sedan from Toyota MOtor Corp. comparisons to the M3 are just about obvious.

Comparing the Lexus IS350 to an M3 is unfair all of a sudden? But yet a Corvette Z06 vs. Viper Comparison is fair right?

Perforamance talks and bull$h! walks. :AH-HA_wink:

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CSpec    515

uh, you ARE kidding right????

From day one the IS-cars heve been designed to shaddow the 3-series. Since the IS350 is an expensive king-of-the-hill Sports Sedan from Toyota MOtor Corp. comparisons to the M3 are just about obvious.

Comparing the Lexus IS350 to an M3 is unfair all of a sudden? But yet a Corvette Z06 vs. Viper Comparison is fair right?

Perforamance talks and bull$h! walks.  :AH-HA_wink:

Um, the IS350 competes with the 330i. The M3 isn't even a sedan...

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pow    106

Yeah, the IS350 competes against the 330i. The author only mentions the M3 in an anecdote about a thought he had while sitting in traffic all day.

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once there was an M3 coupe... I know that's not the case but are we toi say the CTS-V does not compete wiht the M3 either since it's not a coupe?

Everyone makes the comparison.

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Flybrian    0

once there was an M3 coupe... I know that's not the case but are we toi say the CTS-V does not compete wiht the M3 either since it's not a coupe?

Everyone makes the comparison.

That has nothing to do with the fact that the IS competes with non-M 3-Series.

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bobo    91

Lexus will probably come out with an IS with a V-8 to compete with the M3.

The consensus with all the IS350 reviews is that it has a great engine, an ok suspension that is too harsh for the streets and not sharp enough for the track, and a decent but not great interior.

For being the entry-level Lexus, I don't have a problem at all with the interior. And it is a lot of car for the money. I'm not sure which way I would go--330i or IS350--if I were in the market today, mainly because I have problems with the styling of both. But I've been seeing tons of both of these on the streets.

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Lexus is putting the 4.3 or 4.6 in an IS and calling it the IS500 to compete with the M3. So no - this car isn't supposed to compete with the M. The interior is excellent for the entry level Lexus. It's job is supposed to be comfortable (even though it's small), quick and not-so-harsh on the road.. It does a fine job of this...

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Drew Dowdell    5,170

Soo... why is the interior of the IS with it's parts bin switches and unimaginative design "ok for an entry level Lexus" when the interior of the CTS has very few parts bin parts and is at the very lease an original design....

It sounds like the CTS out handles it. Sure, the IS would out run the CTS in the straight away.... right up till a loaded 44k when you start hitting CTS-V territory.

Also keep in mind that the IS is all new, but a new CTS is about 18-24 months away.

Edit: And I've seen the renderings of the new CTS. The exterior and interior positively blow away the IS.

Edited by Oldsmoboi

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"unimaginative design" is not a fact - it's an opinion.. I like the interior of the Lexus IS much better than the CTS but the current exterior of the CTS is nicer (to me) than the IS.. And yes, the new CTS will probably be much, much nicer in all aspects.. The CTS is a great car...

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BrewSwillis    0

[zoolander] I feel like I'm taking crazy pills! [/zoolander]

How does a 350 HP V6 IS350 not compete with a 333 HP I6 M3?? :huh:

But then you are saying that a 4.3L or 4.6L V8 IS500 will be a fair comparison to the M3.

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97regalGS    0

[zoolander] I feel like I'm taking crazy pills! [/zoolander]

How does a 350 HP V6 IS350 not compete with a 333 HP I6 M3??  :huh:

But then you are saying that a 4.3L or 4.6L V8 IS500 will be a fair comparison to the M3.

because that is the 'old' M3 vs the 'new' IS.

wait til the 'new IS V8' runs against the 'new' M3 V8 and then we'll see what happens.

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pow    106

[zoolander] I feel like I'm taking crazy pills! [/zoolander]

How does a 350 HP V6 IS350 not compete with a 333 HP I6 M3??  :huh:

But then you are saying that a 4.3L or 4.6L V8 IS500 will be a fair comparison to the M3.

Plus, the IS350, which has 306-hp, btw, is available only with an automatic gearbox.

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[zoolander] I feel like I'm taking crazy pills! [/zoolander]

How does a 350 HP V6 IS350 not compete with a 333 HP I6 M3??  :huh:

But then you are saying that a 4.3L or 4.6L V8 IS500 will be a fair comparison to the M3.

Yeah I'm with you... although I guess I see their point now that I found out the IS350 is automatic only... WTF Lexus?

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Bimmer325    18

Last I heard Lexus had plans for an IS coupe and convertible in addition to the IS500 M-fighter mentioned above. The IS350 is not meant to compete with the M3, especially considering the M is at the end of it's life cycle and a new e90-based model is on it's way.

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razoredge    0

I just saw the commercial for this car today and I was thinkin it looked an awful lot like a toned down GP......am I crazy ? Something abut its styling looked fimilar.

I wish GM would do decent commercials.

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The O.C.    2

Lexus will probably come out with an IS with a V-8 to compete with the M3.

The consensus with all the IS350 reviews is that it has a great engine, an ok suspension that is too harsh for the streets and not sharp enough for the track, and a decent but not great interior.

For being the entry-level Lexus, I don't have a problem at all with the interior.  And it is a lot of car for the money.  I'm not sure which way I would go--330i or IS350--if I were in the market today, mainly because I have problems with the styling of both.  But I've been seeing tons of both of these on the streets.

I'd go for the 330i any day. I drove a sport-packaged 6-speed and LOVED it.

For me, I like the exterior styling of the Lexus, but the interior is WAY too tight roominess-wise (even compared to the BMW) and while the fit-and-finish and materials are top-notch, the interior styling is almost too "Japanese" for me. I like the much simpler BMW design....which seems just as well-built.

PLUS, I'm a manual-tranny fan.....and Lexus refuses to offer us a manual with the big 3.5L engine....WTF?

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BrewSwillis    0

I just saw the commercial for this car today and I was thinkin it looked an awful lot like a toned down GP......am I crazy ? Something abut its styling looked fimilar.

I wish GM would do decent commercials.

Your eyes no not deceive you, Lexus did copy the Grand Prix. All they did was make it a little stubbier:

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MyerShift    7

Your eyes no not deceive you, Lexus did copy the Grand Prix.  All they did was make it a little stubbier:

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Wow, I do see a slight resemblance.

I do thoroughly enjoy this webpage. I stumbled across it a short time period ago.

I agree with his statements about Lexus/IS350, not so much others, um, GM comes to mind.

Most of the reviews have something distubingly amusing to them.

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bobo    91

The resemblance between the IS and the GP is probably why I dislike the styling of the IS so much. The GP has always come across as ill-proportioned, especially with that protruding bumper and oversized headlights. The coupelike C-pillar helps contribute to the inhospitable feeling in the rear seat. The IS also has an oversized face and weird styling flourishes like the GP has, but the overall tauter looks is a slight, and very slight, improvement.

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I hate to admit it but the New IS is growing on me. Too bad they eliminated the Inline six. :(

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