SENSIBLE GOODNESS: 2019 LEXUS IS 350 F SPORT
When a car is designed, it can go two ways – it can either stand the test of time or age rather quickly. Since the commencement of Lexus’ semi-compact entry-brand sedan in the early 2000’s, the IS has always carried a style that no matter how many years has passed, it still looks good – whether it’s a 2002 IS 300, a 2008 IS 250 or even now as we progress into late teen years of the millennium, the slightly updated 2019 IS 350 F SPORT still has a presence about itself that makes it relevant in the premium brand market.
Given an overhaul in 2013 with a whole new sportier attitude, the Lexus IS faced a huge change in personality with the spindle grille design. Some loved it, some hated it – yet, here we are six years later and, it’s still rather fetching… and yes, we’re still trying to make “fetch” happen. Since our last experience with the IS back in 2017, not much has changed that would cause a dramatic increase in sales. For starters, the IS went through another name change as the IS 200t is now the IS 300 – but not to be confused with the other IS 300 with all-wheel drive. One has the 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo while the other has a 3.5-liter V-6 with 260-horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. Of course though, that 3.5-liter V-6 isn’t to be confused with the IS 350 which also has a 3.5-liter V-6; however, that engine option supports 311-horsepower with 280 lb-ft of torque. But if that wasn’t confusing enough, the IS 350 can also be equipped with all-wheel drive. Confused? We are too.
Seen here in this article, things are simplified for us; our subject starts off with the IS 350 badging for $42,480. For $3200 more, add in the stylish F SPORT Package with a added dynamic driving style, adaptive variable suspension, and double espresso tuned SPORT + driving mode. Backed by an eight-speed automatic and the IS 350 sees 60-mph in about five and half seconds. With guts, comes glory.
In our experience with the IS 350, it’s a solid all-rounder. It’s quick enough to feel content and enthusiastic – getting the job done and making a good sound, but not hellish fast to cause a spectacle or chaos. It’s composed in its handling mannerism capable of managing any road despite the conditions. It’s calm and collective without brash dramatization. It’s everything we expect out of a premium sport sedan.
Its interior showcases similar aging elements we discussed when we drove the 2019 Lexus RC 350 – for its time it looked good – the styling concept is modern; however, unlike the exterior – it doesn’t feel as well aged compared to the more driver focused cockpits we see from other new competitors. The new 12.3-inch high-definition wide screen display is a nice touch that fills in the dash attractively, but lacks modern software like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – we even tried to enter a fairly newish five-year old address into the navigation system and it couldn’t find it.
And this is where we find an underling problem with the Lexus IS series. With the new Audi A4, BMW 3-series, and even the few years old Alfa Romeo Guilia, the Lexus IS find itself between a rock and a hard place. It’s difficult to compete against cars that are newer, more advanced, more featured and with our subject coming in at over $52-grand, it’s a tough sell…
…or is it?
Because the Lexus IS has been around for a bit of time, most of the kinks have been worked out of the system – any recalls, defects, or software glitches have been discovered and fixed. So the IS is like a well-oiled machine that’s ready for the long haul. And that’s where the IS fits for a different kind of buyer. There is more value behind this IS 350 F SPORT over the longer span of time than any other premium brand on the market. If leasing is your thing, by all means go for the newer, sleeker, advance machine – but when it comes to ownership, the Lexus IS is the sensible choice when buying a premium brand.
And it’s not like the Lexus IS isn’t well equipped with modern features – Lexus Safety Sense is standard across all Lexus products – the front seats are heated and cooled – the 2019 refresh brought in new LED triple beam headlights and the F SPORT package still has the fun LFA-inspired digital cluster. The car is comfortable with sport wrapping seats and people can fit in the back. The IS has all the fundamentals of the Lexus product so the interior is covered in leather and feels as premium as its price tag reflects.
There’s a reason why there are so many two year old BMW 3-series on the market and so little Lexus IS 350’s out there. Don’t be fooled by the shiny glitz of a modern world, sometimes sticking with something a little bit older makes for a more practical choice.
Model: 2019 LEXUS IS 350
Starting Price: $42,180
As Tested: $52,608
Color: ULTRASONIC BLUE MICA
Engine: 3.5-LITER V-6
Horsepower/Torque: 306-HORSEPOWER / 280 LB-FT TORQUE
Transmission: 8-SPEED AUTOMATIC
Drivetrain: REAR-WHEEL DRIVE
Fuel Economy EPA RATED: 20-CITY / 28-HWY / 23-COMBINED
(AS TESTED: 22.4 MPG COMBINED)
Fuel Range: 360 MILES
0-60 MPH: ±5.5 SECONDS