When the Lexus brand formally began in 1989, it wasn’t a car company that produced vehicles that fit the definition of ‘exciting’. Had you asked us just five years ago at what we found to be the most exciting cars to drive, you can bet that a Lexus isn’t anywhere near the top of that list.
Thankfully that is all changing as Lexus has started the F revolution, that made their cars so much more exciting. Think IS F, LFA and RC F; models that go against the Lexus norm of conservatism and minimalism. The problem with those cars is that they’re reserved for a select few, but thankfully there are many more exciting and attainable models in their line up like this: the 2015 Lexus IS 350 F Sport.
For starters, this IS 350 F Sport is not to be confused with the IS F. The F Sport isn’t a dedicated super sedan like the IS F, instead it is a sportier and more aggressive derivative of the hot-selling IS 350. The design of the car is arguably the most “angry” in the class. The character lines, creases and other details appear to be departures from the typical minimalist conservatism of the L Finesse design philosophy that we saw in previous generation Lexus IS 300.
Of course this isn’t the typical IS 350, as the subtle differences become clearer when you park a standard model next to this F Sport variant. The 2015 IS 350 F Sport comes with a more aggressive shape and an angrier look. The spindle grill is different, there are F Sport badges along with the larger gun metallic gray F Sport wheels filling up the arches. The entire car is finished off by shapely rear end with a pair of tail lamps with exceptionally cool L-shaped LED patterns.
Pop open one of the doors and you’re greeted by a very premium cabin. Leather is the material of choice in this segment and it’s everywhere in the interior. The front seats offer great levels of support and comfort; perfect for long drives. The Lexus IS is intended to be a sport executive sedan so rear legroom is not a priority like your stereotypical executive saloon; just to clear it up, “IS” actually stands for Intelligent Sport.
One look around the dashboard and it’s clear that the IS 350 F Sport makes use of some very impressive features like the dual zone climate control, the multi-media audio unit, auto headlamps, auto wipers and a very long list of other power amenities. Of course the dashboard gets a bit of button overdose, but it does get the same unified interface system so you can control nearly everything from a hat switch.
Press the ignition and that 3.5-liter twin cam V6 elicits a rumble, signifying that it’s raring to go. We’ve driven the GS 350 before, and this one shares the same direct injection dual VVT-i engine; one that has a maximum output of 306 PS and 375 Newton-meters of torque. Transferring those figures to the tarmac is an 8-speed Sport Direct Shift (SPDS) automatic gearbox; a transmission derived from the IS F super saloon.
Driving the IS 350 F Sport around town is a pleasant experience. The drivetrain actually has a variety of modes that can be activated via a knob just below of the gearstick. In Eco mode, the transmission and engine are taught to behave to return a fuel economy of 7.4 km/l in the city (19 km/h average). Normal mode turns off the Eco settings so the fuel economy dips down a bit to 7.2 km/l.
The suspension and NVH of the IS 350 F Sport do get top marks especially considering that it has wider and larger diameter (read: louder) wheels and tires. Maneuverability is also good in the city though sometimes the large mirrors tend to obstruct the view when negotiating tight city streets.
Get out of the city and into the mountains and the IS 350 F Sport can really play, especially in Sport+. This setting sharpens the throttle response, giving the driver full command of the 306 PS V6. It also makes the gearbox more alert and the shifts more immediate. Best of all, however, is how the uber-cool digital LFA-derived gauges light up in white.
Dive on the anchors and the IS F Sport digs deep to scrub off speed quickly. Turn in and the front just points; it’s a big improvement over the previous IS 300. The suspension is also adaptive, so even when you push the car from one corner to another all over a mountain road the IS 350 F Sport does not signs of strain, though the traction control and stability control system are a bit eager to get in on the action.
The best bit about this Lexus is that it is covered by JPEPA, meaning Lexus Manila can price it very competitively. To put the IS 350 F Sport in perspective its chief rivals (sport variants) are already well over the PhP 4 million mark, all while this top spec F Sport is at PhP 3,088,000.