The 2019 Lexus IS 350 F Sport’s challenge

By Aida Sevilla-Mendoza Philippine Daily Inquirer February 20,2019

The rear view of the 2019 Lexus IS 350 exudes a performance-minded stance, while Lexus’ signature spindle grille dominates the front.

The Lexus IS 350 is a fairly new model, having been introduced in 2006 after it was originally sold in Japan in 1998 under the Toyota Altezza nameplate.

In 2011, The F Sport package was added to the IS 350 lineup to infuse sportier handling and styling into the car.

Categorized as a small or compact luxury sports sedan although it is longer than the Toyota Camry, which is a midsize executive car, the 2019 IS 350 F Sport aims to challenge similarly sized BMW and Audi sports sedans.

The Lexus F marque represents the high-performance section of cars produced by Lexus, Toyota’s premium car division, with the letter F referring to flagship and Fuji Speedway, the chief test site of Lexus performance vehicle development in Japan.

One look at the overwhelming Lexus signature spindle grille, the enormous air intakes, the aggressive lines, and the low-riding stance of the 2019 IS 350 F Sport might quickly convince you that it is a track-inspired sports sedan.

V6 power

After all, the IS 350 is powered by a V6 24-valve DOHC dual VVT-i naturally aspirated engine packing 312 hp and 378 Nm max torque mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission with rear wheel drive.

Equipped with a sport-tuned adaptive variable suspension, front performance damper, and a Sport+ Drive mode on top of the Sport S mode, the IS 350 F Sport provides linear power delivery, and responds quickly to inputs.

The richly appointed, driver-focused cockpit is flawless in fit and finish.

The F Sport package offers four selectable drivetrain modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport S, and for the driving enthusiast tackling a winding road, the Sport+ mode which holds the transmission to the lowest gear possible.

The electronic power steering and balanced chassis of the IS 350 translate into nimble handling with verve.

Still, the driving experience is not quite as exciting as the immediate thrust and strong acceleration of a turbocharged German car with a sport package.

Quiet cabin

The IS 350 F Sport, though, compensates in terms of superb riding comfort and a cathedral-quiet cabin.

Great attention to cabin soundproofing has sufficiently silenced road and wind noise, and even the engine sounds refined at full throttle.

The driver-focused, richly appointed cockpit has been designed with precision and flawless detail, with soft-touch contact surfaces, power-adjustable, supportive leather seats, controls within easy reach, an analog clock, F Sport LCD gauge cluster, and F Sport aluminum interior trim.

Less attention, however, was given to the rear of the cabin, where space is physically narrow.

Rear seat headroom and legroom are not as generous as those in competing small luxury sports sedans.

The low riding height and sloping roofline require passengers to bend when entering the cabin.

The rear door openings are rather small, making ingress difficult for older passengers.

The wide center console and transmission tunnel (this is a rear wheel drive) limit legroom, especially for the middle passenger on the rear seat.

Interior storage space is also sparse, but the trunk provides 10.8 cubic feet of cargo space, which is adequate for a car this size.

Complex infotainment

The complex infotainment system, with its mouse-like controller, requires a long learning curve to operate, and is hardly user-friendly.

The 3.5-liter V6 engine paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission packs 311 hp and 280-pound-feet of torque.

It is in safety features and driver aids, however, that the 2019 IS 350 excels.

Aside from eight airbags and anti-lock braking system (ABS), the standard equipment includes hill start assist, vehicle stability control, vehicle dynamics integrated management, traction control, clearance and reverse sensors, back guide monitor, rain sensing wipers, and child lock protection.

Summing up, the 2019 IS 350 F Sport (P3.378 million) with its 6-cylinder naturally aspirated engine does not exactly take the fight to the Germans in terms of athletic performance, but it impresses nonetheless for its supremely comfortable ride, hushed cabin, and balanced handling, plus Toyota’s reliability, lower retail price compared to European brands, and high resale value.

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