2019 Lexus IS 350 AWD F Sport
Class: Premium Compact Car
Miles driven: 764
Fuel used: 34.9 gallons
|CG Report Card
|Room and Comfort
|Power and Performance
|Fit and Finish
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.
|Big & Tall Comfort
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.
Real-world fuel economy: 21.9 mpg
Driving mix: 55% city, 45% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 19/26/21 (city/highway combined)
Fuel type: Premium Gas Recommended
Base price: $44,095 (not including $1025 destination charge)
Options on test car: F Sport Package ($2365), Adaptive Front Lighting System ($400), Navigation and Mark Levinson Audio Package ($2845), Intuitive Park Assist ($500), Premium Paint ($595), F Sport Perforated Leather Heated Steering Wheel ($150)
Price as tested: $51,875
The great: Pleasing blend of luxury and sportiness
The good: Reasonably priced compared to German competition
The not so good: Small door openings, limited rear-seat passenger space
Drive the Lexus IS 350 a few times and see if this premium compact sedan doesn’t leave you scratching your head. Is it a luxury sedan that just happens to be livelier than usual for that type of car—or is it a sport sedan that still ladles on the plush? Consumer Guide testers have driven a few of them since the current generation’s debut as a 2014 model, and we’re as impressed by its responsive handling as we are by a deft blend of luxury and sport in the cabin.
Arriving at a definitive conclusion doesn’t get any easier when driving a 350 that is kitted out with the F Sport option package. For 2019, that $2365 grouping adds an adaptive variable suspension, staggered-width tires on specific 18-inch alloy wheels, heated and ventilated front sport seats, perforated-leather wrap for the steering wheel and shift knob, aluminum pedal faces, and more.
CG’s latest IS 350 test car tacked on the F Sport package, an even pricier Mark Levinson audio-system upgrade including navigation, and a quartet of individual options to raise its base price (with delivery) of $45,120 to $51,875. Regardless of what it costs, the IS 350 is hardly changed from its 2018 form, with smart watch/Amazon Alexa connectivity now added to the standard Lexus Enform Remote program, and triple-beam headlights freshly arrived on the options list.
With all else about the car essentially unaltered, its performance, equipment, and ergonomics are familiar, so quick reminders are in order:
- The 3.5-liter makes the same 311 horsepower it developed in ’18, when it gained five ponies. All-wheel-drive versions like the latest test car feature a 6-speed automatic transmission in place of the 8-gear unit used with the rear-drive model. Acceleration is very good, even if not necessarily at the head of the class, and the transmission kicks down fairly alertly to assist highway passing. CG has been less than impressed by the IS 350’s “metabolism” with a gallon of premium gasoline, but this time one of our editors cracked 22.5 mpg on a stint with just a slight majority of city miles, exceeding the EPA estimate of 21 mpg in combined city/highway operation.
- For all of its heightened steering response and handling, the 350 F Sport still rides quite comfortably most of the time.
- Big or tall adults may find front passenger space somewhat restrictive, and those of even more modest build will wedge themselves into the rear seat if the front seats need to be pushed back to any great degree. The front sport seats do provide an appreciable level of grippy side bolstering.
- The cabin has good distribution of soft-touch materials for an upscale feel, but less-than-capacious interior storage space. The infotainment system continues with the sometimes-finicky “mouse” remote controller on the console that CG has never really cared for. A 7-inch display screen is standard, but when the extra-cost navigation system is selected, it comes with a 10.3-inch screen.
- Trunk space starts out wide at the rear but constricts considerably between the wheel houses. Rear seats fold in a 60/40-split for added cargo capacity, but the seat backs rest at a level well above that of the trunk floor, which can complicate loading.
Other standard equipment not superseded by the F Sport package includes LED headlamps, power-adjustable seats for the driver and front passenger, keyless access and starting, dual-zone automatic climate control, satellite radio, power moonroof, blind-spot monitor, and rear cross-traffic warning. Also included is the Lexus Safety System + suite of electronic driving alerts and aids include adaptive cruise control, pedestrian detection, lane-departure alert with steering assist, and automatic control of high-beam headlights.
Some highborn compact sedans near the IS 350 F Sport’s price provide a higher level of performance. Others trend more toward comfort. This little Lexus still does a commendable job of threading the needle between them.
IS 350 F Sport