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2014 Lexus IS 350 Review & Test Drive

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At the entry level of luxury Lexus continues their pursuit to satisfy with their all-new redesigned Lexus IS. The new Lexus IS beckons to target its German competition standing at is best position yet with a redesign bringing to the forefront all of the expected traits with a few additional surprises.

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The all-new 2014 Lexus IS in its larger V6 form continues its naming with the 350 numbering signifying its 3.5-liter V6 engine, which is a carryover from the previous generation. The choice of the same V6 is not a bad thing considering it pumps out a healthy 306 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 277 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm. The carry-over V6 engine gets mated to an all-new 8-speed automatic transmission, the only choice for a rear-wheel-drive IS 350. All-wheel-drive models default to the older 6-speed automatic unit. The new 8-speed transmission proves to be economically adaptive or sporty dependent on your driving style and which drive mode you have selected. During every-day commuting it is apparent that the 8-speed automatic is the better choice and puts power down through the rear-wheels in a more efficient manor than the outgoing 6-speed auto box.

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The driving character of the all-new 2014 Lexus IS 350 gets a full revamp placing the driver in a position to really chase down its German counterparts in its newfound handling dynamics and ride quality. The new Lexus IS 350, even though it can be had with the additional sports-appeal of the F Sport package -stiffening the suspension and adding larger wheels, still manages to brush up on Lexus’ new approach to become highly sought after by enthusiasts. As a driver’s vehicle, if those enthusiast-oriented traits were ever hidden in older variations of the Lexus IS, now reveals itself in manageable doses. Those manageable doses, however, are still smaller than offered on the cherished ultimate driving machines, the three-pointed star wearing vehicles and 4-ring-emblemed contenders.

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Having retained much of its luxury roots not to over-thrill its driver, the new Lexus IS 350 is still a quality item in the form of unsurpassed fit and finish inside and out. The new assertive styling of the 2014 IS 350 does undoubtedly shout the new Lexus design language in loud bursts, taken by some as a timeless design off of the heels of the screaming LF-A supercar. As far as its bold styling approach working for newfound consumers and those steeping out of their German car lease, only time will tell for its acceptance. So far, among fanboys, the new Lexus IS has very few qualms.

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In performance numbers the new 2014 Lexus IS 350 gets a respectable run to 60 mph in just 5.6 seconds. Handling appears to have more confidence even though the curb weight has basically remained the same. The reworking of the suspension system and steering really outweigh its deeply embedded shortcomings, if you can ever find them. Being a focused more on the driver and having the new 8-speed automatic transmission makes the new IS 350 bring out a bit more enthusiastic driving character than in older generations. The F Sport package should extract even more out of the IS as it adds an adaptive suspension system and larger wheels and tires. In my regular 2014 Lexus IS 350 the drive mode selector featuring the commonplace Eco-Normal-Sport modes can tailor the driver’s experience by remapping shifting points, add or take away steering effort and advanced the throttle position. I find that the sport mode adds a nice weight to the sharp steering rack as well as keeping the 8-speed auto in lower gears longer for a simulation more control through the power band. Though, in true Lexus fashion, Sport mode does not lock you out of the higher 7 or 8th gears on highway runs, possibly retaining its eco-minded programing. In eco-mode the transmission shifts earlier and dials back the throttle position to save fuel. During my drive I took notice to the programming of Eco-mode allowing me to beat the city EPA estimate of 19 mpg to get 20.2 mpg around town. On the highway in any mode I returned an average of 27.3 mpg, slightly down from its EPA estimated 28 mpg.

The new 2014 Lexus IS is also available in an all-wheel-drive flavor but utilizes the 6-speed automatic transmission in such a configuration. The beauty of the new trim levels is that the IS can be had in F Sport trim for rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive models. The IS 250, sporting a smaller 2.5-liter V6, is an economical choice that gets an EPA estimated 21 mph city and 30 mpg highway with an output of 204 horsepower and 185 ft-lbs. of torque. The obvious choice for a sports-luxury sedan in this class is certainly the 3.5-liter V6, in true Automotive Addicts style. The variation in fuel consumptions figures or rather minuet but remains to be another story with the price difference of almost $4,000.

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While the exterior styling of the Lexus IS 350 is undeniably daring, it exhibits a unique yet unmistakable character. The new front spindle-type grill further pushes the new Lexus design language forward. The sharply-sculpted front headlights and day-time-running LED lights brandish athleticism. Moving to the side with the neatly sculpted doors and lower panels to shadow what appears to be a subtle taste of sport that molds its way to the flared side finders. The eccentric rear-end is by far the most assertive design statement of the whole vehicle. The slanted-downward lights ending at an angled point towards the rear fender and accented by the lights ending in sharp point at the back of the aluminum deck-lid pushes really pushes the design envelope. Somehow this approach works for many and I find it bring out the driving substance of the new IS 350 in the improved driving dynamics. Basically, the exterior does not overshadow the new Lexus IS 350’s true driving character.

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The inside of the all-new 2014 Lexus IS 350 really freshens up the old interior design and puts more emphasis on the driver. By now you get the gist of what the IS 350 is about, that being more driver-focused luxury sports sedan. The interior does not leave the passengers out of the equation, it provides everyone with much needed additional interior room. The new Lexus IS adds a bit of interior space using its extra 3-inches of wheelbase to move things around a bit. The longer wheelbase attributes to more leg room in the front and back seating areas. Headroom is also slightly improved but not to the point where those over 6-feet tall will not have to worry about greeting their head with the a-pillar from time to time as I did.

The new larger interior dimensions go a long way while the ample adjustability of the front seats give 6-foot guys like me the needed adjustments to find the optimal driving or seating position. The rear seating area can accommodate most. However, long trips for 6-footers are not recommended in the new IS. The plush leather seating surfaces and accent stitching throughout the seats and trim really add a plush luxury feel to the new IS 350. The sporty and thick-rimmed and leather-trimmed steering wheel with shift paddles all add to the luxurious experience without taking too much way from the new forward movement of Lexus’s pursuit for a bit more sports-appeal. The sporty seats up front hug you well with good bolstering and supple-soft leather surfaces, in addition to the same soft leather found throughout the door trim.

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My one qualm with the interior was the new infotainment system, which lacked a navigation system in my IS 350’s configuration. The new controls to navigate the flush-mounted color 7-inch LCD screen are added in place of the remote touch mouse-type controller, which is found on Lexus vehicles equipped with navigation. The scroll wheel is somewhat like the iDrive controller but lacking the intelligence when you find such a basic menu set to navigate through for Audio controls, vehicle information, access to apps (weather, traffic) and vehicle settings. Use of the screen is mostly appreciated with the backup camera instead of some of the confusing menus for accessing certain settings. It took me the better part of my 40 minute drive to find the Audio’s sound controls through the menus, something I did not expect on a Lexus. The upgraded option with GPS navigation should certainly be a considered feature especially when you are just breaking the $45K price barrier.

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The all-new 2014 Lexus IS 350 really is a gem as we see it grow into a matured sports-luxury sedan with bit of bold styling to possibly set itself apart from the rest of the crowd. While the IS 350 does just that, its value holds strong in a wide array of features and available options to keep its expected ability to satisfy strong luxury appetites. The list of features and options found on my test vehicle included the blind spot monitor system, HID headlights, fog lights, Intuitive Park Assist, Smart Entry with push button start/stop, dual zone automatic climate control, automatic recirculation with smog sensor and air filter, Lexus Homelink Universal Transceiver, carpeted floor mats, dual map lights, center console with padded armrest, cruise control, and a pull-down rear seat center armrest.

Copyright: 2013 AutomotiveAddicts.com

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Price: Base IS 350 $39,465 / As-Tested IS 350 $45,000.00 est.
  • Engine: 3.5-liter DOHC V6 306 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm / 277 ft-lbs. torque @ 4,800 rpm
  • Wheelbase: 110.2 inches
  • Total length: 183.7 inches
  • Total width: 71.3 inches
  • Total height: 56.3 inches
  • Track: f/r-60.4/61 inches
  • Headroom: f/r-38.2 / 36.9 inches
  • Legroom: f/r-44.8 / 32.2 inches
  • EPA cargo volume: 13.8 cu.ft.
  • Curb weight: 3,593 pounds
  • Fuel tank: 17.4 gallons
  • 0-60mph: 5.6 seconds
  • EPA mileage: 19 mpg city / 28 mpg highway

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