The IS350 was a perfect way to hit the roads of CHicago and Wisconsin ahead of a track event the other week.
Here is a fun, fast and tactile sport sedan for the ages!
Fun because it loves revs and Gs.
Fast as its F-Sport induction harmonics encourage floored throttle all the time.
Tactile because its steering is alive in your hands. IS350 F-Sport steering feel has heft like a great sports car, but also a sharp and eagerness to change direction any time. Any place. This IS350 pivots like a boss.
Just a big soppy lovefest for this car, then over a 600-mile road trip. Let's highlight what's new on the IS since its 2016 powertrain upgrades and 2017 interior and exterior tweaks. And try as we might to find places where the IS350 could be better versus the latest BMW 340i or Acura TLX A-Spec.
First things first: A FUN and FAST drive through the woods on HD GoPro video. Check out this road! I should've saved it's location on Google Earth to prove what a slithery racetrack it makes through Wisconsin forest!
HD Drive Review
The IS got a fresh turbo engine option and eight-speed automatics for the 2016 modelyear. IS350 now tops the IS200t and IS300 model range with its same output: 306HP with 277 pound-feet of torque.
Through the new eight-speed autobox, this cuts the sprint time a few tenths of a second to the low 5's to 60. It is a dreamy engine with smoothness galore and a throaty sound on throttle. Power is seamless and predictable versus the latest turbo engines from rivals, but is lacking a little in low-end torque versus C400 or 340, not to mention outright power versus Q50 Red Sport 400 or Lincoln MKZ.
The 2017 refresh for the IS focused on updating design details outside and in. This brings new bumpers with wildly expressive intakes. These flared corner vents are expressed differently across the different IS engines and with or without F Sport upgrade. But they all look cool and fresh from up front.
The crisp new headlights and new-shape spindle grille are more subtle, but still effective, upgrades to the IS's style and stance. LEDs for the low and highbeams are standard, but the blinker is not yet a full amber arrowhead like the RC coupe and NX crossover. Just a bulb in the main IS lamps for turn signals.
New shaping for the sill extensions and a new bumper out back helps the IS shape feel more modern for 2017. It is a familiar profile - but a great one. Long and low hood, chopped overhangs and strong shoulders. New taillights with interesting L-shaped LED lines of light inside make a neat statement in traffic. These may be an F-Sport exclusive - and look really cool in nighttime running light mode or with the brakes on. LED turn signals and backup lamps come with.
Inside, the IS gains a active safety tech galore as standard for 2017. Auto highbeams, active cruise and lane-keep are now (we believe) standard at all price points. Curiously, blind spot is still a $600 option.
New leathers for the dashboard and a standard 8-inch display screen are nice, but not as nice as the 10.25-inch widescreen in the Nav option cars. This $2200 special brings thumpin' Mark Levinson audio and realtime traffic. But no satellite or google earth style graphics like Audi yet from Lexus.
New climate controls for the 2017 modelyear are electrostatic -- so you can slide your finger along the temp piece or tap it for single degree adjustments. It is a classy replacement for buttons. Still buttons for the IS's dome lamps and a few other areas. A place where IS is also behind the standard fitment of more modern Lexuses like RC.
Why F Sport?
Why indeed! Custom suspension settings, better brakes, Sport+ drive mode and variable-ratio steering. These are a few core reasons why F-Sport is good value at $3155. Most notable from the extra-supportive driver seat and F-Sport steering wheel? That engine note!
F-Sport's are the only IS sedans with amplified intake sounds piped right into the cabin. It is endlessly entertaining to rev and sounds great. A must-have in our book.
The finishes get more glamourous inside the F Sport cars, with moody bordeaux leathers and high-tech, machine grey accents versus wood or chrome. Outside, special alloys in titanium are 18-inch split 5-spokes that look hot. A unique F-Sport nose brings dark, almost black chrome for the edges of the new-shape Spindle grille. Extra 3D intakes and front splitter are joined by darkened inner grille meshes and carbon-colored accents to the outside intakes. It looks cool and respectably new for a design that is fairly mature in its life cycle.
Well, it you forced us to find fault with such a great sport sedan... we would fight you at first. $42k base for this speed, style and handling? YES! $49,579 out the door with F-Sport, Nav and light-up door sills? YES!
IS350 is stellar value versus 340i or C400, both of which START from about $52k and rise to $60k in a hurry.
Even so, the IS350 could stand a few updates. Here's hoping the eventual model change does not diminish how chuckable, fun and sporty the current dimensions are.
But the IS350 is slightly narrower than is fashionable, and slightly under the power levels of a top-flight model standard model.
A turbo V6 making closer to 350HP would be nice to have for its extra torque. A wider chassis might help make the cabin feel slightly roomier, too.
But at what cost!!? Who knows.
This 2017 IS350 gets so much perfect. And at the perfect price!
Take one for a spin and tell me you disagree.