Ah, Lexus… it conjures up a car that’s beautifully crafted, with a smoooooth powertrain and an oh-so-cushy ride. I rarely find a problem when driving a Lexus, from the smallest sedan to the largest SUV. And the older I get, the nicer they drive. So, when I drove a 2019 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport for a week I wondered if the 4-door compact sport sedan could break free and turn into a bit of a beast.
The Ultrasonic Blue Mica IS was delivered with a window sticker totaling $51,610, a fair jump from the base MSRP of $38,560. Under the hood was a 311 hp, 3.5 liter V6 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. EPA estimated fuel economy numbers are 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. Lexus advertises a 0-60 time of 5.7 seconds. There is no manual transmission available.
The current exterior design is decidedly aggressive, with large air intakes straddling the giant grill. It’s a big departure from the bland, non-polarizing exteriors for which Lexus has been known. It’s definitely exotic.
The interior is exquisitely finished, with F-Sport badging evident. Both the steering wheel and the instrument panel take design cues from the iconic Lexus LFA supercar. The 10.3-inch navigation screen seems to melt into the dashboard. The Remote Touch Interface (RTI) multi-function control device on the center console controlling the audio, nav, phone, etc. is one of the more user-friendly devices I’ve used. Once you get familiar with it, you can keep your eyes on the road while navigating through the infotainment system.
As for the driving, there is a large Drive Mode Select dial on the center console that allows the driver to push the Lexus IS to whatever limit desired. There is a NORMAL and an ECO mode for taking the kids to school while keeping close to the speed limit. But, to turn the IS into a real sport sedan, there are two Sport modes, an “S” and an “S+” mode. Both alter the powertrain for faster gear changes and more dynamic throttle mapping, while the “S+” mode goes a bit further by tightening the suspension to reduce body lean.
Both Sport modes do a credible job of transforming the IS into something that’s a lot more fun and exciting to drive, allowing for sharper acceleration going into and out of corners. But regardless of the mode, this car is still a Lexus and won’t allow the driver to experience raw, visceral, crazy-emotional responses through the exhaust note or the handling. That said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this Lexus IS 350 F-Sport. If you’re looking for insanely fast, rough handling, feel-every-bump-in-the-road, this is not your car. But, if you’re looking for a car that looks fast and rough handling while keeping your tush in the lap of luxury, this just might be the car of your dreams. Have yourself an aaaaahhhh moment, and motor on.