Review: 2011 Lexus IS350 AWD Take Two

Posted on 08. Apr, 2011 by in Auto News

When I was car shopping back in 2006, the Lexus IS350 found its way to the top of my table, and I my table. With anal resolve I had evaluated 8 vehicles, they scored, photographed them, ranked them and the IS350 came in second. What came first? A Volvo V70R (apples and oranges, I know). At the time I thanked the helpful Lexus sales guy and told him that "if there is a IS350 AWD, I'd buy it tomorrow." Now, 5 years later, there is finally a IS350 AWD, but I'll buy it tomorrow? Let's find out.

Like any fading Hollywood star, the IS line for plastic surgery was in 2009. The nip / tuck consisted of some subtle improvements to the front bumper and headlights styled fitted with easy-reworked lines and some LED daytime running lights on the LF-A. The nose job is so subtle that unless you park a 2006 next to a new IS, you would hardly know the difference. On the up-side the look has aged well, is on the downside, it looks just like your neighbors 2006 IS250. Calling a spade. A spade, flashy styling is not what goes into this segment

Our tester came with the $ 1,320 "Luxury Plus" package, the heated and cooled thrones in upgraded semi-aniline leather slathered, trim real wood, sit HID lamps, electric tilt / telescopic wheel, memory, rain sense wipers and power rear sunshade contains. The big ticket item on the list of options is the $ 3,905 audio / nav system package, which the ubiquitous Lexus nav system and a 14-speaker Mark Levinson sound system included with backup camera. While I was some error in the "that's-so-80s" faux marble styling that do employ the system menu, the functionality is still high and good responsiveness. Audio quality from the Mark Levinson system is as high as one would expect from a system this expensive.

In the cabin, the IS age begins to show. Lexus has been renewed for the lightest of the interior in 2009, mainly focusing on the center console of the button shape. This means that the soft-touch plastic looks used on the dashboard and doors beautiful, but has a slightly rubbery feel. While the surface structure of the eye and touch is encouraging its rubbery surface attracts dust like a lint roller. Strangely, once dust and lint is attracted to the dashboard, it is not as easy as I would wipe. If you live on a dirt road, as I do, keep your sham-wow handy. Yet the interior is decidedly middle of the road not too cheap nor overly impressive. And that's no small feat after this much time on the shelves.

Standard on all IS models, keyless entry and ignition, it means that the doing is not strange is slots or "space" is where a key would go suffer in more pedestrian vehicles. Pressing the aforementioned start / stop button, all of the 3.5-liter V6 IS350 calls to life with a quiet purr. Despite the sporty Lexus, the engine note of the V6 is extremely cautious, even when the go pedal stomped the floor. If you need more aural satisfaction, Lexus would love to sell you the V8 powered IS-F. Fortunately, the 306 naturally aspirated ponies and 277 lb-ft of twist is almost manages to match linear turbo-thrust the BMW 335xi enjoys … almost. With direct injection and variable valve timing on hand to appease the EPA, the IS350 AWD delivered a respectable 26MPG highway as tested, with 750 miles of our average hovering at 22.5MPG. It should be for the reader to compare mileage figures with my previous reviews that I recently moved and my average commute now is commuting over hilly country roads are detected.

A word about this AWD system: used since the IS350 AWD system a mechanical center differential with an electronic clutch pack to control a crash, it does not behave quite as well as the always-on Audi Quattro system or the Haldex slip- and handle systems at low speeds. While torque is available to the four wheels virtually instantly (unlike some Haldex implementations), I noticed mild binding at full lock when parking. While not distracting, they are a little less refined than the feel of the latest Audi, Acura and Volvo models.

As with other IS models, the IS350 AWD Lexus works '6-speed automatic transmission, a part of me would love to see the 8-speed unit in the ISF, but something tells me that we will not see it until the redesign. My only beef with the silky-smooth slush box is equipped with Lexus' decision, "me-too" some sporty paddle shifters on the tiller and saddle the car with 1990s software. Instead of a true manual mode, where "4" means that you are in the 4th gear His step, the display shows only the top gear to use the gear, if it feels like that. You think. On cars, D, D5, D4, D3, etc. in their repertoire shifter Despite shortcomings the transmission may have, V6 is an excellent companion. Turbo? Lexus is not the point, and with a 0-60 time 5.18 seconds (as tested) I'm inclined to believe them.

Why, then, that Volvo a place in my garage over the IS350 It all came to AWD and a usable back seat. Lexus has rectified the AWD problem, but rear accommodations are still an IS family shortcoming. On the practicality score list the IS makes up for the lack of legroom in the rear by providing one of the quietest rides in the class. Unfortunately, there is another hump on this camel, and it's in the driver's footwell, rather than on their backs. Because the ground-stamping in the RWD IS models do not allow for the AWD components, the AWD models have a unique floor pan with a sizeable hump that from the center tunnel extends far into the driver's footwell middle between the seat and the gas pedal. If your feet are over a U.S. size 11, then you might find the hump position more than embarrassing. The kicker of course is that RHD versions of this is given on the passenger side, in which my answer would have been: "who cares This is not where I as a driver sit?." Since my shoe of choice is a U.S. size 10, 5 loafer, I found the hump more of an oddity than a deal breaker, but I'm constantly reminded that the A4, Acura TL and Volvo S60 are completely hump-free.

Out on the street, the IS350 AWD behaves more like an LS460 with firm springs than an Audi S4 or BMW 335th The steering is precise, the booklet is not as close to perfect, but the feeling of being isolated. This problem is partly due to the AWD system, as most AWD sedans connected less than their RWD relatives, but the RWD IS350 suffers from a relatively feel numb tongue. However, the 30/70 power split (variable to 50/50) more than compensated for the loss in sensation when wet down rapidly and mossy back country roads in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The short wheelbase and stiff suspension combine to make short work of twisty roads, but broken pavement and cupped freeway concrete make the ride quite unpleasant legal speeds. Compared with the AWD IS350, the RWD IS feels more agile, with slightly better balance back no doubt as to the larger rubber-out. For 99% of the buyers IS350 AWD is exactly like a regular IS350 except more stable on slippery roads. Our Facebook fans often request for a "burnout quotient" so here it is: zero (but then that's kind of the point).

The IS350 AWD is against some stiff competition, as it is in his last years, but prices and the image can IS350s best assets. Our tester rang at $ 46,579 as tested, well below the competition from Germany. The BMW 335xi offers undoubtedly superior interior and more electronic gizmos than a Japanese toy store, but with a comparably equipped MSRP of $ 50,925, it is easy to overlook the IS350 rubbery dashboard. If your style is the Audi A4 is much less quickly and the new S4 at $ 56,175 is in a completely different price range. Perhaps the direct and stiff competition for IS350 AWD comes in the form of the Infiniti G37x, which feels more agile, and the new Volvo S60 T6 AWD. Both the Infiniti and Volvo ring within $ 1,000 of the IS350 AWD depending on options selected, with the IS350 both sides of the fence between the sportier G37 and softer S60. Lexus trumps in this competitive set are image and reliability. Lexus has a better brand value proposition than Volvo or Infiniti, and reliability is strictly higher than the BMW or Audi competition. 5 years later I would have the second best girl in the automotive prom? No, I would probably have a BMW 335xi, but subsided after the initial fun, I'd probably left over the IS350 AWD all be dreaming again.

Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for the review.

Another perspective on this car can be found here.

Performance statistics as tested:

0-30: 1.93 seconds

0-60: 5.18 seconds

Average Economy: 22.5MPG overall

Facebook followers: Steve S: The biggest difference with the RWD model is the slimmer rubber out back, combined with the AWD gives it a bit less grip in the dry, but a well-balanced atmosphere. Tony J: The A4 offers a better feeling interior. Phillip W: Power slide? In a Lexus? Yes, but only just. Scott C: The suspension is fully independent front and rear. Until we double wishbones with coil springs, single-tube gas-filled shock absorbers and the usual hollow stabilizer bar, out back we have received a multi-link setup with coil springs, inverted monotube gas shock absorbers and another stabilizer. It's the same basic settings as RWD model with only minor changes to the geometry, where necessary.