We have always had a special place in our hearts for the Lexus IS sports sedan. It could be because it was one of the first launch events we ever attended way back in 2014 when the current version of the sedan was introduced. It may also, however, be that at its price point, this is one sports sedan that we could really see working in our future.
Since having that first adventure back in 2014, we have found after having a few opportunities to drive the 350 that it is one of the most grounded entry-level sport sedans on the market.
It comes with a naturally aspirated V6 engine, unlike most of the completion that are all turbo charged, that is connected to an eight-speed transmission that glides through the gears as smooth as silk. This all makes for what we would view as a pure driving experience, no turbos or other additions to make the sedan go faster. Sprinkle all the fine Lexus luxury that comes in all their vehicles, and it adds up to an exhilarating, fun drive.
Our week with the IS came in early August and included very heavy weekend rain storm that gave us the chance to get out in the water and see how well the all-wheel drive preformed. It held tight to the road, even during hard acceleration and in tight wet corners never letting us down. The all-wheel drive keeps the IS very planted.
Another great addition to the Lexus is the vehicle dynamics integrated management, or VDIM for short. In the days when it seems there is another acronym around every corner that is going to enhance our lives, we being a little older, are sometimes confused by the lingo — many times having to ask the kids for help or opinions on the latest new gadget. Case in point: I had heard of this VDIM system when at the launch event, so further exploration was indeed needed to see how this would help us out as drivers of the IS.
Basically what the system comes down to is this: it is a robust software package developed by Toyota to include with their vehicles that will control all of the drive systems and safety systems in the vehicle at the same time. More than that, it learns from the driver and adapts to their skills and abilities to give back the best and safest driving experience possible.
To this point I had the opportunity to drive the IS350 F-Sport on a timed slalom course set up by Lexus on an old Air Force tarmac in San Francisco. Ie was given two times through the course. On the first time through, I used the paddle shifters that come with the 350, and on the second time through, I let the car do the shifting and manage the experience for me. Of course, I didn’t want to admit that I was two seconds faster on the course with the VDIM doing all the heavy lifting.
The VDIM system not only works, but it works extremely well. Having been introduced back in 2005 in limited models, it continues to become a better system all the time, evidenced by the fact the new line of IS vehicles cannot be had with a manual transmission.
Our favorite part of the IS definitely is the look that it portrays; it definitely looks aggressive and as if it is ready for the track, but yet still has the elegant air of sophistication that comes standard on any Lexus model.
It comes complete with almost evil-looking new LED running lights, along with air intake ports at the bottom corner of each side. These are designed to channel air to cool the brakes, and of course it is topped off with the Lexus signature spindle grill.
On the comfort side it would be hard to find something with more comfort than the new IS. The seats have been designed specifically to set the hips further into the seat and take stress off of the back, and the steering wheel has been lowered to make it more driver friendly.
Of course there is leather all around, including on the dash and accents on the doors, along with carbon metal accents throughout the interior. The Mark Levinson sound system that came with the navigation upgrade was also no slouch among stereo systems.
Of course the technology in the new Lexus was unmatched with Bluetooth for both phones and audio devices. New this year, the IS is Alexa compatible — in other words you can send navigation and other commands to the car through and in home Amazon Alexa. It is also now possible to connect a smart watch to the new Lexus.
The entire dashboard is set up as a LED screen with a circular tachometer in the middle that has a digital read out for the speed. Other pertinent information is displayed around both sides of the tachometer. With the touch of a button on the steering wheel, the tachometer slides to the right and a larger screen is available on the left where things like audio and navigation can be displayed. This is a technology like the Lexus LFA that has been incorporated into the IS at a fraction of the price.
Heated and cooled seats along with a heated steering wheel made for a very comfortable ride. Throughout the cabin all the materials of luxury quality and the design is what we would have expected from the Lexus brand. For the money, it can’t be beat in the marketplace!
The 2019 Lexus IS will still remain one of our favorites in the luxury sports sedan market and is worth a look, even if there is no turbo involved at least one can keep their bragging rights for a engine that puts power out to its full natural ability!
Base price: $44,095
Price as driven: $53,647