2019 Lexus IS 350 F Sport

Frank Washington | 8/19/2019, 10:04 p.m.
Detroit – The Lexus IS was one of the first models from the Japanese luxury brand that demonstrated it was ...

Detroit – The Lexus IS was one of the first models from the Japanese luxury brand that demonstrated it was serious about changing its image.

Don’t get it twisted. From its start, Lexus always produced first rate products. But they were known for their reliability and quality more so than for their styling. That all changed with the IS.

The spindle grille was in full bloom on this car. There were striking headlamps, large air intakes in the front bumper and accent creases on the side that made the compact sedan seem like it was hugging the ground.

The hood had a raised center point indicating the power underneath it. LED headlamps were standard, and it had L-shaped LED daytime running lights. On the IS F Sport, which is the model we had, the grille had a three dimensional F-mesh pattern

At the rear, the “L” theme continued. LED taillights were triple layered within the taillight housing. Rectangular chrome exhaust tips accentuated the performance accent. There were split five spoke 18-inch wheels.

Under the hood was a 3.5-liter V6 that had been tweaked up to 311 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. It was mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.

In addition to its looks, the IS 350 that we tested had all-wheel-drive and handled like the sports sedan that it was. Acceleration was better than average, the car managed the ends and outs of urban traffic without a hitch and the multidimensional suspension smoothed out the roads.

The interior was inspired by the brand’s LFA supercar, which is no longer in production. There was NuLuxe trimmed seating, 10-way power front sport seats, a high-efficiency dual-zone automatic climate control system with touch-sensitive controls, power moonroof, and what Lexus has branded SmartAccess with pushbutton start.

The climate-control panel, analog clock and steering wheel switches in the black interior were enhanced with stitching. The speedometer and tachometer, as well as the stitching atop the gauge hood, gave the cockpit an austere but sporty feel.

The car had the Lexus Remote Touch Interface (RTI) multi-function control device. The RTI is the go-to control for the audio system, driver’s phone, navigation system and more. In essence it is your basic mouse. It was available in conjunction with the navigation system; there was an 835, watt 15-speaker premium sound system. “Enter” buttons on either side of the RTI on the center console helped make the system easier to use, as did a larger leather-wrapped palm rest.

During our week-long test drive, family matters took us to New England where we landed in Boston, picked up a Lexus ES 350 Ultra Luxury sedan and motored to Providence, RI.

First we were taken aback by the luxury appointments of the midsize sedan’s interior. It was beige leather, accented by blond wood trim and a 14-way power driver’s seat and 10-way power front passenger seat with lumbar support and cushion extensions. A power tilt and telescoping steering wheel was among many other creature comforts like rain sensing windshield wipers, heated and cooled front seats and a hands free power trunk.