Lexus has always done good things. They build good cars with good features that are built with good materials and last, well, a good long time. They’ve acquired a following of good people who like everything Lexus does. They will buy whatever Lexus sells, and defend the brand to anyone who would speak ill of it. All in all the world of Lexus can be called a good one.
For some however that can be a problem.
Many non-Lexus owners call the brand a ‘boring’ one; vanilla with no sprinkles, a blue suit with a white shirt. Sure it’s good, but the problem according to some is that there’s no real flash, no real ‘wow’ factor. That could be changing.
For 2014 Lexus has finally updated the IS line, the smallest rear wheel drive sedans in the lineup. Since its introduction in 2006, there have been some small subtle changes but nothing of any substance. That has changed for 2014.
Lexus has finally updated the entire IS line and the change may finally add a ‘wow’ the brand has been missing. We recently spent a week with the 2014 IS 350 with the F-Sport package and that one word is exactly what we said after the week was over: wow. The new IS comes with an array of standard features such as HID headlamps, L-shaped LED daytime running lights, Drive Mode Select, paddle shifters, a dual zone climate control system, a next-generation Remote Touch Interface, Display Audio, a color 4.2 inch TFT multi-information display and 10 airbags.
The F-Sport we drove added a unique full-mesh grille and front bumper, LED headlamps, 18” split 5-spoke wheels, front sport seats, and a sport-tuned suspension. Inside, all F Sport models feature the same center-mounted tachometer with moving bezel adopted directly from the LFA. There is also the standard Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) with a Sport S+ drive mode. For the first time, the F Sport package is also available for IS AWD models.
Perhaps the biggest change is the smallest one: Lexus engineers added 2.7 inches to the overall wheelbase which now comes out to 110.2 inches. This adds 0.9 inches of leg room in the front and 1.6 inches in the rear, a formally snug place some have complained about in the past. The changes don’t stop there. The new IS is also heavier; the IS 250's 3,461-pound curb weight is up by 26 pounds, the IS 350 up by 66 pounds to 3,593. One thing that hasn’t changed for 2014 are the engines; the 2.5- and 3.5-liter DOHC V-6s are still there. The IS250 still has 204 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque, and the IS 350 has 306 horsepower with 277 lb-ft of torque. The IS 350 gets the eight-speed direct-shift automatic from the IS F while the other models still have the six-speed.
So what does all this mean? The new IS models are better to drive, and live with, than ever before. The new styling on the longer outside allow the IS to stand out and the unique grill on the F-Sport model will turn heads. There have been some reviews on the 2014’s have found them a little lacking when compared to their closest rival, the BMW 3 Series, on the track. But let’s face it, the truth is for a reviewer to test a car on an actual track is something done more for the simple fun of it, not for giving potential buyers any real insight. The everyday driver and that includes Lexus owners, will never get closer to a racetrack than the parking lot. The real testing comes on the road, dealing with everyday traffic; the worn out roads; the good bad and ugly. And in that scenario the Lexus IS 350 is nothing short of brilliant.
With its adaptive suspension the Lexus glides easily over the road; aggressive cornering is a breeze. The normal quality seen in every Lexus is very evident, including road noise which seems almost nonexistent. Flipping to the Sport mode and opening up is pure motoring joy.
So has Lexus made the new IS models better than good?
Absolutely. With new tweaks and a new styling that includes a new aggressive look what was a good machine is now much better. Can it compete with the BMW 3 Series? We feel that it at least is now on a level playing field. The only thing that could hold the new IS back in the price. The IS 350 F-Sport loaded will set you back $48,269 (the price for the model we tested), while the new 335i comes in at $44,075.
Lexus trumpeted the fact that for 2014 the base prices of their IS models are actually down. For the 350 the base price is 2.1% lower than the model it replaces. Given Lexus quality and its loyal following there is little doubt the new model will be successful. If it is now good enough to attract others outside the Lexus fold remains to be seen. One thing is certain, with the changes the IS lineup is now better than good, and that is a very good thing indeed.
The 2014 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport
Base price $39,465
Price as tested $48,269
Vehicle layout front-engine, rwd, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
Engine 3.5l/306-hp/277-lb-ft dohc 24-valve v-6
Transmission 8-speed automatic
EPA ratings 19 city/28 hwy
Mpg (as tested) 25 mpg
Curb weight 3797 lb
Wheelbase 110.2 in
Width (in.) 71.3
Height (in.) 56.3
Wheelbase (in.) 110.2
0-60 MPH 5.2 sec
Legroom, front (in.) 44.8
Legroom, rear (in.) 32.2
Headroom, front (in.) 38.2
Headroom, rear (in.) 36.9
Shoulder room, front (in.) 55.9
Shoulder room, rear (in.) 53.4
Seating capacity 5
Trunk volume (cu-ft) 13.8
Ground clearance (in.) 5.3
Bumper-to-bumper 4 years/50,000 miles
Powertrain 6 years/70,000 miles
Corrosion 6 years/Unlimited miles
Roadside assistance 4 years/Unlimited miles
Free scheduled maintenance First 2 scheduled visits.