After spending a lot of time on the street and a little bit of time on the track in the 2014 Lexus IS, we came to the conclusion that while it has certainly gotten better in all areas, it was in luxury and technology where it had improved the most. But, only some more serious track time would help us decide for sure. So, it’s around Savannah’s Roebling Road Raceway we go in the IS350 f sport!
Asian luxury sport sedans, like this new generation 2014 Lexus IS350 F Sport have a very tough job. They must not only perform great, but they have to do so without losing appeal to their brand’s core customers. All while being compared to German sport sedans whose typical buyer’s value how well a car handles more than how smooth it rides.
That brings us to this IS350 F Sport, at Roebling Road Raceway, doing its best to convince us that it’s a legitimate sport sedan while remaining every bit a Lexus.
Most impressive early on, was the very smooth power delivery. Admittedly, 306-horsepower is not exactly a monstrous amount to distribute to the track, but the IS does so through its rear wheels efficiently and easily. It also stays flatter than expected in corners, turns in snappily, behaves neutrally; with brakes that are great and powerful. Yet somehow it still doesn’t have that nailed-down sport sedan feel that most customers in this segment think they want.
We think, in the IS’ case, it boils down to a really good chassis and suspension in search of a better power to weight ratio. The IS350 weighs in at 36-hundred pounds; and while that’s not obese, it is a little heavier than its lightest rivals and you really feel that extra weight in quick side-to-side transitions. A little more bottom end power and perhaps a manual transmission to replace the standard 8-speed automatic would go a long way as a cure.
Also, the F Sport package doesn’t include many hardware updates, just some slight suspension retuning, staggered 18-inch wheels with summer tires, upgraded brake pads, and a more aggressive Sport+ driving mode for the Adaptive Variable Suspension. Nor does it get you any additional power from the 3.5-liter V6, as numbers remain at 306-horsepower and 277 lb-ft. of torque.
Still, that is enough to get you to 60 in less than 6-seconds, but our test day’s 30-degree air temps made for a cold track, and kept us right at 6.0-seconds flat. Once rolling, things got a little better, but still our quarter-mile time was a little slower than expected at 14.4-seconds at 100 miles-per-hour.
Shifts from the 8-speed automatic were adequately quick, and can be triggered with steering wheel mounted paddles should you so choose. All-wheel-drive IS350’s get a 6-speed automatic only.
While not the most dynamic looking car in the segment, sporting mods to the F Sport do help the cause. They include a restyled front fascia with more aggressive looking grille and full-LED headlights.
Fitting for Lexus, everything else remains the same; no crazy spoilers or ground effects. Just some tasteful badging on the front fenders. Wheelbase is 110.2-inches, which slides in between the BMW 3-Series and Cadillac’s ATS, while overall length of 183.7-inches is more than either.
The sporting transformation is a bit more complete inside with F Sport seats and steering wheel, aluminum pedals, silver trim, and black headliner. Our favorite feature by far, is the LFA-inspired TFT gauge cluster with sliding panel.
And of course you’ll still find plenty of Lexus comfort in all seating positions, and a very generous 13.8 cubic-ft. of trunk space.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 19-City, 28-Highway, and 22-Combined. The Energy Impact Score is average at 15.0-barrels of annual oil consumption with CO2 emission of 6.5-tons.
As for pricing, $40,525 will get you a base IS350. Adding the F Sport package for $3,620 will bring your total to $44,145, and that doesn’t include navigation.
While we wouldn’t pick the 2014 Lexus IS350 F-Sport over a comparable BMW 3 Series, or for that matter the Cadillac ATS, we still found plenty to like. It equates itself well enough on the track, and owners will certainly find it enjoyable on the occasional windy back road. All with no loss in the high comfort quotient Lexus is known for. Frankly, that’s a pretty impressive achievement in itself. So, while the IS is no 3 Series, the 3 Series is no IS either.
Engine: 3.5-liter V6
Torque: 277 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 6.0 seconds
1/4 mile: 14.4 seconds at 100 mph
EPA: 19 mpg city/ 28 mpg highway
CO2 Emissions: 15.0 barrels of oil/yr
Energy Impact: 6.5 tons/yr