IS350 F-Sport shows Lexus has lots of life

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2014 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport

A few years ago I thought Lexus had lost its mojo.

It always built cars that were great value in the luxury field as well as those which you could drive the wheels off, buy new tires and drive for another dozen years or so. Yet, the SC 300 was the last true sexy thing the company made.

The IS was a good attempt, but it lacked until you moved up to that fire breathing V8. Then came F-Sport, the company’s fun-inducing arm which gave everything new life, even the family hauling RX. It also produced the to-lust-after LFA sports car.

That’s another story.

Now comes the revamped IS which the company totally gets right this time. It’s got the looks and hardware to take on everything in it’s class. Everything.

I find the new body stunning. From that now famous spindle grille to the funky taillights. There are plenty of aggressive lines between those two points and some tricked out tires and wheels. There are three versions: 250, 350 and 350 F-Sport. I got the F-Sport and was giddy with excitement.

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Interior gets lush upgrade

The F-Sport gets and even more aggressive grille, wheels and body bits. It also gets an adjustable suspension that works very well. The V6 engine pushes out 306 horsepower and 277 pounds-feet of torque. That’s the same as the outgoing model but that’s fine. This is a sweet engine that sounds better than it did but drives as well which is saying a lot. Sixty miles per hour can be obtained in about 5.6 seconds, even with the now standard automatic (which has eight speeds, by they way).

The suspension is an independent double wishbone up front with multilink in the rear. The 18-inch wheels are wonderful and the Bridgestone Turanza ER33 summer tires stick just about everything.

If you are wondering, this car’s performance numbers are in the same league with the Audi A4, BMW 3-Series and Caddy’s ATS.

Lexus tuned this car more for comfort because of complaints about last year’s jarring ride. This is very livable, but you can do some grin-inducing driving. The steering is precise and the suspension is good enough to call this thing a sports car. It can be a little soft, but just dial up the S+ setting and you will really have some fun.

Lexus also address the interior which is now some of a revelation. This now is worthy of a luxury brand. Every surface from the leather and metal dash to the comfy leather seats has been touched, pampered and attended. There is also more room in the rear seat.

You can immerse yourself in sound with the Mark Levinson surround system that has Satellite radio, CD, HD radio, 15 speakers and 835 watts. It’s still one of the best sounding original manufacturers equipment units available.

I do like this car a great deal. Quibbles? Slip the V8 in this body style and see what happens. Is the convertible ready yet? I’m waiting.

Lexus never lost it’s mojo. It put it aside for a bit to retune. I’s going to continue. There’s a stunning RC coupe on the way as well as other SUVs. Doesn’t look like the company plans to take a breath anytime soon.

 

wcross@alldaytech

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