November 10, 2005

●Lexus IS 350

Spent some time sampling the superb Lexus IS350. What a car! Really can't fault it in any way except maybe for the lack of rear room and, as ever in Japanese cars, the high driving position. Powered by the creamy-smooth 318PS 3.5 L V6 as used in the GS (the GS has 3PS less) the IS is as much of a performance car as it is a refined entry-level luxury car. And that's without going into how good it looks! I mean if you had the choice would you pick the IS or a BMW 3-series? I know which one I would take home.

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And then there is the interior. Again, nothing to fault. If you really want to be picky, and in cars this good it's the only way you will find some negative aspects to counterbalance your argument with, there are a few things that could be addressed. As mentioned the high driving position. Can't quite figure out why this was allowed to pass as Lexus proved they can do it right in the GS. Other than that the gear lever shifter looks dated and the plastic surrounding of the central console looks and feels cheap. The wood trim is totally out of place in a car like this and I really do wish more trim options were available like flat or brushed aluminium or even carbon fiber to reflect the sporty feel of the IS.

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The IS is an extremely comfortable car on the motorway and it can also be a hooligan's car, but not as much as you would assume. It lets you get away with the odd burn-out but for some reason Lexus has preferred to let the nannying stability control take over at the slightest hint of a slide. With all that shove coming from the V6 this happens all the time on wet roads. Brakes are superb and I was surprised to find some rather big 4-pot monoblock calipers up front. The 6-speed auto is excellent in every way and if you set it on "sport" it will downshift aggressively and even blip the throttle! But I'm sure I'm not the only one who would still appreciate a good old DIY manual. Superb car, a bit pricey here in Japan but an almost obvious choice over a BMW 330i.

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Posted by dino at November 10, 2005 02:46 PM
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