We would like to say a very big thank you to the team at Lexus Wellington (54 Kent Terrace) for allowing us use of their New Lexus IS350 F-Sport for our road tested review. Drop in anytime to see them anytime to check out their complete range of new and used Lexus.

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To be perfectly honest I have never paid much attention to Lexus when growing up. I was very aware of the brand, and knew they stood for quality and reliability, however the one word everyone always associated with them was bland. Lexus were not known for making bad cars, just not exciting ones, something that changed the day they released the LFA. This US$445,000 supercar was a  space age carbon fibre rocket ship powered by a 412 kW 9000 rpm redlining V10 that was so fast to respond they had to use an LCD dashboard as regular dials were too slow……. Lexus, you now have my attention.

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First impressions

The IS350 F-Sport stands apart from the regular crowd, the dynamic front end gives it a very distinctive appearance, which is heavily emphasised against lighter body colours. Lexus needed to take some risks, and the IS shows that they are thinking outside the box. From any angle you stand around this vehicle your eyes are drawn to follow any number of the intriguing curves, revealing new and interesting parts as you reach the end of each one. Lexus didn’t want the IS to be like other cars. From a manufacturer’s standpoint this is a good thing. The risk though, is whether the customer will love it or hate it for that very same reason.

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The Test Drive

Starting the IS350 F-Sport reminded me of some sort of futuristic sci-fi movie I used to watch in the 80’s. One press of the start button and the steering wheel moves into its adjusted position, the single dial behind it lights up and cycles through logos as it reveals the main instrument RPM gauge like a super computer booting up. Its a pretty simple process, but lexus had made an operation that you do every day a little more exciting, for me anyway. The different tech did take a bit of time to get used to, but no more than adjusting to any new car. You could very easily get lost in the many menus of the central dial, not that it was confusing, but that it was so very interesting, allowing you access to a vast amount of information that you don’t see on other cars.

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The interior of the IS felt very right, I’m not sure what it was exactly, but the positioning of buttons and heights of arm rests all felt like the cabin was built just for you. Outfitted in a mixture of soft touch plastics, leather, felt for headliners and some chrome finished plastics gave the cabin a high quality solid feel. The front sports seats were very supportive and comfy, while the rear seats still felt a bit like a park bench, as they lacked the depth the front seats had. When cruising along the motorway you notice there is something missing, wind noise, which is due to the redesigned body which give the IS a drag coefficient ratio of .28, less than the LFA. This mixed with the brand’s standard benchmark for comfort made the interior a very peaceful place to be when you want it.

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The day-to-day driving of the IS was a breeze, the steering was very light. and the 379Nm of torque provided by the 3.5L V6 cylinder easily moved the sedan’s weight without any strain. But a Lexus F-sport should not only be able to do peaceful and easy day to day living, it should be able to do exciting too.  It was time to test exciting!!!! Right below the the dog leg gear selections lay the drive mode selection dial, which allowed you to simply flick from the lazy comfort mode most auto’s offer to the more aggressive sport or sport+ mode the F badge had advertised. The main dial instantly lets you know you are now in sport mode as the outer RPM ring  fades to white, stiffening the suspension and giving you a very sensitive throttle control combination. This leaves the IS feeling perched and ready to pounce at a moment’s notice.  When you floor it, the 233kW from the naturally aspirated V6 sings like a fighter plane’s jet engine going to full burn. Popping through each gear with ease and pushing you on to 100km in 5.9 seconds.  The LFA’s mark is also left on the main dial with each gear shift leaving behind a ghost impression of the rpm needle as you changed gear. In sports+ the steering is pinpoint accurate, going exactly where you ask it to go every time. The entire package, performance, hi-tech gadgets and  handling sometimes made you forget you were driving a 4 door sedan.

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I unexpectedly came across a feature that quite impressed me, while in traffic a car on front of me jammed on with about 5 ft in between us.  I was well aware of the car on front and what it was doing but the dash alerted me, providing a split second’s chance in the event of a distraction. This is something I thought was a very neat and possibly more widely required safety feature. Though the IS is no lightweight supercar the brakes are very powerful and bring the vehicle to a complete stop in very little space. The brakes performed very well under spirited driving, but lacked in visual appeal. Many manufactures  miss this opportunity on sport models,  slotted or drilled rotors would have completed the performance package nicely.

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What it’s up against.

The IS350 F-Sport finds itself sitting right in the middle of the field, but unlike some of other brands the IS comes with a huge array of standard features, leaving you little need for optional extras, making the IS350 F-Sport seriously good value for money.

 

Brand / ModelEnginePowerFuel L/100kmLuggage CapacityPrice Highest to Lowest
Audi S43.0L V6 TFSi245 kw / 440 Nm8.1L / 100km480 Litres$121,400
BMW 335i3.0L V6 Turbo225 kw / 400 Nm7.2L / 100km480 Litres$107,000
Lexus IS350 F-Sport3.5L V6 DOHC233 kw / 378 Nm9.7L / 100km480 Litres$105,995
Jaguar XF3.0L V6 Turbo Diesel180 kw / 500 Nm6.0L / 100km500 Litres$100,000
Mercedes C3003.0L V6 Turbo185 kw / 340 Nm7.9L / 100km475 Litres$99,900
Holden Caprice V6.0L V8 AFM260 kw / 320 Nm12.1L / 100km535 Litre$85,490

 

 

ProsCons
  • Powerful engine with buckets of torque.
  • Very planted feeling, with confident feedback through the wheel.
  • Jet engine like sound was very nice above 3000 rpm.
  • Hi-tech LFA inspired dashboard is in one word, Cool.
  • Driver’s position gave you a command chair feeling with wrap around dash and center console.
  • Gear stick position very ergonomic, easy and fun to use.
  • Drive mode selections, easy to use and very quick to respond.
  • Amazingly quiet inside, due to aerodynamic design.
  • Striking and very distinctive look, caught a lot of attention.
  • Very comfortable interior, very supportive seats.
  • Impressive array of standard options making it better value for money than its competitors.
  • Rear seats fold down flat for extra cargo space.
  • The engine noise between ideal and 2500 rpm does sound a bit lackluster, it would have been nice if this had a deeper more powerful feel to match the torque.
  • Gear stick lacked some driver feedback resistance, and sometimes felt too digital like a joystick.
  • Nowhere on the dash other than in front of the central display screen to just leave your phone, wallet or put something down.
  • Rear seats did not have a lot of legroom for taller people.
  • Legacy interior touches like the central analogue clock are not worth hanging on to. Far too many people commented on it as a feature that did not blend with the rest of the hi-tech look.
  • More a personal one, not a fan of dead pedal foot brakes. Considering the amount of tech they have throughout the car, I think Lexus could have made the handbrake an automatic or push button brake like other brands.

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What do we think ?

The IS350 F-Sport really surprised me, I was not sure what to expect. Refined luxury mixed with an enjoyable powertrain. You can cruise for hours on end in comfort, and with a flick of the dial the dashboard reveals it has engaged sports mode and it’s time to have a bit of fun. All round I was very impressed with this car, hi-tech, well built and in its class very good value for money

Rating – Chevron rating 4 out of 5

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2013 Lexus IS350 F-Sport

Vehicle TypeFront Engine, RWD, 5 Door Sedan
Starting Price$105,995 NZD
Tested Price$108,595 NZD
Engine3.5L 24v DOHC VVT-i V6,233 kw / 312 hp, 378 Nm
Transmission8-Speed Sport Direct Shift
0 – 100 kph5.9 seconds
Curb Weight1685 kg
Length x Width x Height4665 x 2027 x 1420 mm
Cargo Capacity480 Litres
Fuel Tank66 litres
FuelUrban 12.3 L/100km

Motorway 8.4 L/100km

Combined 10.1 L/100km, 116 g/km CO2

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