It’s not easy to compete with cars like the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. To do it and succeed, you need a clear point of difference. For the Audi A4, that’s all-wheel-drive. The Jaguar XE? A total driver focus. But what about Lexus’s IS? Well, value for money continues to be a clear Lexus strong point – but that’s not all. With athletic lines, genuinely good looks and compelling driving dynamics, the IS is underrated among small premium sedans. That’s particularly true of the 2017 Lexus IS350, which couples a strong and silky 3.5-litre V6 to the properly competent IS chassis. Though the IS is available with smaller turbo or hybrid engines, it’s the IS350’s V6 that really suits this car. Add in the further F Sport package, and the looks get a much needed boost too, with F Sport adding great-looking wheels and more aggression to the front and rear end.
Basically, what Lexus is doing is offering the IS350 – a 233kW six-cylinder – for about the same price as a four-cylinder from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, or Audi. The Lexus isn’t that much faster – turbo fours are very quick now – but it’s the way the IS350 delivers its power that makes a difference. Compared to a clinical turbocharged four-cylinder, the Lexus’s smooth, linear, great-sounding six arguably delivers more driving enjoyment.
Then there’s the looks – they work well to my eyes. With just the right amount of creases, handsome graphite-grey wheels and the unique Nike-style tick in the LED running lights, the IS stands out from the other premium sedans, most of which are pretty conservative.
And good old Lexus value for money hasn’t gone anywhere. Even a $59,340 IS200t base model has LED headlights, smart entry, a big screen, heated and cooled seats, a digital radio, a power steering wheel, and most advanced safety technology. Our $73,540 IS350 F Sport was even more generous – with the V6, plus adaptive dampers, go-fast suspension tuning, bigger brakes, a premium stereo, digital gauges, and the remaining safety boxes, like blind spot monitoring, ticked. Only a sunroof – an extra $2,000 – is a pricey omission. Compared to a similarly-priced Mercedes C250, the Lexus offers far more kit for the money.
Key specs (as tested)
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