Test Drive: 2012 Lexus IS 350 AWD car test drives reviews luxury cars lexus
2012 Lexus IS 350 AWD. Click image to enlarge

More Lexus IS reviews on Autos.ca

Manufacturer’s web site
Lexus Canada

Review and photos by Paul Williams

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2012 Lexus IS

While many consumers have migrated from cars to SUVs and CUVs, there’s still a strong market for sedans, with the entry luxury segment hotly contested. There are so many nice vehicles from which to choose, all priced similarly. The brands are familiar: BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi from Germany; a new entry to be released from Cadillac; Infiniti, Acura, Volvo… you get the picture.

Lexus is in the thick of it with the IS line of luxury compacts, introduced in its current form in 2006.

The Lexus IS is available with a 2.5-litre V6 engine that makes 204 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque, or as in our subject IS 350 AWD, a 3.5-litre V6 that considerably increases performance to 306 hp and 277 lb.-ft. torque, and adds all-wheel drive.

Test Drive: 2012 Lexus IS 350 AWD car test drives reviews luxury cars lexus
2012 Lexus IS 350 AWD. Click image to enlarge

The base price of this vehicle is $44,950 (plus $1,950) freight/pdi, although our test car added the $7,900 Luxury with Navigation Package, which, with freight and environmental fees brought the pre-tax price to $54,935.

You get a lot for your money in the base car: all-wheel drive, six-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, 17-inch aluminum wheels, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth connectivity and USB audio input, satellite radio, and the usual array of power-operated utilities and safety technologies.

But the Luxury with Navigation Package is required to bring the IS 350 AWD up to expected full luxury standards, and it includes the Mark Levinson, 14-speaker audio system, premium leather seat surfaces, heated and ventilated front seats, power tilt and telescopic steering, reversing sensors, power rear window sunshade, hard-drive based navigation system with back-up camera, power moonroof, rain-sensing wipers, woodgrain trim and front illuminated “Lexus” scuff plates.

Test Drive: 2012 Lexus IS 350 AWD car test drives reviews luxury cars lexus
2012 Lexus IS 350 AWD. Click image to enlarge

The design of the IS 350 is pretty much unchanged from its introduction six years ago. It’s a rakish, wedge shape that represents a somewhat aggressive take on the current Lexus L Finesse design language. It looks sporty coming and going.

On the road the IS 350 AWD is smooth and responsive, and although I tend to be a rather conservative driver on public roads, this car rewards a heavier right foot with brisk and exhilarating acceleration. When starting from standstill, the all-wheel drive option provides superb traction on slippery surfaces, and when passing is required on a twisty two-lane highway, the IS 350 AWD can really get a move on.

The controls are very easy to operate, with amenities like audio, climate, navigation accessible via buttons on the centre stack, or on the touch-screen display. Either way, this is a very intuitive interface that simplifies operation of the car and its myriad features.

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