Review and photos by Paul Williams

A 20-degree mid-October morning in Ottawa is always welcome, but given our usually gloomy fall climate, it’s definitely suspicious. This was the first day of our long-term 2014 Lexus IS 350 AWD test drive, and indeed on the way to pick up the car, the temperature plunged, clouds raced in, the wind picked up and down came the rain.

No nice photos today!

2014 Lexus IS 350 F Sport
2014 Lexus IS 350 F Sport
2014 Lexus IS 350 F Sport. Click image to enlarge

Which was too bad because the 2014 IS 350 is redesigned for this year, and a great way to begin a relationship with a new vehicle is to get close with a camera. Pictures would have to wait, and focusing on the new interior would instead be the first order of business.

That, and finding the control for the standard rain-sensing windshield wipers.

The Lexus IS is a compact luxury sport sedan that’s available with a choice of two engines (2.5L V6 and 3.5L V6), rear-wheel drive (RWD) and all-wheel drive (AWD) and in several levels of trim. Lexus points out that the 2014 IS can be purchased in 22 specification packages, which explains why it can start at  $37,300 (in IS 250 RWD form), while our IS 350 AWD stickers at a more formidable $50,800 (or $52,929 including options, freight/PDI and the various taxes and fees applied to new car sales in Ontario).

For this type of vehicle, though, the pricing is by no means out of line. Its competitors include the three-pronged attack from Germany in the form of the BMW 3 Series, the Audi A4 and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, along with the new Infiniti Q50, Cadillac CTS or ATS and a range of upmarket mainstream vehicles eyeing the luxury segment. It’s not lonely in this particular sandbox.

2014 Lexus IS 350 F Sport
2014 Lexus IS 350 F Sport. Click image to enlarge

Our test car is the $44,000 IS 350 AWD with a $6,800 F Sport Premium Package. It’s Atomic Silver in colour with a black leather interior. Its 3.5L V6 engine carries over from the outgoing generation – still making 305 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 277 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm – and is matched to a six-speed automatic transmission (no manual is available, although an eight-speed automatic arrives with the IS 350 RWD). A standard centre-console-mounted Drive Select system permits the driver to toggle between Eco, Normal and Sport modes.

Standard IS 350 AWD features include dual zone automatic climate control, eight-way power driver and passenger seat with power lumbar support for the driver, auto dimming mirror, side window defoggers, power windows with auto up/down on all windows, Bluetooth, SiriusXM satellite radio, integrated garage door opener, smart key system, push-button start, 17-inch aluminum wheels, automatic bi-xenon headlight system with auto-levelling, fog lamps and LED daytime running lights.

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