2014 Lexus IS 350 AWD
2014 Lexus IS 350 AWD. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Paul Williams

After driving about 1,500 kilometres over the past two weeks in the 2014 Lexus IS 350, I’m happy to report that this vehicle continues to impress. Overall it hits all the right notes for a car in the luxury sport sedan segment, and compares favourably with its German, Japanese and American competitors. Criticisms mostly centre around some interior details that may detract somewhat from the IS 350 driving experience.

However, first the positive comments. As I mentioned in my introduction to this series, I think Lexus has a real winner in the design of this car. Personally, I love the look of it, and the more you examine the surfaces of its sheet metal, the more you appreciate the IS 350’S dynamic lines. The car frequently generates admiring glances, for some presumably because it’s all new for 2014, but mostly, I should think, because its dramatic and classy profile is eye-catching and interesting.

I should also note (and my partner has commented on this several times) that the colour and quality of the paint on this car is outstanding. It’s called “Atomic Silver” and while you could argue that what we don’t need in Canada is yet another silver option for our vehicles, this particular shade is both modern and rich. It may well be that this colour itself is a head-turning feature of this IS 350 (it’s a no-extra-charge option).

On a recent trip from Ottawa to Toronto using the old Highway 7 as an alternative to the multi-lane 401 (Highway 7 is the original main highway connecting Ottawa to Toronto and beyond), I was able to experience the IS 350’s 305-hp V6 and six-speed automatic transmission to good effect when passing vehicles on this sometimes twisty and uneven two-lane highway.

2014 Lexus IS 350 AWD2014 Lexus IS 350 AWD2014 Lexus IS 350 AWD
2014 Lexus IS 350 AWD. Click image to enlarge

In short, the IS 350 has punch! Put your foot down and the six-speed automatic transmission quickly and smoothly finds a lower gear while the engine delivers instant power that makes brief and satisfying work of passing maneuvers. The vehicle also has the poise to match the power, providing a stable ride and predictable handling on all road surfaces encountered. At highway speeds the steering is tight, and when accelerating briskly, the exhaust emits a pleasing, sporty note.

Otherwise, all is quiet, calm and pleasantly uneventful. The sport seats, once we figured out how to adjust the very tall head restraints fore and aft, provide excellent support and comfort; the power lumbar adding a final touch to the adjustment process.

In contrast to higher-speed driving, on occasion I’ve found the steering in town to be a bit more sluggish than expected. Perhaps the character of the car leads one to expect a livelier response at slower speeds. While the IS 350 AWD is indeed sporty, you could argue that it tilts a bit more toward luxury on the sport-luxury spectrum.

2014 Lexus IS 350 AWD
2014 Lexus IS 350 AWD. Click image to enlarge

Our $52,949 all-wheel-drive (AWD) model includes the $6,800 F Sport Premium Package that considerably lengthens the feature sheet but doesn’t include memory for the eight-way power driver and passenger seats or power adjustability of the steering column. With two regular drivers this would be appreciated. Nor does this package include leather seating surfaces, supplying “NuLuxe” synthetic leather instead. While many would be hard-pressed to tell the difference, some make it a point to choose genuine versus synthetic, even thought this synthetic is lighter and very nicely presented. However, it appears that no F Sport–equipped IS model is available with leather seating surfaces.

The F Sport package, by the way, doesn’t specifically add power to the IS 350 AWD, but in Sport mode the vehicle’s new-for-2014 G-AI (G force Artificial Intelligence) will hold the correct gear in high-speed cornering, preventing destabilizing weight transfers due to an unexpected shift from the automatic transmission. Otherwise, the F Sport packages feature special interior and exterior styling and passive performance enhancements, including unique seats, very nice wheels, a more aggressive grille and aero body styling.

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