2011 Lexus IS 350 AWD
2011 Lexus IS 350 AWD. Click image to enlarge

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Lexus IS

Manufacturer’s web site
Lexus Canada

Review and photos by Paul Williams

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2011 Lexus IS

Since its most recent redesign in 2008, the Lexus IS compact luxury sedan has been available in rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive versions, with a choice of two V6 engines: a 2.5-litre or a considerably more powerful 3.5-litre engine. However, if you wanted all-wheel drive you could only purchase the IS with the 2.5 engine.

Along with changes to the front and rear fascias, new trim for the instrument panel and new 18-inch wheels, the big Lexus IS news for 2011 is that the IS 350 is now available with all-wheel drive.

Starting at $44,950, the IS 350 AWD arrives with a six-speed, paddle-shifting automatic transmission and can be optioned to $48,700 with the Navigation Package and $52,950 with Navigation and Luxury packages.

Standard features on the IS 350 AWD include dual-zone automatic climate control, six-disc CD changer with USB input and XM satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity, rear-seat pass through, keyless entry with pushbutton start, multi-information display, leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated mirrors with integrated turn signals, automatic headlamps, fog lamps, leather upholstery, LED daytime running lights and xenon headlamps with washers.

2011 Lexus IS 350 AWD
2011 Lexus IS 350 AWD
2011 Lexus IS 350 AWD. Click image to enlarge

The 3.5-litre V6 engine makes 306 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 277 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 rpm. Fuel consumption is rated at 11.4 L/100 km city and 7.8 L/100 km highway, requiring premium fuel.

Our test car with Navigation and Luxury was wearing Gislaved winter tires rather than the standard performance rubber.

The IS 350 AWD started readily in the extreme cold weather experienced during the period of our test drive. The cold temperatures were accompanied by a generous helping of snow which made the roads very slippery, and a fitting challenge for the IS 350 AWD.

Traction from a standing-start was achieved without fuss; the car tracking straight ahead as required, and without wheel-slip at any corner. In fact, the traction control system rarely intervened when starting; such was the vehicle’s capability on snowy surfaces – most impressive.

The IS 350 AWD stopped confidently as well, but although it feels inherently well-balanced (and well-behaved), the winter tires certainly contributed to vehicle stability in corners and when stopping.

On dry surfaces, the engine’s power can be properly experienced. The IS 350 AWD responds enthusiastically to the throttle, accelerating briskly to highway speeds. The steering is quick and the suspension is supple, making this car feel very much a competitor in the luxury sports sedan segment.

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