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

Related articles on Autos
Buyer’s Guide: 2010 Lexus IS
Buyer’s Guide: 2009 Lexus IS
Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Lexus IS
Buyer’s Guide: 2007 Lexus IS
Buyer’s Guide: 2006 Lexus IS
Test Drive: 2010 Lexus IS 350C
Test Drive: 2007 Lexus IS 250 manual
Test Drive: 2007 Lexus IS 350
Test Drive: 2006 Lexus IS 350
Test Drive: 2006 Lexus IS 250 AWD
Test Drive: 2006 Lexus IS 250
Test Drive: 2006 Lexus IS 250
First Drive: 2006 Lexus IS
DBDR: 2007 Lexus IS 250
DBDR: 2007 Lexus IS 350

Manufacturer’s web site
Lexus Canada

Join Autos’s Facebook group
Follow Autos on Twitter

Review and photos by Grant Yoxon

Photo Gallery:
2011 Lexus IS

Gravenhurst, Ontario – If you want to sell luxury cars in Canada, all-wheel drive (AWD) is a must-have option. With the exception of the entry-level A3, Audi sells nothing but AWD. Mercedes-Benz offers AWD across its model range save for the B-Class. We’ve even heard rumours that BMW will soon discontinue rear-wheel drive on all its vehicles in Canada. Whether needed or not, luxury car buyers want, or rather, demand, AWD.

So it comes as no surprise that Lexus will now make AWD available on its luxury IS 350 sedan. Previously, both the IS 250 and IS 350 were available with rear-wheel drive, but only the IS 250 could be purchased with AWD.

Buyers who wanted an IS, which competes with the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, who wanted the power offered by the larger 306-horsepower, 3.5-litre engine, and who wanted all-wheel drive for the added foul weather confidence that AWD offers, were simply out of luck. If they wanted AWD they could only step down to the 204-horsepower IS 250, or they could look for a new car at Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz.

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

Obviously, that wouldn’t do.

On our short trip from Lexus’ Canadian headquarters in the east end of Toronto to Gravenhurst off Highway 11 north of Toronto, the Lexus IS 350 AWD proved to be the quick, powerful highway machine supreme that I remembered from an earlier test of the IS 350 RWD. It is comfortable on even the bumpiest of surfaces and one of the quietest sedans in this class. If it has any noticeable fault, it would be its comfort – the Lexus favours a softer ride over driver engagement. Some, perhaps many, would not consider that a fault.

While we really couldn’t put the new AWD system to the test, at no time did it feel like we were pushing around any extra weight. The rear-wheel drive IS 350 has an Energuide rating of 10.9 L/100 km in the city and 7.8 L/100 km on the highway. No doubt, the AWD version will be somewhat worse, but fuel consumption has not yet been determined for the federal government’s official rating guide.

The IS 350’s AWD is a full-time system that splits torque 30/70 front to rear.

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

If buyers want a sportier version of the IS 350, then rear-wheel drive is the way to go. An F-Sport Package, standard on the IS 350 RWD, takes inspiration from the IS F ultra-performance sedan, combining special suspension and steering tuning, and 18-inch wheels with distinctive design touches. Inside, special F-Sport heated front seats feature a special microfibre insert and leather side bolsters to provide more grip for the driver and passenger during cornering. The package also adds F-Sport badging to the steering wheel, shift knob and doorsill scuff plates. Giving the F-Sport Package model a sporty demeanour are a front lip spoiler and rear deck spoiler, plus 18-inch alloy wheels with a dark super-chrome finish with matching dark-chrome front grille insert.

Both the IS 350 RWD and AWD include Lexus’ Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM), stability control and traction control to keep them on the road, even when the weather turns bad.

A new front grille and bumper distinguish the IS sport sedans for 2011, while at the rear, there is a new tail light cover and revised tailpipe design. New high-intensity discharge (HID) headlamps with LED daytime running lamps are standard on the IS 350 and available for the IS 250.

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

Standard equipment for the IS 350 AWD includes dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power adjustable driver and passenger seats, leather seat surfaces (heated up front), smart key system with pushbutton start, Bluetooth connectivity, HID headlights with washers, and LED daytime running lights. A Lexus premium audio system with six-disc CD changer, USB audio input, XM satellite radio and 13 speakers is also standard.

A luxury package will add navigation system, Mark Levinson 14-speaker audio system, premium leather seat surfaces, wallet-size smart card key, power tilt and telescopic steering wheel, power rear sun shade, rain-sensing wipers, wood grain trim, illuminated scuff plates and three-position memory seat system.

Pricing for the 2011 IS 350 AWD has not yet been announced, but it shouldn’t be too far off the $45,900 price of the 2010 IS 350 RWD. The 2011 IS 350 RWD’s standard F-Sport package will likely offset much of the usual price differential between rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive models.

Connect with Autos.ca