2014 Lexus IS350 F-Sport – The ZEN Luxury Car

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2014 Lexus IS350

2014 Lexus IS350 Overview

Ask any automotive historian about a Lexus, and he or she will likely rave about the luxury qualities it has to offer.  What they won’t rave about is its boring styling and numb driving behaviour.  ”Its an old man’s car!” was a common statement directed towards the Lexus brand during my days in Math 12 class. Regardless of the fact that it was a statement between rookies that thought they knew a lot about cars, I’d have to agree.  It was the perfection and attention to every small detail that earned them the strong reputation of both luxury and reliability minus the aggressive styling and exceptional driving experience that other auto manufacturers had to offer at that time.

Emblem Logo

2014 Lexus IS350 Emblem

With that being said, Lexus didn’t screw around when it comes to perfection.  The attitude and mindset helped solidify the quality of the Lexus platform.  But saturated in improvement, board members at Lexus now had figure out a ways to keep their engineers and designers from twiddling their thumbs.  This was when they started catching up in improving their performance and handling.

The first debuted IS series in 2006 was the first evidence of the Lexus revolution.  Geared towards the younger crowd, the IS series sparked a new perception of what the Lexus brand could become in the upcoming years.

F Sport Package

If you’ve been a follower of the Lexus IS series, you’ll know that it isn’t exactly a driver’s car in terms of handling and performance.  That is, until you get your hands on the F sport trim models.

F-Sport Emblem

F-Sport Emblem

I believe that cars follow the same concepts of women.  It enlarges and multiplies what is given to it.  Give the Lexus IS350 an addition whopping 9,200$ to upgrade to the F Sport package, and surely, you can expect amazing things in return.  The main performance features included in the IS350 F-Sport package include F SPORT leather steering wheel, front and rear adaptive variable suspension, 18″ F-sport wheels, and 225/40R18 tires.  In terms of luxury features, you get a 15 speaker Mark Levinson sound audio system, heated front seats, voice activated navigation, a bundle of F-Sport ornaments and a plethora of safety features including dynamic radar cruise control, backup camera, lane departure alert and rear cross traffic alert.

Performance

Under the hood lies the relished Lexus IS350 3.5 liter V-6 engine producing 306 horsepower and 277 ft-lbs of torque.  The AWD powertrain option at hand is in favor of a front wheel drive-like behavior with a 60/40 front-rear torque split ratio.  Ideal for those exposed to harsh weather conditions or prefer more traction, but for the rest that want the tail-whipping effect should opt for the rear wheel drive drive-train option.

In the AWD drive-train, the Lexus IS350 V6 engine is coupled to a 6 speed automatic transmission.  A pitfall to choosing the AWD option because the RWD option comes equipped with an 8-speed automatic transmission.  It sounds disappointing, but on another perspective, I’ve always found 8 speeds to be a bit excessive, especially if you rarely spend any time on the track..  Nevertheless, the 6 speed manual transmission tested on the AWD model is quick and snappy.

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2014 Lexus IS350 F Sport

The 2014 Lexus IS350 allows you to select between three drive modes: normal, Eco and sport mode through a simple two-way spring loaded knob.  Turn the knob clockwise puts the Lexus IS350 into Eco mode that attenuates throttle response; thus, increasing fuel economy while turning the knob clockwise sharpens up the suspension, steering and throttle response.  Gears are also held on a lot longer to attain higher revs between shift points to maximize power output.  Finally, pushing down the knob resets the drive mode back to normal.

Exclusive to the 2014 IS350 rear wheel drive model is an option to add Variable Gear Ratio Steering that adjusts the optimum steering gear ratio with respect to car speeds.  Perhaps another reason to opt for the RWD option, but we definitely had no complaints with the stock power steering on the AWD model.

F-Sport Cabin Space

When it comes to Lexus, there is a lot to expect in the interior and the Lexus IS350 F-Sport doesn’t disappoint.  The moment you climb in, you will know the Lexus IS350 F-Sport is a driver’s car from the tightly bolstered seats an small steering wheel.  Lexus has always been known for its quality in the overall looks and feel in its cabin space, but the Lexus IS350 seemed to have focused more on the former.  Overall electronic controls feel condensed but still easily accessible.  Inspired by the LFA and certainly pleasing to the eye, but we did find the capacitive sliding touch temperature control to be a bit finicky, and the sandy texture and micro-size stereo volume knob lacks the quality of the touch and feel.

Interior

2014 Lexus IS350 F Sport

There’s are a lot to brag about owning the F-Sport, but the first thing you’d brag about is the instrument cluster.  Exclusive to the F-Sport and also inspired by the LFA is an LCD single-dial tachometer enclosed by a patterned aluminum ring and a serene blue moon color scheme.  Switch to sport mode, and the instrument cluster immediately switches into a state of visual seriousness with a thickened high contrast tachometer and rev line latch feature.  What’s even cooler is the mechanical sliding LCD tachometer.  Push the window button located on the left side of the steering wheel shifts the entire LCD tachometer to the right and reveals a secondary LCD display with additional menus and status features such as radio control, GPS navigation and fuel economy.

LFA Cluster

Beautiful Lexus F-Sport Instrument Cluster. Left side shows cluster in normal drive mode.

The Lexus IS series has always suffered from the lack of leg room in the back seats, but the 2014 year model seemed to have sorted this out thanks to its additional 1.6 inches.  Choice of leather material has also deviated from the previous generation, but the quality is still retained and the dotted texture is soft to the touch and friction of the material is just right.

LFA cluster sliding

2014 Lexus IS350 F Sport AWD Instrument Panel Cluster

Driving Impression and Final Thoughts

Lexus has done an excellent job in offering a good balance of both comfort and performance in the 2014 IS350 F-Sport. In normal drive mode, the throttle response and suspensions are relaxed, making city and highway driving more enjoyable.  While adaptive suspensions does make a difference in terms of comfort, the overall ride quality of the F-Sport still lies on the stiff side.  The automatic transmission shift points are well tuned and provide smooth transition between gear shifts.

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2014 Lexus IS350

Switching the F-Sport into sport mode is where the fun begins.  The F-Sport is fairly obedient to throttle response.  At 306 horsepower available on the AWD platform, acceleration doesn’t deliver a thrilling effect, but all of its 8.3 seconds it takes to reach 60 mph is buttery smooth.  The snappy manual gear shifts via paddle shifters really enhances the driving experience of the F-Sport thanks to minimized delay and torque filtering in between gear shifts.  The sharp torque transition really makes the F-Sport fun to drive when shifting at high revs, but the amount of stress induced on the drive-train over-time questions the reliability of the over time.

The added complexity and coordination of traction between all four wheels is apparent during acceleration in the F-Sport.  The AWD platform suffers from a .  The steering in the F-Sport provides excellent feedback  and gives the driver an excellent feel of road.

Rated at a combined fuel economy of 21 mpg in between 19 and 26 mpg city and highway respectively, the Lexus IS350 F-Sport doesn’t score too bad especially for its power capability.  But keep in mind that what’s printed on a brochure can differ from reality.  With 306 horsepower at your disposal and the handling performance the F-Sport has to offer, it’s pretty easy to sink well below the aforementioned fuel economy rating.  Purchasers should be prepared to fork out the extra cash to drive the IS350 as it only drinks premium gas.  Our tested model is priced at $55,682.

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2014 Lexus IS350 F Sport AWD

This is considered a fairly premium price point for most buyers.  The less performance craved crowd can also opt for a more affordable IS250 model with a smaller 2.5 liter engine displacement.  Lexus also offers an F-sport trim model for enhanced luxury features.

Audi and Subaru has always reigned over the AWD realm and as great as the IS350 F Sport drives, the BMW 3 series surpasses its handling and overall thrill factor.  So where does the Lexus IS350 F sport fit into the picture?  What you do get is the zen feel from its exceptional exterior styling and overall drive comfort and performance ratio not offered by the former choices.