2014 Lexus IS350 F SPORT Track Tested

6 Apr 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on 2014 Lexus IS350 F SPORT Track Tested
Lexus IS350

2014 Lexus IS350 F SPORT Track Tested

by Ryan ZumMallen on 10.24.2013 10:50

Amid all the high-horsepower bona fide track stars lined up along the Streets of Willow, the 2014 Lexus IS350 F SPORT may seem a bit underwhelming. It’s like the kid that’s just trying too hard to look cool, with a massive front grille and F SPORT package officially spelled out in Caps Lock. It also looks remarkably similar to the previous generation IS, with a few extra swoops and jagged edges tacked on again, for an almost desperately edgy look.

It would appear that Lexus wanted to add the aura of performance, rather than actual performance. But that’s not the case at all, actually.

While the 3.5L V6 engine with 306 horsepower and 277 lb.-ft of torque hasn’t changed, Lexus beefed up nearly every other component in the car. Rear-wheel drive models like this one come with an excellent new eight-speed automatic transmission, and the F SPORT package ($3,620 option) adds variable gear ratio steering, adaptive and variable suspension, bigger brakes, 18-inch wheels and summer times. When you put it all together on the track, the result is fantastic.

Not surprisingly, the new transmission and the smart suspension are all-stars at high speed. Large, easy to grab paddle shifters tick off the gears with impressive speed, and in SPORT S+ Mode, the old Lexus engine even joins the party with extra pep and rev-happy roars. The 2014 IS350 F SPORT feels lighter than its 3,800-lb. curb weight, thanks largely to the suspension.

In the rear is an all-new multilink design, while the front double wishbone is adopted from the larger GS, and in SPORT S+ they work together to keep the IS350 F SPORT grounded and steady around hair-raising bends.

A surprise star, though, is the steering. It’s electronic, which makes low speeds breezy and high speeds firmed up, but typically numbs driving feel and feedback. In the IS350, in many ways a Toyota at heart, this is a dangerous situation.

But rather than rob the car of its inherent athleticism, the Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS) system enhances it, coming alive when pushed to the limit and delivering true and precise orders to the front wheels. There are tiny nibbles of understeer, but the IS350 F SPORT is a dramatic improvement over past models and carves through corners swinging swords like Shinobi .

Lexus IS350

Confidence from the suspension and steering will have you hitting apexes like a pro, which means you can get onto the throttle faster. And in the end, isn’t that the ultimate goal of this whole thing? The sound kicking out the back is more cool than inspiring, or hair-raising, but you’ll be having so much fun you won’t care.

This being a Lexus, however, there are nanny systems galore that you’ll want to disable before becoming one with your car. Simply push the button to turn off traction control. Then, hold it down longer to disable stability control a step that I missed.

I wish I hadn’t. The ESC applied those capable brakes to certain wheels to reduce both oversteer and sliding, both of which I wanted to activate, not hamper, and it also handcuffed the engine out of several sliding turns when I could have really used some throttle. But these systems are in place for a reason, and it’s safety, not entertaining some hooligan.

Enjoy it on the road and turn it off on the track, and you’ll find a longtime friend in the 2014 Lexus IS350 F SPORT. At bigger issue is the transmission. While fast and crisp, the IS350 will automatically shift up without prompting and ignore downshifts, even in Manual mode.

With thrilling new gadgets and digital wares all over the luxurious interior, the IS350 F SPORT has jumped with, say, 1.5 feet into the modern performance realm. In base trim, the car starts at $39,465 MSRP and this tested model runs $47,374. While past models promised performance, this one mostly delivers.

If this is what the mid-level sedan can do, imagine the 2015 IS-F.

Visit the autoMedia.com Lexus Research Center for quick access to reviews, pricing, photos, mpg and more. Make sure to follow autoMedia.com on Twitter and Facebook .

Lexus IS350
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