Lexus IS350 F-Sport – AskMen

28 Apr 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Lexus IS350 F-Sport – AskMen
Lexus IS350

Lexus IS350


Price: $48,190

0-60 time: 5.6 seconds

MPG / LPG: City 18; Highway 25

A change is happening at Lexus. The company known for its competent — yet somewhat soulless — luxury cars is actively pursuing the younger, performance-minded auto enthusiast. Two generations of the IS sedan have lured new enthusiasts to the brand, and the V8-powered IS F has shown the world that Lexus is ready to run with established performance icons like the M3 and RS4.

However, not every potential Lexus owner can afford the IS F’s $60K price tag, and Lexus wants to make sure that a broader range of consumer can enjoy the company’s new dedication to sport tuning. So, Lexus introduced its line of F-Sport performance accessories at the 2007 SEMA show in Las Vegas. Think of F-Sport as Lexus’ version of TRD or Nismo: factory-engineered products designed to enhance performance while maintaining OEM-like levels of reliability.

The latest car to benefit from this line of F-Sport products is the IS350, and we got the chance to take a fully loaded F-Sport IS350 for a spin.

All the upgrades are pricey, but not all of them effective. For our money, we’d add just the suspension and brake upgrades and save a few grand by ignoring the engine stuff — but that’s just us.

The 3.5-liter V6 in the F-Sport IS350 breathes a bit easier thanks to a performance air intake and axle-back exhaust. The intake utilizes a high-flow air filter and a TIG-welded machined aluminum pipe. Lexus claims that this C.A.R.B. legal intake can provide up to a 3% increase in rear-wheel horsepower.

The 60-millimeter axle-back exhaust is made of polished 304 stainless steel and provides up to a 1.5% bump in power.

Suspension upgrades consist of progressive lowering springs, Bilstein shocks and thicker sway bars. Our test car was also equipped with forged 19-inch wheels wrapped in very sticky Michelin rubber. A brake upgrade, consisting of massive two-piece rotors squeezed by six-piston calipers up front and four-piston calipers in the rear, was also added to our test car.

So, how does this car drive? To us, it doesn’t seem that different from the standard IS350. Power delivery is strong, but the response still feels like it is being choked by the flappy-paddle automatic transmission.

If any Lexus could benefit from a six-speed manual, or at least a good dual clutch auto, it would be this one. You can tell that the power is there and wants to get out, it’s just that the transmission won’t let it. There’s also a very annoying, very loud drone at about 2,500 rpm, a spot in which the engine likes to spend a lot of time.

Handling is a much better story. Despite being much stiffer than stock, the F-Sport IS350’s ride is really quite composed. We dare say that the ride can even be described as “comfortable.” The sticky Michelin Pilots provide an incredible amount of grip, and the feedback they send to the steering wheel lets the driver really feel engaged with the road.

The only problem with these tires, as is the case with most sets of performance rubber, is that they cause the car to tramline a lot. Anyone expecting a leisurely “Lexus-like” driving experience — in which you just point the car in the direction you want to go and forget about everything else — will be sorely disappointed.

The most amazing upgrade in this car has to be the brakes. Yeah, they squeak, as all performance brakes do, but damn, do they ever stop the car well. The car will go from any speed to zero the instant you stomp on the “stop” pedal.

And even after repeated heavy braking, these stoppers won’t show any sign of fade.

The Lexus IS350 F-Sport manages to be what the IS F isn’t — attractive. The F-Sport’s lowered stance, dished wheels and rolled exhaust tips add just the right amount of menace to the already-handsome standard IS sedan. But beyond the bright blue brake calipers or polished exhaust tips, the F-Sport’s image is pretty understated.

Inside the IS350 F-Sport, well, nothing has changed. It’s the same interior that is found in any IS350. Driving position is good, though the low roof makes things seem a bit cramped for taller drivers.

The backseat isn’t all that usable, but since we’re not in the business of carting our friends or colleagues around, the tight backseat really isn’t a concern for us. Our test car also came with Lexus’ excellent touchscreen nav/command system, complete with rearview camera. All in all, the cockpit was what you’d expect from a Lexus, but we’d like to see at least an F-Sport performance seat upgrade offered in the near future.

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