Visually, 2018 Lexus IS models showcase a sleeker and more aggressive exterior than their predecessors. The blacked out “B” pillar and bright surround trim gives the aerodynamic sedan a coupe-like persona. Fresh from its redesign in 2017, the front fascia of the IS leads off with striking headlamps and large air intakes in the front bumper. The air intakes flow off the fenders, framing a grille that folds back at a higher point, emphasizing its road-hugging stance. Lexus sculptured the hood with a raised center portion flowing rearward from the top of the Lexus signature “Spindle” grille. Beneath those, the L-theme LED daytime running lights provide a dramatic daytime glow.
There are three engines available in Lexus’ smallest sedan. The 2018 IS 300 and IS 350 are also available in RWD and AWD. The rear-wheel drive IS 300 features a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine that produces 241 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The IS 300 RWD comes equipped exclusively with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The IS 300 AWD model, despite a similar name, packs a 3.5-liter V-6 with a 260 horsepower and 236 lb-ft torque. Finally, the RWD IS 350 – also mated to an eight-speed automatic, comes with a 311 horsepower 3.5-liter V6 with 277 lb-ft of torque. AWD models use a six-speed automatic transmission.
All IS sedans feature ECO, NORMAL, SNOW and SPORT modes. Equipping the IS 300 with the F SPORT package also adds Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) on top of the drive modes.
COMFORT AND CONVENIENCE
Inside, the driver-oriented cockpit design also draws its inspiration from other, more expensive Lexus models. The dashboard is divided into two separate zones. There’s a display zone and an operation zone, each providing drivers more comfortable and ergonomic interaction with the car’s systems. The long wheelbase and a special front-seat design increases rear seat legroom and the rear features standard 60:40 split-folding seats. There are soft touch finishes throughout, including padding on the center console sides. The F SPORT Package available for both models offers a Silver Metallic trim analog clock with surface-emitting illumination. The Lexus IS also comes equipped with safety and technology features that include Enform Safety Connect and Enform Service Connect. Both are now complimentary for the first 10 years of ownership.
The navigation system provides enhanced capability through the second-generation
Lexus Remote Touch Interface. Lexus also fits a 15-speaker, 835-watt Mark Levinson Premium Surround System as optional equipment. The standard Display Audio system incorporates HD Radio, Bluetooth audio, a vehicle information display, as well as traffic and weather data provided via HD Radio.
The 2018 Lexus IS 350 offers up 311 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque at the driver’s disposal. Power delivery is what one would expect, and it exudes a quite pleasant sound. In terms of handling characteristics, the IS 350 RWD remains agile and planted, even with drive sent to just two wheels. Lexus doesn’t feature a manual gearbox here. The company’s reasoning for that decision lies with today’s automatic transmissions that are capable of delivering a higher level of performance.
The ride quality is firm and stable, but it’s not at all harsh. The interior ambience seemed well above average. The 2018 Lexus IS has exceptionally comfortable and supportive seats in base trim. The F SPORT seats, however, do provide the best support during spirited maneuvers.
Even though the 2018 Lexus IS 300 and Lexus IS 350 are categorized as entry-level luxury sedans, they should be considered as a cut above that ranking. The entire IS lineup delivers good looks, sumptuous interior comfort along with a high degree of satisfying, sporty performance. It may not outperform BMW’s 3 Series on the track in terms of overall handling prowess, but it can definitely hold its own. Then there’s the 4 year/50,000 mile limited warranty and 6 years/72,000 miles of powertrain coverage. Add those in, and the 2018 Lexus IS 350 makes for a sound choice for a luxury sports sedan.
SPECIFICATIONS: 2018 Lexus IS 350 RWD
|Price as Tested:
|Engine:||3.5-liter V6 w/ Dual VVT-i|
|Drivetrain (Layout):||Longitudinally-mounted front engine, rear-wheel drive|
|Horsepower:||311 hp @ 6,400 rpm|
|Torque:||277 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm|
|Suspension:||Front: Double wishbones w/ high-mount upper arms, coil springs, gas-filled shock absorbers and stabilizer bar
Rear: Multilink, coil springs, gas-filled shock absorbers and stabilizer bar
|Brakes:||Power-assisted four-wheel discs (vented front and rear)|
|Tires:||Front: Bridgestone Turanza EL400 225/40 R18
Rear: Bridgestone Turanza EL400 P225/35 R18
|Fuel capacity:||17.4 gallons|
|Fuel economy (EPA):||20 City / 28 Highway / 23 Combined mpg|
|Width:||71.3 inches (mirrors folded)|
|Turning Circle:||34.2 feet|
|Curb Weight:||3,583 pounds|