Lexus IS 300/350 F Sport review: pots of gold?
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Lexus IS 300
- New styling looks great
- Very comfortable interior
- Enthusiast appeal of rear-drive
- No powerhouse by modern standards
- Lazy eight-speed transmission
- Interior styling feels dated
Lexus is a curious brand in New Zealand. It doesn’t move the same number of vehicles as rival European brands, but it has cemented itself as highly aspirational by combining luxurious motoring with the reliability that Toyota is loved for.
The hybrid powertrain of the IS sedan gets lots of attention, but this time around we’re focusing on the conventional petrol models. The IS 300 starts at $79,990 and uses a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. With 180kW/350Nm this isn’t a speed machine, but achieves average fuel economy of 8.2l/100km.
At the other end of the range is the IS 350 F Sport, which is the most high-performance variant in the range, at $101,800. As an F Sport model, it gets an aggressive exterior and a set of 19-inch black alloy wheels to distinguish it from the rest. Under the bonnet sits a 3.5-litre V6 engine that makes an impressive 232kW/380Nm, which is enough to propel the luxury sedan to 100km/h in 5.9 seconds. Combined fuel economy of 9.5l/100km – and you won’t get near that when driving enthusiastically.
Looking at the stats it’s easy to see which one is the more exciting drive. But is the IS350 F Sport $22k better?
The F Sport-equipped IS 350 wins hands down for looks. But if you’re judging a book by its cover, you can option the IS 300 with the same package for an extra $10,000.
On the inside, the differences are less obvious. As well as getting an extra “F Sport” emblem on the steering wheel, the F Sport gets a dynamic digital gauge cluster that will move and change colour with each driving mode. Again, opting for the F Sport package on the IS 300 will get you these interior goodies.
The first noticeable aspect of the IS 300’s 2.0-litre turbo engine is how quiet it is. Even with Sport mode selected, the noise won’t fill the cabin. Power delivery is swift, with peak torque being available from 1600rpm, but the 0-100km/h time of seven seconds doesn’t feel quick by modern standards. With the modest 18-inch alloy wheels, the ride is comfortable, but does catch a little body roll when pushing the cornering limits.
Auckland | Auckland City
$819.18 p/w $3,276.73 p/m
The IS 350 F Sport sacrifices a little ride comfort for performance, but is still just as composed on the road. While it might not reach peak power until 6600rpm, the V6 isn’t overly rev-happy, and seems to be more comfortable in the low range.
My only real qualm with the 350 lies in the eight-speed transmission, which is slow to shift in manual mode. Left to do its own thing, it’s hard to fault, but it’s slow to respond when you want to take control, and feels a little clunky.
But both IS models are incredibly comfortable cars, and the new design looks fantastic.
LEXUS IS 300/350 F SPORT
ENGINE: 2.0-litre turbo-four or 3.5-litre V6
POWER: 180kW/350Nm or 232kW/380Nm
GEARBOX: 8-speed automatic, RWD
ECONOMY: 8.2 or 9.5l/100km
PRICE RANGE: $79,900 to $101,800