The new Lexus IS ...

Best sport sedan ever?

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When launching the legendary IS 350 F Sport, Lexus asked the question. “Is this redesigned Lexus the most fun-to-drive sport sedan in the world?” With so many proven sport sedans on the market, asking mototring journalists a question like this, is very bold and confident – but as they say, the proof of the pudding is in the road test …

Approaching the IS 350, the sporty looks underline an aggressive streak, underpinned by the ‘spindle grill’ and well-proportioned exterior design, complete with an impressive aero-stabilising Sakana fin — the car just begs to be driven.

Impressively, the Lexus’ trademark shaped LED daytime running lights (DRL) are now also fitted to enhance visibility on the road and fur- ther underline the distictive Lexus grille.

Settling into the plush but firm leather uphol- stery, you are greeted by the seamless design of the dashboard. All instruments are clear and easy to read at all times and leave one with a feeling of total control.

The ergonomically designed seats provide added comfort and the heated front seats are the perfect solution to a chilly winter’s morning. The quilted driver’s seat is multi-adjustable with three different settings.

The new model, being 80 mm longer and 10 mm wider than its predecessor, offers both driver and passengers quite a bit more comfort. The extended wheelbase and slimmer front seat design increases knee room (which was previ- ously criticised by some) by 85 mm.

Pushing the starter button, the electronic HMI (Human Interface Technology) springs to life, keeping you informed about fuel consumption, average speed and active gear selection (when in manual mode). The instrument cluster, with a revolving centre, can be accessed from the steer- ing wheel, giving the driver a plethora of other information by the touch of a button. The user friendly controls also allow the driver the luxury of customising the display information without much effort. Starting the car, the gentle burble of the 3.5 V6 engine sets the tone for greater things to come and a slight squeeze of the throt- tle will expose the thoroughbred for what it is as it skips smoothly and swiftly through the cogs. Even in ‘Eco Mode’ the 8-speed rear-wheel- drive Sport Direct Shift automatic IS 350 F Sport accelerates smoothly, and one is seldom aware of the gear changes.

Driving the car in ‘Sport Mode’ or ‘Sport Mode+’ (using manual shift — either operating the paddles on the steering column or the stick shift) the change is electrifying and the Lexus shows its true colours as it rapidly transforms from comfortable cruiser into a bend-devouring monster. Let’s face it, drive select mode sys- tems are nothing new, but very few cars we have driven manage to balance two contrasting systems quite as well as this particular Lexus. From a gentle purr, the engine instantly emits a low, understated growl, and by utilising the full 228kw/6400rpm of power, the Dual VVT-I (Variable Valve Timing-intelligent) power plant can accelerate to 100km/h in 5.9 seconds, with a maximum speed of 225km/h.

Even when pushing  the (tweaked Toyota 2GR-FSE) engine to full power, you’ll never feel overwhelmed. Lexus credits this to the lighter body shell, revised double wishbone front sus- pension and multi-link rear suspension.

Our ultimate best feature of the IS 350 F Sport is its Adaptive Variable Suspension (AV) system, which allows you to fine-tune the vehicle to suit your very own driving needs. A redesigned elec- tric power steering system has been included in the new model, which further enhances the driver experience.

All in all the IS 350 F Sport is … a well-crafted, technological masterpiece, stylish, sporty (yet elegant) bravely styled compact executive sedan – but is it the most fun to drive sport sedan to date? In our humble opinion, despite our initial frown at the bold Lexus question — the answer is a monstrous yes.

John Elford

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