Road test: Lexus IS350 F Sport sedan has been workin’ out
BORN again athletes are everywhere you look.
Just take a look at the lycra-clad brigade in cafes each weekend to see the renewed sporting interest.
Lexus, too, is rejuvenated. But unlike many middle-aged cyclists covered by figure-hugging garments, this new offering from the luxury marque has wide-ranging appeal.
The range-topping 3.5-litre V6 is the fittest of an updated clan, which includes a hybrid derivative as well as a smaller 2.5-litre six.
At just over 81 grand on the road, the IS350 F Sport presents as impressive value up against the big three from Europe.
Lavish and refined, the cabin is a blend of athleticism and luxury.
Our test machine featured our personal favourite among the interior colour schemes, dark rose, and the front sports pews envelop the passengers.
The driver has a good view of the world, and the gauges can be easily customised depending on how much information you want within the digital instrument cluster which is impressively crisp and easy to read.
Put the hammer down the tacho even glows racing red.
When you cut the engine, the driver's pew slides rearward and the steering wheel lifts and drops into the dash for easier entry and exit.
The dual zone air-con touch controls look good, but can be a bit of chore if you want to ramp up the heat or cool things down rapidly.
On the road
Easy and relaxing, it's a joy to get behind the wheel of the IS350.
Under the bonnet is a tried and tested 3.5-litre V6. It's getting a bit old in the tooth, but changes made to the suspension, an eight-speed self-shifter and a new steering set-up more than make up for what is a vastly improved luxury car.
The result is a much more composed sports sedan which embraces bends with surefooted confidence. You can even hear a nice exhaust soundtrack when you push things up into the rev range.
Steering and suspension changes were honed at the race track, and for the first time Lexus has split tyre sizes for front and rear - and they're not run-flats so that performance isn't compromised.
The new eight-speed auto is a smooth operator too and we only felt the need to make use of the steering wheel paddles when getting exuberant.
What do you get?
Some of the Europeans with this kit will have you paying more than $100,000.
Without ticking any boxes, the IS350 F Sport comes with 18-inch alloys, sports suspension, electric bucket seats, keyless entry with pushbutton start, blind spot monitoring, automatic lights and wipers, a 15-speaker 835 watt Mark Levinson sound system with Bluetooth audio streaming and phone connectivity, sat nav, cruise control, a 17.7cm colour screen and a swag of special sporting touches.
While it has anti-lock brakes, blind spot monitoring system and stability control, you have to pay $7000 extra to get an enhancement pack which includes pre-collision safety (which can automatically apply the brakes if an oncoming accident is detected), lane departure warning and cruise control.
And from December, drivers will have their own concierge. "Enform" is a 24-hour call centre service, like finding a restaurant, contacting a local dealer or calling roadside assistance, all from the car via your smartphone connectivity.
Lexus dearly wants to steal some attention from the Mercedes-Benz C300 Avantgarde ($86,400), BMW 335i ($91,045) and the Audi A4 3.0 TFSI Quattro ($92,900).
Fuel consumption is about 10 litres for every 100km. It's not super thirsty, nor is it ultra frugal. Those who want sharper running costs in the IS can opt for the hybrid.
Servicing should be at the cheaper end of the luxury scale, while Lexus has a generous owners program which ensures a loan car during services.
Best suited to four adults, three can fit across the back seat but it's a squeeze. Leg and knee room is okay in the back as long as the front passengers remain generous with their seating position.
Lexus addressed one of the biggest annoyances with the previous IS by introducing split-fold rear seats. It's a big boot space too, 480 litres, which is good enough for a few suitcases or golf bags.
There are two cup holders in the console but there is no room for bottles in the rear doors.
While not a massive design departure from its predecessor, there are some excellent new introductions for modern flair.
The "flicks" near the back wheel arches are a brilliant touch, along with the spindle grille.
The new range maintains a regal presence with a sporting edge.
For those who want it all, this model is the best of Lexus's IS range.
The V6 powerplant might be a tad thirsty, but it offers rewarding performance with a sporting suspension set-up and a brilliant athletic look inside and out.
This is a really enjoyable car to drive. Whether you are pushing the limits or just cruising, Lexus has done a stellar job of delivering a fine balance.
What matters most
The good stuff: Easy to drive, typically hushed cabin but with enough engine note when you explore V6's ability.
What we'd like to see: Better fuel efficiency, foot-operated park brake ousted.
Warranty and servicing: Four-year/100,000km warranty with roadside assist. Servicing is annually or 15,000km.