Car Reviews

2022 Lexus IS 350 F Sport Road Test

LEXINGTON, Ohio — That feeling of driving inspiration I are likely to get after a protracted day of watching racing hits me onerous. Hours of observing others — skilled racers — tear it up on monitor all the time leaves me with a want to do the identical, which in actuality, is a harmful feeling to have. Outdoors these racetrack grounds are public roads with pace limits, different motorists and 1,000,000 different components.

Nonetheless, I’m feeling slightly giddy within the 2022 Lexus IS 350 F Sport after leaving the Lexus Grand Prix at Mid-Ohio Sports activities Automotive Course. Lexus invited me down to look at the race the place a pair of Lexus RC Fs run by Vasser Sullivan Racing had been competing. I rode alongside for a scorching lap in a modified IS 500 F Sport Efficiency with one of many crew’s professional drivers between races, and whereas that automobile’s V8 is slightly intoxicating, I nonetheless discover myself actually digging the three.5-liter V6 within the humble IS 350 F Sport on Ohio’s winding again roads.

Earlier than leaving the monitor, I examine the field on Google Maps to “keep away from highways,” and level the IS down any highway vaguely on the right track that seemed curvy searching for someplace to get pleasure from Lexus’ recently-updated sport sedan. Being the F Sport mannequin, there’s some hope for enjoyable. All IS 350 F Sports activities get a singular (and louder) exhaust, 19-inch wheels, bigger 265-section-width rear tires, a chilly air consumption and an inside “sound generator” that pumps some further noise into the cabin. What this automobile doesn’t have, is the Dynamic Dealing with Bundle out there on IS F Sport fashions. This provides an adaptive suspension and lighter BBS solid wheels. Moreover, this IS is the all-wheel-drive model, so it doesn’t have the Torsen limited-slip rear differential or the extra-sporty “Sport S+” drive mode out there on the rear-wheel-drive model.

Regardless of this IS 350 F Sport being in mildly sporty costume, the journey begins out on a promising observe. A lot of the happiness derived from driving this sedan comes courtesy of its naturally aspirated V6 engine. It places out a wholesome 311 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, ok for a 0-60-mph dash of 5.7 seconds. Peak energy is made at 6,600 rpm, which suggests it’s essential maintain the pedal buried and work for the acceleration. 

Others on this sport sedan class have lengthy since made boosted four-cylinders the go-to powertrain, making this naturally aspirated engine a breath of recent air. It could not have the low-down, easy torque of a BMW 330i or Alfa Romeo Giulia, however it makes up for that in a trumpet of offended bees reverberating all through the inside at full chat. The F Sport exhaust, consumption and synthesized noise mix for a candy, candy sound that I name upon time and again. Even with the home windows down and wind whipping by the cabin, that V6 sings clear as day.

Every journey up the tachometer isn’t as fast appropriately although, and the six-speed automated is partially in charge for that. Most efficiency sedans lately reap the benefits of eight-speed (or extra) transmissions, leaving you with nearer ratios and extra time spent within the meat of the facility band. In the meantime, Lexus forces anyone who needs the all-wheel-drive model of the IS to cope with its six-speed auto. Solely the rear-drive model enjoys the extra fashionable eight-speed, which is an actual disgrace.

Rolling by Ohio’s farmlands, it downshifts below braking for the occasional nook in Sport mode, holds a gear by a large sweeper and usually behaves well. Tapping by the paddles leaves me wishing for zippier shifts, however it’s mandatory at occasions if you need the automobile to carry gears past some rapid switchbacks. A extra responsive shifting expertise could be good, however for an outdated six-speed, Lexus makes it work.

The all-wheel-drive system isn’t a performance-oriented system, both, however it doesn’t step in your toes. Many of the ahead motivation is clearly coming from the rear, and whereas there’s a little tug from the entrance, the entrance axle largely simply feels prefer it’s alongside for the journey. Until you actually need all-wheel drive, skip it, particularly as a result of the {hardware} causes such a large intrusion to the driver-side footwell, the likes of which you don’t see in fashionable all-wheel-drive sport sedans.

My preliminary disappointment on the lack of an adaptive suspension lessens because the drive goes on. Lexus is placing its complete lineup by a driving revolution of kinds, and the IS was the primary to get the remedy. Even in base F Sport spec, this Lexus is a fascinating and prepared handler. It eagerly darts into corners with weighty, assured steering. Physique lean is current, however by no means detrimental to the purpose of getting enjoyable, and it offers with fast transitions and weight transfers with out faltering. Briefly, this chassis is an effective one.

Although it has the broader tire bundle, the all-season rubber remains to be the limiting issue right here, because it begins protesting pretty early. Nonetheless, I can carry sufficient pace to have a blast on the twisting roads in the course of Ohio — it simply received’t put up any nutty skid pad figures, and that’s tremendous. The IS is a highway automobile in spite of everything, and even in 500 F Sport Efficiency trim, it doesn’t have excessive aspirations of being a monitor toy.

As soon as the backroads meet the inevitable freeway that leads again north to residence in Michigan, I’m left smiling, and my want for some enthusiastic motoring, fulfilled. The IS 350 F Sport isn’t a kind of sport sedans that’ll beat you mindless with torque and completely flat dealing with. Lexus merely chooses to not have interaction within the numbers conflict, and as an alternative sprinkles in some intangibles that make driving it that rather more enjoyable. If there ever comes a day when you may’t discover a pure, naturally aspirated V6 engine in vehicles like this, it’ll be a tragic one.

Cruising residence on the freeway, the usual suspension proves its price. I primarily soften into the Circuit Pink leather-based driver’s seat, and enter full leisure mode. Severely, these seats are remarkably comfy, so kudos to Lexus for the continued seat engineering excellence. It solely wants a stronger cooled/ventilated seat perform, for even at its max setting, the cool air might hardly be felt on a scorching day.

Regardless of Lexus including a touchscreen to the IS’ tech repertoire, this infotainment system remains to be a downer. The touchscreen doesn’t permit scrolling, so it’s irritating to function, requiring far more faucets than normal, which finally results in extra misguided inputs whereas driving. I’m left preferring the also-frustrating Lexus Touchpad for inputs. On the very least, each Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are onboard, so you may ignore the dated Lexus infotainment software program to some extent. Plus, Lexus stored some pretty, tactile quantity and tuning knobs entrance and middle for straightforward use.

This IS has the $2,750 Mark Levinson audio system with 17 audio system, and it is heavenly on a protracted drive. Even with the home windows down, blasting by the countryside, the audio is obvious and crisp. The Acura TLX may need the most effective of this phase’s audio programs, however the setup within the IS is killer, too.

The lengthy drive additionally permits an opportunity to check out the efficacy of Lexus’ driver help programs, all of which come normal on the IS — you may’t say that for the Germans. The lane-tracing system works effectively when the strains are clearly painted, and isn’t too fidgety with the wheel. It additionally well turns off lane-tracing as quickly because it notices poor markings or lane deterioration, placing it on the conservative facet of those programs. It’s straightforward to dwell with and react to, although, and the adaptive cruise management is equally good with easy and predictable inputs in site visitors.

After pulling again into the driveway at night time, and taking one final take a look at the IS, I’m left with some ultimate ideas. You purchase this automobile for a pair causes. One, its naturally aspirated V6 affords an auditory expertise that simply can’t be had in its four-cylinder competitors. And two, it actually is eye-catching. The “redesign” for 2023 may not look dramatically totally different in images, however this IS is considerably sportier and extra fashionable trying than earlier than. Its large rear fenders, swoopy facet styling, full-length taillight and usually small footprint give it a glance that appeals to the efficiency fiend, however doesn’t go as far as to lose any sense of Lexus magnificence.

At $53,875 as examined, the value is agreeable for what you get. Moreover the efficiency extras, this IS is loaded with all of the options one may need for day by day driving — Lexus even added the choice for a rear window sunshade this yr, and naturally this check automobile had it. If the IS has an Achilles’ heel, it’s how blastedly good the Acura TLX and Genesis G70 are lately. You will get boosted V6 variations of these vehicles which can be much more highly effective than the IS and don’t value rather more. It simply depends upon your priorities, and the Lexus definitely has some sturdy legs to face on within the combat.

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