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F is for Fun: Lexus IS 350 F Sport Test Drive Review

In the eternal words of Ferris Bueller, “life moves pretty fast.” And that’s especially for automakers competing in compact luxury sedan segment. When the third-gen Lexus IS surfaced four years ago, competition came primarily from German automakers, but in recent years, a new breed of small, fun and affordable luxury sedans have surfaced including the Infiniti Q50, Jaguar XE and the Alfa Romeo Giulia.

Ever since its launch, Lexus has made tweaks to the IS to keep it relevant against its rivals, and the 2017 model year is no different with the car’s first styling update. Our recent seat time in the 2017 Lexus IS 350 marks the third time we tested the IS in 2017, but more importantly, this car was the first to sample the luxury sedan without the sportier F Sport add-ons.

2017 Lexus IS 350 Exterior

If you were expecting big changes in the styling of the 2017 Lexus IS 350, then you’ll be disappointed. In fact, the changes from 2016 to 2017 are surprisingly subtle with the most noticeable being the slightly restyled headlights, which now come with standard LED lighting and have less of a curvy appearance. Other design changes include a sportier looking front fascia with larger side vents, new taillights with redesigned lighting elements and a rear fascia with squared-off exhaust tips and a pronounced diffuser.

For buyers looking for a sporty sedan, this 2017 Lexus IS 350 looks almost as good as the 2016 IS 350 F Sport. The 18-inch, five-spoke alloy give the sedan a great stance, but they do look a little small on this car. The smooth, swooping body lines, however, are inspired by Lexus’ L-Finesse design language adding a sense of motion to this sedan even when it’s at a standstill. Finally, this tester’s Obsidian black paint job had a rich metallic flake that absolutely sparkled in the sunlight.

2017 Lexus IS 350 Interior

With the exception of the flashy red leather and trick digital gauge cluster, the interior of this 2017 Lexus IS 350 was essentially the same as the F Sport version we drove in December. Even without the F Sport goodies, the interior of the IS 350 is packed with just as much luxury and technology as its rivals, while offering a great use of cabin materials with a clean and intuitive interior design. While the minor changes made to the exterior are somewhat apparent, the improvements made to the interior of the 2017 Lexus IS 350 are even more subtle. These include reshaped steering wheel buttons and a redesigned cupholder.

Further sprucing up the cabin, this tester was equipped with the $4,425 Luxury Package, which delivered a stylish cabin with the tan perforated leather, gray sapele wood and aluminum trim, heated and cooled front seats and a power tilt and telescoping steering column. This 2017 Lexus IS review vehicle was also equipped with the optional Navigation/Mark Levinson Premium Audio Package. Included in the $2,835 package is a 10.25-inch display, voice command functionality, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a Remote Touch Interface controller and, of course, the high-end audio system. The 15-speaker, 835-watt Mark Levinson 5.1-channel surround sound audio system laid out a crisp, clear sound no matter how high you crank it up. One interesting note is that the IS continues to use a mouse-like controller, while newer Lexus models—including the closely related RC—use the touch-style remote.

2017 Lexus IS 350 Powertrain

Under the hood of the 2017 Lexus IS 350 is Toyota’s widely used 3.5-liter V-6. There’s a reason why this engine is available in just about every Toyota and Lexus product, as it delivers a great mix of performance and fuel economy. The updated version features Toyota’s D4-S fuel injection offering a combination of both direct and port fuel injection allowing this engine to produce 306 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque along with EPA-rated fuel economy estimates of 19 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway**.

Until Lexus decides to revive the IS F, this is the most powerful engine you can get in the 2017 IS, but it’s enough to let this car feel as sporty as it is luxurious. I had this IS not long after a very similarly equipped RC, and I was surprised that the sedan felt sportier than the coupe. It wasn’t in my imagination either as official Lexus figures have the IS 350 accelerating from 0-60 mph happening in 5.6 seconds (0.2 seconds quicker than the RC) and hitting the quarter mile in 13.8 seconds; these numbers are 0.2 seconds and 0.5 seconds quicker than the RC, respectively. One reason for the better performance from the IS is that the sedan weighs 150 pounds less than the coupe.

Lexus IS 350 Safety

All versions of the 2017 Lexus IS now come standard with the Lexus Safety System+, which Pre-Collision System, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Intelligent High Beam and Hi-speed Adaptive Cruise Control. The optional Luxury Package also adds Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Rain Sensing Wipers and Intuitive Parking Assist. As such, the IS receives a five-star crash rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Lexus IS 350 Overall

Ferris Bueller was right about life moving fast, but in the luxury world, there is no time to “stop and look around once in a while.” The 2017 Lexus IS 350 is proof of this after receiving minor yet effective updates, and while it might not be as new as some other compact luxury sedans, it is a solid choice in this ever-growing segment. And although the IS is Lexus’ entry-level car, this sedan still has the same amazing level of style, luxury, comfort and, yes, even performance for which Lexus is known.

In base form, the 2017 IS has a starting price of $38,210*, while the sportier IS 350 is priced at $41,370*. Without stepping up to the F Sport package, the 2017 Lexus IS 350 used for this test drive review was as fully loaded as you could get it with an as-tested price of $49,625.

Make sure to visit your local AutoNation-affiliated Lexus dealership and test drive the 2017 Lexus IS 350 today!

*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on 2017 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.

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