Like other brands today, Lexus has been moving away from their old brand image of “boring, old-man vehicles” and has injected their cars with excitement. The styling has sharp aggressive styling is definitely a change compared to a previous models and that makes it appealing to a wider crowd with varying tastes.
Without a doubt the new IS 350 looks undeniably more exciting and tempting than its predecessor. The new style spindle grille dominates the front and is complimented by the LED running lights, which are separated from the headlamps above rather than being integrated, a design feature that I really liked. The side profile is a neat compilation of lines swiftly flowing from the front to the rear that are contrasted by the sharp, angular lines of the head and tail lights. The most noticeable feature about the rear end has to be the tail lights that slope down from the side, which might take some getting use to, but the clean simple lines of the LED strips make it really attractive when switched on.
The interior doesn’t just feel updated; it is completely new and looks great. It really stands out at first glance and is influenced by the LFA’s interior styling. The design cues like the flat-topped dashboard and air vents that are molded into it look very unique. New materials are also apparent and the bright wood trim in our example looked brilliant and felt natural. The layout of the centre console has been revised and works better than the last model; the screen is now higher up making visibility better and the control buttons below it are much less cluttered and neatly organized. As we are seeing with modern cars today, touch sensitive controls are gaining popularity. Thankfully Lexus hasn’t gone overboard and have used them only for the temperature controls, they also respond with a soft beep, which is something I complained about other cars not having. The screen has a pointer and is controlled by something resembling a mouse pad giving a computer-like interface, while the idea is good, the actual movements and feel of the pad didn’t feel that refined and could be further developed to reflect more quality, however this is an optional extra and could be left out for a more tradition control wheel. Although the Lexus comes with leather, the actual texture and feel of it seems outdated and out of place in such a fresh and modern interior design. Sitting in the drivers seat, the instrument cluster is a minimalist joy as it is left clean,
clear and simple. As expected there is a multi function steering wheel that also controls a little menu screen that sits in between the two dials. The seat itself and position are both on point, comfortable and can be adjusted just as you like. The layout and ergonomics are also pretty much perfect, the mouse pad also had a little wrist rest for using. Connectivity is also catered for with the now standard blue tooth, USB, and memory card ports. However the rear occupants may feel a bit unattended to with no door pockets, sockets or plugs.
Driving the IS 350 had no problems whatsoever. The suspension is nicely tuned and does not suffer from being too hard. The cabin is calm, relaxing and more spacious than you would expect. There are two driving modes apart from normal: eco and sport, I won’t bother going into detail, as you already know what they do. Spirited driving in the Lexus is a joy; the performance is up there with sports cars and would probably be able to put a lot of them to shame thanks to its 306hp V6 giving the rear wheels 277lb ft of torque. The 8-speed gearbox is pretty quick for a conventional automatic and is only slightly sluggish on the down shifts. Handling is quick and agile as the steering feedback is a huge improvement from the last generation that felt unresponsive, the brakes held up pretty well too.
Lexus has delivered a well-balanced package giving the right amount of sportiness, luxury and convenience. In comparison to its German rivals the gap is much closer than previously, however, improving things such as the leather would really help give it a strong competitive edge. Nonetheless Lexus has done a terrific job and the new IS stands miles apart from the last. It looks stunning both outside and in, and drives just as good as it looks.