Lexus shoves a 3.5-litre V6 into its attractive IS sedan. Is the Lexus IS350 SE enough to match the Germans?
Lexus IS350 SE - IntroductionThe Lexus IS isn’t a bad car and is a vehicle that’s actually rather close to my heart as my dad owned a silver IS250 manual which I was allowed to drive periodically. While working at Cars in Action in 2010, I was fortunate enough to sample the V8-powered fire-breathing IS-F. Both were impressive cars and I enjoyed driving them. However, subsequent research showed that there was a 3.5-litre V6 engine available for the IS range overseas. Locally, the IS250 did okay in terms of sales, but the German competition is constantly evolving and improving.
Lexus IS350 SE - EngineLexus South Africa finally made the choice to bring in the IS350 and I was rather chuffed when a sparkling red example was delivered to my home. It’s a great looking vehicle and there are splashes of sportiness across the board. Despite having big alloy wheels, twin chrome exhausts and daytime LED lights, the Lexus IS350 is still rather understated.
The main point of interest here is the magnificent 3.5-litre V6 engine. With 233kW and 378Nm, the Lexus IS350 packs quite a surprising wallop both in terms of performance and soundtrack. It doesn’t feel fast off the line but once out of first gear, the Lexus effortlessly reaches illegal speeds. Lexus claim that its IS350 will hit 100km/h in around 5.5 seconds, which is impressive.
Driving the Lexus IS350 is a simple affair as it is fitted with a six-speed automatic gearbox with paddles fitted behind the steering wheel. I chose to leave them alone and allowed the vehicle to do its own thing which seemed to work best. The downside to having this sort of performance is that fuel consumption does tend to be on the high side. Look, if you drive decently, you can expect to see around 10.5L/100km. Put your foot down and that figure will climb up to 14
Lexus IS0350 SE - Specification LevelLexus’ strongpoint is having a full specification level that is completely comprehensive and has few options. The Germans, however, make almost everything an optional extra so Lexus has the upper hand here. Comprehensive satellite navigation with voice command, Bluetooth, reverse camera, Lexus Premium Sound System, sunroof, keyless entry/ignition, electric rear window blind, heated leather seats and HID headlights are all fitted as standard. Off the top of my head, nearly all the above equipment is an optional extra on the German equivalents.
Lexus IS350 SE - ConclusionSo it drives well, goes like the proverbial clappers and has all the gadgets and gizmos you’d ever need. This is one of the most complete and refined vehicles that I have ever driven as you’re able to perfectly blend luxury cruising with dynamic driving. Look, it may sound like an awful lot of money (R548,600) but for the price you’re taking the fight right to the Mercedes-Benz C350 and BMW 335i. They may carry far more prestige and be more desirable (and will outsell the IS350 five-to-one) but the Lexus has a touch of old school class about it and offers outstanding value for money. Sadly though, this Lexus arrived two years too late and will be squaring off against the new F30 BMW and recently face-lifted Audi A4 which is a difficult challenge.
Lexus IS350 SE - Price in South AfricaLexus IS350 - R548 600.
We like: · It has everything you'd ever need · A lot faster than you'd think · Premium build quality
We don’t like: · Won't appeal to anyone under 40 · Doesn't have the desirability or dynamics of a BMW 3-Series
Lexus IS350 SE specifications
Engine: 3.5-litre, V6, petrol Power: 233 kW @ 6 400 rpm Torque: 378 N.m @ 4 800 rpm Transmission: six-speed automatic Wheels: 18-inch 0-100 km/h: 5.6 seconds (claimed) Fuel economy: 9.4l/100km (claimed combined cycle)