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Car reviews - Lexus - IS - 350 sedan range

Launch Story

26 Oct 2010

A BIG V6 is about to give the Lexus IS range a boost in a new model called IS350 sitting between the IS250 and the high-performance IS-F.

With a V6 engine generating 233kW at 6400rpm and 378Nm at 4800rpm, the IS350 is quick. With a 0-100km/h time of 5.6 seconds, it is the fastest car in its class.

With starting price of $64,800 for a range that runs through to $81,300 for the best-specified version, it is also not as expensive as you might imagine.

That is well short of rivals with similar performance and a considerable distance below the V8 powered IS-F which costs $126,814.

The IS350 has been available in the US markets for several years, but Lexus had been reluctant to produce the larger displacement IS model in right-hand drive.

Years of lobbying from Australia and other right-hand drive markets has finally delivered a right-hook version of the car.

Assistant chief engineer for the IS350, Naoki Fujisawa, said at this week’s launch in Hobart that Lexus had already proved the chassis of the IS could handle a high-performance engine with the IS-F model, but added that not everyone can afford that car.

“For many customers IS F is one step too far, and this is where IS 350 fits in, neatly between IS 250 and IS F,” Mr Fujisawa said.

All IS models benefit from a mid model facelift that includes a mild re-jig of the front end design, LED daytime running lights, fresh wheels and tyres, a lightly revised interior and some new features.

Lexus Australia has also taken the opportunity to introduce a new equipment grade called F Sport to the IS250 and IS350 line-up that currently includes Prestige and Sports Luxury.

The F Sport spec includes sportier suspension, exterior upgrades and more equipment.

The IS350 runs a version of the naturally-aspirated quad-cam 3.5-litre V6 (2GR-FSE) which is used for the RX350 SUV and is closely related to Toyota’s engine of the same size that powers the Australian-made Aurion. It doe,s however, have dual injection, both direct and port injection, accounting for the performance upgrade.

It also has variable valve timing for intake and exhaust and requires premium unleaded (95 RON).

Lexus says it decided to go for a naturally aspirated engine rather than turbo-charging one because it wanted a linear response to throttle input. Cynics could also suggest it was far cheaper to take an engine serving it larger Lexus models than it would be to develop a unique force-fed engine specifically for the IS350.

The big V6 is not that much heavier than the 2.5-litre V6 of the IS250, whose new big brother gains between 25kg to 50kg for a kerb weight range of 1580kg to 1645kg.

A conventional torque converter six-speed automatic sends the power through to the rear wheels. No manual gearbox is on offer.

The suspension is essentially the same as the IS250, except for some minor changes. The F-Sport, however, gets shorter springs, unique bushings and spring and damper rates. All IS models have a MacPherson strut front suspension and a multi-link rear with mono-tube dampers all round.

Lexus has upgraded the IS350’s brakes to match the extra performance. It has 334mm front ventilated discs (38mm larger than those used for the IS250) that are grabbed by four piston callipers. The rear discs are 310mm (up 19mm on the IS250) and are slowed by two-piston callipers.

The IS350 range kicks off with the Prestige model at $64,800.

It comes with Bluetooth connectivity, heated front seats fitted with leather-accented trim, a reversing camera, HID headlights, metallic paint, satellite navigation, dual climate control and a 13-speaker sound system, all sitting on 17-inch alloys.

The F Sport model is next up with $71,800 adding sportier suspension and steering, a body kit with front bumper extension, rear spoiler and unique grille, grey leather sports seats from the IS-F, an IS-F steering wheel, low profile tyres, auto dimming exterior mirrors and rear vision mirror, parking sonar, an electrically-adjustable steering column, rain-sensing wipers, a Mark Levinson premium sound system and 18-inch alloy rims.

It is also the only IS350 model available with the bright Flame Blue paint, which is also available on the V8 IS-F.

Topping the range is the $81,300 Sports Luxury based on the Prestige model, but adding a sunroof, woodgrain-look trim, ventilated seats, auto dimming exterior mirrors and rear vision mirror, parking sonar, rain sensing wipers, semi-aniline leather seat trim, Smart key keyless entry and start, a premium 14-speaker sound system and unique 18-inch wheels.

All IS350 models have electronic stability control and eight airbags as standard, while the Sports Luxury model has active cruise control using radar to keep a safe distance to the car in front, along with a Pre Safe system to prep the brakes and seatbelts in preparation for a crash.

The IS350 does not have any direct competitors, thanks to its naturally aspirated engine and its price. The Audi V6 quattro (195kW/330Nm) comes in above it at $88,194, but has less power and torque, while the turbo V6 S4 has more power and torque (245kW and 440Nm) but is considerably more expensive at $117,414.

BMW’s turbocharged 335 M Sport has less power (225kW) but more torque (400Nm) and costs considerably more at $110,800.

Lexus Australia chief executive Tony Cramb said the IS 350 would shake up its segment, thanks to its price and performance.

“The IS brings choice into a segment that is dominated by overpriced vehicles,” he said.

“IS 350 is an outstanding vehicle – it leads its competitors on power, performance, specification, price and value,” he said.

“Much like our first vehicle – the LS 400 – IS 350 will result in customers questioning why they'd pay $20,000 to $30,000 more for a similarly powered vehicle from our competitors.”

Mr Cramb admits that some prestige customers would not consider the Lexus brand, but thinks that will to change.

“When they look at the value story they are going to have to think of us,” he said.

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