Owner Review

2011 Lexus IS350 F Sport review

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I've owned this car for just over a year now, and in that time have travelled 44,000km in it. Initially I was looking into purchasing a BMW 335I, 330d, or 328i. I had my eye on a few Lexus IS250s before a friend smacked me over the head and told me that would be a mistake. He knew I had an affinity for getting into the loud pedal on occasion.

It's not wrong to say that I'm forever in his debt. I think I'd have been very disappointed with anything less.

The first time I test-drove the car, I was rather unimpressed with how dated the interior appeared to be. There's a reasonably sized 9.0-inch touchscreen mounted in the centre surrounded by navigation buttons. The display itself is low-resolution for lack of a better word, and everything just screams early 2000s. Remember when Nokia first came out with their Symbian OS and we thought 'wow technology has come a long way'?

Yeah, me too, and it's not so crash-hot 15 years later. That aside, it does everything it's meant to do, and fortunately the navigation screen is nice and clear with just enough detail to keep those thoughts out of your head.

The thing with purchasing a luxury car, and especially a used one, is that they are excellent value for money. The Lexus shines ahead here because you're buying a $75,000 car for less than half its purchase price, and it's guaranteed to be as reliable as your grandmother's Camry.

The interior quality is exceptional. They have cheapened slightly in the third-gen, but the second-gen IS350 is a lovely place to be, everything is soft-touch. The roof feels amazing, the interior plastics feel solid and hardy, the doors are sturdy, and the speaker grilles are well defined, not just an injection-moulded lump that says there's something in there. It's more akin to the grille on quality hi-fi equipment. I love that extra detail.

The F Sport comes with some nice perforated leather seats, which are extremely comfortable, and hard-wearing too. My car has 140,000km on it now and they're an 8/10. No discoloration, no structural issues, just leather wearing as leather should.

I could go on and on about every detail of the interior that I love, but I'll spare you. Just know that it's a very nice place to be, and you don't feel like you're sitting in something that was built out of a retooled Mega Blox factory (Mitsubishi...).

I will list a few caveats of this car while I'm here:

* No Bluetooth audio except in MY13 models
* No rear leg room. I'm 6ft 3in and you wouldn't get behind me
* Rear head room is limited
* Front head room is limited, which means if you're tall you need a reclined driving position (which I'm fine with)

So how does it feel on the road? Excellent, in short.

The engine is the 2GR-FSE, which somehow manages to muster up 233kW from its relatively small 3.5-litre capacity. Have a VE SS staring you down at the lights? Not a worry, he's done and dusted. This defeat comes with a refined and smooth engine tone. As you come up to the redline, you notice the tachometer glow orange; a predefined indicator that you can set using a button next to the steering wheel.

The gearbox is a six-speed traditional torque converter arrangement, which has been met with great criticism in all other reviews I've read. Apparently it doesn't know what it's doing. This is not a true reflection of it. You will not have any issues with the mapping of it. It's fast and can be very aggressive depending on your mode setting (sport, normal, snow).

The handling of the car in its factory F Sport form is improved over the Sports Luxury and base variants. It has different dampers and 30 per cent stiffer spring rates. Unfortunately, we missed out on the stiffer swaybars and big brake kits that the US got, but you'll be pleased to find some chunky four-pot calipers at the front, which have air dams in the front bar. Fade is not, will not, and cannot be an issue. These same brakes are equipped to the heavier GS350 as well. Rest assured, it stops.

You'll find on turn-in the car feels like it wants to lift the rear inside wheel. It's almost as if the rear swaybar is not aggressive enough, and can be quite disconcerting when you first feel it. It's only exacerbated by the fact that this car does not have a limited-slip differential. Lexus, I understand you're targeting an aging demographic, but in a car like this, it's a serious omission and will likely steer people towards other brands.

I have lowered the car on some HSD coilovers and also installed an aftermarket intake for a more aggressive engine note, and am very happy with the handling now.

My average fuel economy is around 10–11L/100km. And 8–9L/100km would be easily achieved by a sensible human behind the wheel.

Maintainence? Only the usual. Oil changes and brake pads, you're not going to have any mechanical issues with this car ever.

I haven't touched on a lot of things that I wanted to, but this is starting to get a little long now. I'm happy to answer any comments below, and I hope everyone enjoyed reading.

This is my first car review, and if the response is good, I have many more cars that I can write my thoughts on also.