I was a happy, one-eyed BMW owner for twenty years but eventually became tired of the increasingly excessive service costs ($850 to supply and fit four sets of disc pads) and turned to the internet to research an alternative luxury sport ride. A 2011 Lexus IS350 looked the goods with its punchy V6 engine, pin point handling and sumptuous leather interior. The friendly team at Lexus of Chatswood helped me into a mercury coloured IS350 which I thoroughly enjoyed owning for five years. Then Lexus notified me that the airbag needed replacing.
When I dropped off the car at my nearest Lexus workshop at Waterloo, the Service Manager kindly loaned me a near-new 300h to take home. Wonderful car: sleek shape, comfy soft leather interior, F Sport option and superb Mark Levinson sound system. What’s not to like? Great way to showcase the new model to a potential customer! Was this the car for me? A perfect city car but not enough power for overtaking moves on our regular jaunts down to the south coast on the Princes Highway.
Upon returning the 300h I spotted a cobalt mica blue IS350 F Sport on the showroom floor. What an awesome colour and what sleek lines and the 18-inch wheels! I think I was falling for it. Just for fun I tried the pilot’s seat and instantly the seating and steering wheel position became a part of me - just perfect! As I cast my eye around the cockpit, all the controls were just where they they should be. Everything easily readable and within easy touch. I especially liked the climate controls, which are buttons on the dash unlike my early Lexus which had a touchscreen, requiring me to take my eyes off the road. Hmmm, I wonder what the trade in value on my car would be? Surprisingly the trade in they offered wasn’t too far away from what I had in mind, so after a test drive and then a committee meeting with the good wife, I signed on the line.
I have read some reviews about the V6 atmo engine being dated, particularly with other manufacturers in this class offering turbo four engines. The silky smooth 233kW and 378Nm engine with its pleasing exhaust soundtrack has more than enough grunt to push you back in the seat and catapult its 1685 kilograms towards the horizon when you plant the go pedal. The eight speed auto gearbox transitions through the gears with barely noticeable shifts, and if you choose to switch the shift lever to manual mode you can use the magnesium paddles to shift into warp. There are four drive mode mapping options: Eco, normal, Sport and Sport Plus. These are easily changed on the move by twisting a knob on the console.
Eco mode causes the transmission to shift very early when accelerating, riding the huge torque curve where you end up doing around 1800rpm at 100 km/h. In addition, the air conditioning system unloads more frequently. Normal mode raises the shift points, while the fun starts when you switch to Sport mode. This setting sets a more aggressive ECU map, raises the shift points and switches out seventh and eighth gears for a more responsive pedal. Sports Plus dials in the active suspension to virtually eliminate body roll when you pitch it through the windy stuff. It makes you want to turn around and run through the twisties all over again!
I love the sports seats, voice activated Bluetooth phone, easy navigation screen and digital radio. This is cool: the speedo can be moved to one side via a control on the fat steering wheel to reveal an additional space for a variety of extra information such as fuel stats, radio screen, gear positions and navigation data. The mouse-like control stick on the console controls a cursor around the generous TFT navigation screen. Although this feature has been mercilessly maligned by motoring journalists I find it easy to use, especially if the tactility adjustment is upped a few bars.
I love this car. It’s whisper quiet on the motorway with plush suspension excellent sound deadening. It blasts off the line with turbine smoothness all the way through the rev range, and the huge disc rotors pull down the speed effortlessly. This car comes standard with heaps of features (moonroof, lane guidance, parking proximity alerts, blind-spot warning, auto wipers and forward facing radar) which are additional options on its competitors. All this, while enjoying the superb craftsmanship of the plush leather seats, dash and trim while blasting out your favourite tune on the awesome sound system...what’s not to like?
NOTE: We've used CarAdvice photos with this story.