2014 Lexus IS350 F-Sport AWD – a sports car with refinement

2014 Lexus IS350 F-Sport AWD – a sports car with refinement

In a world full of sports cars, muscle cars, pony cars, and any of a number of other descriptions meant to evoke power and performance, there are few vehicles which call themselves “luxury sport sedans” and actually mean it. The 2014 Lexus IS350 F-Sport sedan is one of those.

2014 Lexus IS350 F-Sport - 2 - 1200pxAOA

Specs:

  • Manufacturer: Lexus
  • Year, Model: IS350 AWD F-Sport
  • Class: Compact Sport Sedan
  • Powertrain: 3.5L V6, 6spd auto
  • Base Price: $41,700
  • MSRP as tested: $48,705
  • Availability: Now

Overview

Sports sedans are sometimes viewed as a contradiction in terms, especially by those who love convertibles and coupes. For them, we point to the IS350 Convertible as your solution. The rest of us grownups who enjoy luxury, performance driving, and practicality will take luxury sport sedans instead. Thank you.

There are several cars that come to mind when the term “luxury sports sedan” is mentioned. Usually they’re pretty far out of our price range, being dreamy vehicles with British names like Aston and Rolls. In the real world, luxury sedans instead have names like IS350.

In the new design for 2014, the IS350 in this F-Sport rendition sees more decisive styling, a larger interior, and better road presence. The IS350 sedan is available in rear-wheel or all-wheel drive (ours was AWD) and in three trim levels, of which we drove the F-Sport.

2014 Lexus IS350 F-Sport - 7 - 1200pxAOA

The Lexus IS350 and its new look

While many improvements under the skin are responsible for the IS350’s upgrade into a true luxury market offering, they become visible in the new style given to the car thanks to a longer wheelbase and new bodywork.

The design elements going into the 2014 IS350 sedan are focused on a contemporary sedan style or rough 50:50 split at the door pillar between front and rear. Lexus creates elegance with this, however, by adding a European swoosh to the rear pillar and side windows, a short, rakish windscreen angle, and a shorter, rounded nose than it had before. Body lines turning upward and back all enhance the elegant speed that is the overall impression the new Lexus sedan’s look aims for.

It’s a smart, simple style with no pretentiousness about it. Although it fails to stand out specifically in a crowd of luxury sports sedans, which often have German nameplates, it doesn’t disappear in the throng either. Lexus has, like its pater-brand Toyota, perfected the “look good, but blend in” styling theme.

The 2014 IS350 interior

On the inside, the improvements from 2013 to 2014 are marked. In the front, leg and shoulder room are expanded while in the rear, shoulder and head room improve. Although the knee space in the back is still scant, few of the IS350’s contemporaries can claim to be much better. As befits a sport sedan, though, most of the interior is about the driver.

The driver’s cockpit is an array of controls that are well-positioned and unconfused. A well-moulded shifter, nicely-positioned steering wheel, innovative instrument cluster (in the F-Sport), simplified dashboard and center console, and other ergonomic improvements build on the refinement Lexus has been working towards since its inception 25 years ago.

The trunk is large for the segment and the newly-added rear split-fold seats make a big difference in the IS350’s practicality.

Overall, the goal in the 2014 Lexus IS350 is a combination of luxury with a performance feel. In the F-Sport rendition, this is well-done.

2014 Lexus IS350 F-Sport - wheel - 1200pxAOA

Under the IS350’s hood

The 2014 IS350 utilizes the 3.5-liter V6 that has been the mainstay for this model for years. It’s a solid performer, outputting 306 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque through a six-speed automatic transmission in the AWD chassis. The rear-wheel drive version has an eight-speed automatic.

This combination results in 19 / 26 mpg city/highway for an EPA combined 21 mpg overall. In the rear-wheel option, the highway rating jumps to 28 mpg for 22 mpg combined.

Lexus gives the 2014 IS350 F-sport a 0-60 time of about 5.6 seconds in RWD and just above that at 5.8 for the AWD option. Our testing showed that drivers will probably see their better numbers when driving in manual mode, once you are used to anticipating the long shift delay from paddle to transmission. Our best 0-60 time was 6.8 seconds, but I am far from a professional sports driver.

On the road in the 2014 IS350 F-Sport

Drivers who’re upgrading from a last-generation IS350 will immediately notice that the 2014 Lexus IS350 has a new intake sound generator that produces a lovely note under hard acceleration. This throaty addition doesn’t change performance much, but it upgrades the car’s driving satisfaction level for the sport driver in a big way. The engine itself is still its smooth, potent self and the transmission is quiet and unobtrusive in its operation.

Add to this well-tuned steering with nice tactile return and you have a great driving experience overall. On the city streets and twisty roads, the 2014 IS350 performs well, though aficionados may like the more spirited German competition better. For the performance driver with an eye for luxury, however, the IS350 delivers well on all counts and will satisfy all but the most sport-tuned speedster.

Unlike the Germans, the Lexus offers a more refined daily drive experience that is enjoyable and ensures that you’ll see the potential for fun. This is especially true in the F-Sport packaging.

2014 Lexus IS350 F-Sport - 5 - 1200pxAOA

Competition

Key competitors here are the BMW 3-series and the Audi A4, both of which are better road cars than the 2014 IS350, but come with costs of their own. The Mercedes C-Class, Cadillac ATS and Infiniti Q50 are also contenders here. All have strengths and weaknesses when put against the IS350 sedan and the luxury sedan market is contentious at the $45k-$60k price window. Likely the closest match to the 2014 Lexus IS350 in its AWD build is the Infiniti Q50 in AWD. Both have a similar price point, similar packaging, and similar performance and handling.

Strong Points

Great mix of handling and refinement for the sport driver who is less interested in speed and agility than in overall comfort and sporty feel.

Beautiful interior with excellent ergonomics for everyday use.

Cool innovations on the instrument cluster.

Weaknesses

Slow shift response in manual model hurts it as a sport sedan.

Back seats are small for a sedan this size.

Conclusions

In sum, the 2014 Lexus IS350 F-Sport is a well-built, comfortably luxurious sedan with a great overall feel. It’s not the best at any one thing, but it doesn’t skimp on anything either. This car shows why Lexus is such a fast-growing luxury carmaker.

Test Period Length and Limitations
Car was a manufacturer’s press loan driven for about a week in a mixture of town, highway, freeway, and city driving. A total of 317 miles were put on the car, including some performance testing on wet pavement and controlled high-speed conditions.

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About the Author

Aaron TurpenAn automotive enthusiast for most of his adult life, Aaron has worked in and around the industry in many ways. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press (RMAP) and freelances as a writer and journalist around the Web and in print. You can find his portfolio at AaronOnAutos.com.

View all posts by Aaron Turpen

3 Comments

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