Review: Lexus IS 350

Get to the choppah! If this thing doesn’t have the face of a Predator, then I’ve been pushing too many pencils. It’s so aggressive it’s making my eyes bleed—and I ain’t got time to bleed.

As a brand, Lexus is best-known for making impeccably crafted luxury cars that are smooth. And polished. And reliable. And have good resale. And oh-God-just-suffocate-me-with-a-pillow-already. Yes, the fancy-pants Toyota is much less likely to strand you on the side of the road than its Teutonic competition, but it also has the same effect on your pulse-rate as a warm bath and flannel pyjamas. Safe, secure, boooooooring.

Thus, we hardly knew what to make of their supercar, the LFA, with its banshee-screaming V10 and wildly angular styling. With the IS350, suddenly the banzai machine makes sense: it’s the halo car for a new generation of fun-to-drive Lexii.

Lexus knows they’ve been building robots, so they’ve built a Cylon instead, a sporty sedan that’s got the face of a killer and a heart of steel. Rather than polish the edge off, Lexus has honed their car into a scalpel-edged katana. This F-Sport model has a range of dynamic options including the ability to put transmission, suspension and throttle response into a track-ready mode that even offers quicker-ratio steering.

On the track, the overwhelming experience is that of nearly-unflappable poise. The rear-drive-only models rotate nicely and the carry-over 306hp V6 sounds lovely as it runs to redline. Top-line F-sport models have an 8-speed transmission, all-wheel-drive cars and the smaller-engined IS250 get a 6-speed auto instead—no manual is on offer.

You won’t really miss the stick—the IS snaps off shifts with engaging rapidity and has a clever brain that tracks g-forces to avoid boneheaded upchanges when attacking a corner. Yes, BMW will sell you a turbo-charged straight-six that’ll blow the doors off the Lexus any time the road straightens, but the Japanese short-sword claws it back in the curves.

Inside, a new lower seating position adds to the sportscar feel, and there’s finally room in back for passengers. Lateral seat bolstering imparts confidence, and the LFA-style transforming tachmeter/speedometer is one of the slickest pieces of engineering I’ve ever seen.

In short, it’s wild to look at, quick to drive, and has the usual Lexus-like attention to detail where interior fit-and-finish are concerned. It’s fast, sure, but it’s also fun—Lexus has built themselves a real winner here.

Even if it is one ugly motherf-

2014 IS350 F-Sport
Pricing: $TDB

Brendan McAleer is a freelance auto-writer based out of North Vancouver, BC, and a member of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada. His work appears in BBCAutos, Road&Track, and elsewhere. Follow him on twitter @brendan_mcaleer.

Photo courtesy of Lexus.

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