2013 Lexus IS 350 Sedan - FROM $40,320
The 2013 Lexus IS 350 scores points for attractive styling and unshakable reliability, but comes up short in practicality and driver engagement.
What's New for 2013
For 2013, the navigation system now includes HD radio (with iTunes tagging) along with a smartphone apps suite.
Within the lineup of Lexus models, the flavors are much like the salsa at your favorite Mexican restaurant, ranging from mild (IS 250) to hot (IS 350) to scorching (IS F). The 2013 Lexus IS 350, with its smooth and potent 306-horsepower V6, should be spicy enough to satisfy the palates of most sport sedan intenders. The 250 is rather tepid, while the F version is likely too much for all except the most hard-core.
Regardless of the preferences of your vehicular taste buds, every model of the IS provides sporty styling and a plush cabin with top-grade materials and excellent build quality. Extra zest is available for the IS 350 via the F Sport package, which sharpens the handling and styling, while those who face inclement weather may want to opt for all-wheel drive.
Yet the IS 350 recipe is not without its flaws, and of these the most glaring is the lack of rear seat legroom. And despite its impressive spec sheet and performance credentials, the IS 350's numb steering and slow-witted automatic transmission might leave a bitter taste in the mouths of more serious driving enthusiasts.
In other words, the 2013 Lexus IS 350 finds itself in a somewhat awkward place on the menu of entry-level sport sedans, as it's neither sporty enough nor practical enough to be fully competitive against its more well-rounded rivals. The Audi A, Cadillac ATS and Mercedes C-Class are just as sporty to drive, yet are more spacious. Meanwhile, the BMW 3 Series and Infiniti G Sedan simply provide a more rewarding driving experience. But if the IS 350's styling and refinement suit your taste and the few drawbacks are not issues, then you'll find enough spice here to keep things interesting.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Lexus IS 350 is a small luxury sedan that is offered in rear-wheel-drive (RWD) and all-wheel-drive (AWD) trim levels. The other IS models, including convertibles and the high-performance IS F, are reviewed separately.
Standard equipment on the IS 350 includes 17-inch alloy wheels, foglamps, xenon headlamps, LED running lights, heated mirrors, a sunroof, keyless ignition/entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, eight-way power front seats, leather upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, the Safety Connect telematics system, Bluetooth phone/audio connectivity and a 13-speaker sound system with a six-CD changer, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB interface. Upgrading to the IS 350 AWD will also get you heated front seats.
The Navigation System package adds a navigation system, Bluetooth phonebook downloading, a rearview camera, voice commands, HD radio (with iTunes tagging), real-time traffic/weather/sports/fuel prices and Lexus Enform enhanced telematics (with a smartphone apps suite). A 14-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound system can be added to the navigation system.
The Premium Plus package adds heated and ventilated front seats and wood trim. The Luxury package adds 18-inch wheels (RWD only), auto-dimming outside mirrors, automatic wipers, a power rear sunshade, driver and front passenger memory functions, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and the Premium Plus package items (RWD only). Front and rear parking sensors are optional.
The F Sport package (available only on RWD models) adds dark-finish 18-inch F Sport wheels, grille inserts, front and rear spoilers, a sport-tuned suspension and heated F Sport seats with microfiber inserts and leather bolsters.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2013 Lexus IS 350 is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 306 hp and 277 pound-feet of torque. Buyers can choose between rear-wheel drive and available all-wheel drive. With either, the sole transmission choice is a six-speed automatic with shift paddles on the steering wheel.
According to Lexus, the rear-wheel-drive IS 350 accelerates from zero to 60 mph in an estimated 5.6 seconds, with the AWD model just a few tenths of a second behind. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 19 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined for the RWD model. The AWD is rated at 18/26/21/mpg.
Standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and Safety Connect. The latter is a traditional telematics service with automatic collision notification, stolen-vehicle locator and an emergency assistance button.
In Edmunds brake testing, the Lexus IS 350 with the F Sport package came to a stop from 60 mph in a short 114 feet. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the IS 350 a perfect "Good" rating for its performance in both frontal-offset and side-impact tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2013 Lexus IS 350's sporty interior is as good as you'll find in this segment. Supple leathers and wood or metallic accents are top-notch, while soft-touch plastic materials cover most every other surface. All of these elements are well assembled. Controls throughout the cabin are intuitive and easy to use, as is the optional touchscreen navigation system. The iPod interface, on the other hand, can be a bit frustrating to use.
The IS 350 is short on rear legroom and the rear seat feels cramped in general compared to other compact luxury sedans. Even with an average-size driver up front, those relegated to the rear will likely find these quarters as unaccommodating as a coupe's. The trunk can hold a maximum of 13 cubic feet of luggage, which is about average for cars in this class.
One of the most endearing qualities of the IS 350 is its smooth and responsive V6 engine. It provides plenty of thrust for most drivers, although its smooth-shifting automatic transmission is slow to react to your commands.
As a sport sedan, the 2013 Lexus IS 350 is notable for its high cornering limits, which are even higher if you opt for the F Sport performance enhancements. Other aspects of the IS's driving dynamics will likely leave enthusiasts a bit disappointed, however. The uncommunicative steering does little to give the driver a feel for the road, while the noticeable body roll dilutes the overall sense of performance. Otherwise, the IS 350 combines spirited engine performance with a tranquil, comfortable ride that suits the tastes of many.