2008 IS 350 New Car Test Drive
The Lexus IS 250 and IS 350 sport sedans are quick, responsive and fun to drive. Designed to compete with BMW 3 Series sedans, the Lexus IS models are built on rear-wheel-drive chassis tuned for sporty handling. They stick in corners and stop with authority, aided by high-performance brakes and tires.
The IS 350 is propelled with authority as well, benefitting from a 306-hp V6. These are enjoyable and easy cars to drive. The IS 350's VDIM electronic stability control steps in very early to keep the driver out of trouble. The IS 250 AWD model's all-wheel drive makes it a good sports sedan for the Snow Belt. The automatic transmissions are responsive and feature paddle shifters for semi-manual control.
All of them look sporty, with bulging muscles and a purposeful stance. All come loaded with features and are trimmed well, with leather upholstery. A full complement of passive and active safety features comes standard.
New for 2007 is the X-Package, which combines a sports suspension and 18-inch alloy wheels with a bold front spoiler, sport pedals, and illuminated door scuff plates. Also, the electronic stability programs can be disabled by turning off the traction control. Lexus says this might be useful when trying to extricate the car from snow, and in other situations as well.
The Lexus IS 250 ($30,255) is powered by a 2.5-liter V6, which sends 204 horsepower to the rear wheels through a six-speed manual transmission. The IS 250 is also available with a six-speed automatic with Formula 1 inspired paddle-shifters.
The IS 250 AWD ($34,285) comes with the automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
The IS 350 ($35,705) powered by a 306-hp, 3.5-liter V6 with the six-speed automatic. More sophisticated braking and electronic stability systems augment its additional performance.
Leather is standard; the IS 250 AWD comes with special perforated leather and Bird’s eye maple accents. Standard features: dual-zone climate control; SmartAccess keyless entry with pushbutton engine start; and a 194-watt, 13-speaker stereo with a six-disc in-dash CD changer. The audio system features digital signal processing, an electronic crossover network and built-in theft deterrence. It's satellite-ready and includes an audio input jack that accepts external audio sources such as iPod, Walkman, etc.
Standard exterior items are fog lamps, projector beam headlamps, puddle lamps on the underside of the outside rearview mirrors (which are also heated), dual polished stainless steel exhaust pipes, infrared and ultraviolet reducing glass on all the windows, and a color-coordinated front air dam. Also standard are 17-inch aluminum five-spoke wheels fitted with low-profile high-performance radials. The IS 250 AWD comes with all-season 225/45VR17s at all four corners. The IS 250 and IS 350 come standard with all-season 225/45VR17 tires in front and wider 245/45VR17s in the rear, a staggered setup to increase grip under acceleration. Optional 18-inch wheels are available for the rear-drive models only, fitted with summer-only 225/40YR18 tires in front and 255/40YR18s in the rear.
Options include the AWD model's perforated leather trim, wood accents, and heated/ventilated seats. The Luxury Plus Package adds outside mirrors with electrochromic, memory and reverse tilt-down, illuminated scuff plates, a power rear sunshade, memory seats, HID headlamps with AFS (they steer with the front wheels), rain-sensing wipers, and a power tilt/telescope steering wheel with memory. The Sport Package ($2956) adds a sport suspension, 18-inch wheels, sport pedals, and metal scuff plates.
The navigation system ($2168) includes voice activation, a rear backup camera (a great safety feature), and Bluetooth wireless technology; buy it with or without the Mark Levinson audio, which employs advanced discrete amplifier technology with 300 watts, and 7.1 channel speaker architecture. The Pre-Collision System ($2280) with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control is optional.
Safety features for all IS models include driver and front-passenger knee airbags. The brakes are large and effective four-wheel discs, clamped at the front by aluminum four-piston calipers. Augmenting the big brakes are ABS, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, and Brake Assist. Vehicle Stability Control and traction control (TRAC) come with every IS 250, while the IS 350 gets TRAC as well as a more sophisticated stability program Lexus calls Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM).