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2014 Lexus IS Line Verdict

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 10/28/2014 Scott Evans, Motor Trend Staff

What do people expect when they buy a Lexus? For a long time, the answer was a luxury car on par with the Germans, but without the repair bill. As of late, you can add to that a dose of sportiness. I discovered when living with the complete IS lineup for the past 12 months that Lexus delivers on both.


The complete lineup? Yes, indeed. Lexus suggested that, rather than loan us one car for 12 months, it would instead loan us one of each IS model for four months at a time so we could experience the full lineup. We agreed, and I took delivery first of a silver IS 250. That car was replaced by a dark blue IS 350 AWD, which was replaced with a white IS 350 F Sport.

In total, I put 18,039 miles on the three cars: 5441 on the 250, 5810 on the 350 AWD, and 6788 on the 350 F Sport. Per Lexus, all three should have seen average fuel economy within a few miles per gallon of each other, and my driving, as well as our Real MPG testing, confirmed that. The 250 is rated at 21/30/24 mpg (city/highway/combined) and I observed 22.2 mpg. (It was not tested by our Real MPG team.) The 350 AWD is rated at 19/26/21 mpg and returned Real MPG results of 20/29/23 mpg. I observed 22.1 mpg. The 350 F Sport is rated at 19/28/22 and saw 21/28/24 mpg results in Real MPG testing. I drove the sporty model harder than the other cars and saw 21.8 mpg. The consistency across differing engines and drivetrains is impressive, though the combined and observed MPG are both low for the class in all three cases.

2014 Lexus IS 350 F Sport© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 Lexus IS 350 F Sport Equally consistent was the cost of maintenance: zero. Each car went in for one service during its stay, all prompted by a message displayed on the information screen in the gauge cluster. The 250 and 350 F Sport both received an inspection, while the 350 AWD also had its tires rotated. Each was free, as the first two scheduled service visits are complimentary for all Lexus vehicles. Unlike my previous long-term vehicle, a BMW 328i Sport, none of the Lexi suffered a breakdown or a malfunctioning component during its stay-- granted, they stayed for a third the length of time and mileage each. The only trouble I experienced was a dead battery in the 350 F Sport after parking it for a long weekend. No lights were left on and the dealer found no battery or charging issue. The problem never returned.

The cars delivered on reliability, then. On luxury, they also performed well. All three were crypt-quiet inside and rode nicely despite their sporting pretenses. The engines and powertrains were smooth; the stereos produced rich, clear sound; the interior materials were top quality; and the seats were among the most comfortable in the class. There were a few small issues, though. Both 350s had dash panels that slightly misaligned just below the engine start/stop button, and loose transmission selector knobs. Lexus' Remote Touch entertainment system controller was less intuitive than it ought to be and didn't work as well as the German competition's. On the other hand, Lexus' temperature controls are easily the best touch-sensitive controls on the market. Rear seat legroom was small for the class. The fact that seat position memory is not a standard feature is inexcusable.

2014 Lexus IS 350 AWD© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 Lexus IS 350 AWD What about that sportiness? The chassis is one of the most noticeable upgrades to this new generation of IS. The car is much more responsive than previous models, with sharper turn-in, better handling, and better chassis control. Grip is generally unimpeachable, mid-corner bumps are handled with authority, and the brakes are resilient in the face of prolonged performance driving. All of this comes with the caveat, though, that you do not do anything to trigger the stability control— if you do, you shall be severely punished. Even the F Sport will grab the brakes hard and cut all throttle should a wheel begin to slip, and it will not return control of the throttle for what feels like an eternity. The sleeping dragon that is stability control is difficult to wake, but if you do, you will feel its wrath.

There's also the matter of actual performance. Compared to the competition, all three models are down on power and subsequently slow in a straight line. The 350s feel quick enough that I can't grouse much, but the 250 is downright lethargic for the class. In the corners, though, all three cars put up respectable numbers on par with the competition. These are momentum cars -- they're better when you can keep the speed up and the RPMs high, where their naturally aspirated power lies.

A year with the Lexus IS line, then, confirms expectations. They're comfortable, reliable cars that are also sporty in a corner. They're not the most fun or emotional cars in the class, but they won't sock you with horrendous repair bills, and that's a pretty good trade for most people. As long as you're one of the ones who likes the way they look. I still haven't warmed up to the predator face.

More on our long-term 2014 Lexus IS:

2014 Lexus IS 250© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 Lexus IS 250

 2014 Lexus IS 2502014 Lexus IS 350 AWD2014 Lexus IS 350 F Sport
Our Car
SERVICE LIFE4 mo / 5441 mi4 mo / 5810 mi4 mo / 6788 mi
BASE PRICE$36,845 $42,610 $40,375
OPTIONSNavigation Package ($2085: nav, backup camera, Lexus Enform), Intuitive Parking Assist ($500), cargo net ($64)Luxury and Technology Package ($3675: LED headlights, heated and cooled front seats, lane-departure warning system), Navigation/Mark Levinson Premium Audio Package ($3225: 15-speaker sound system, backup camera), Intuitive Parking Assist ($500), power rear sunshade ($210)F Sport Package ($3620: F Sport bodywork, 18-in wheels, Adaptive Variable Suspension), Navigation/Mark Levinson Premium Audio Package ($3225: 15-speaker sound system, backup camera), blind-spot monitoring system ($600), Variable Gear Ratio Steering ($400), trunk mat ($105), cargo net ($64)
PRICE AS TESTED$39,494 $50,220 $48,389
AVG ECON/CO222.2 mpg / 0.87 lb/mi22.1 mpg / 0.88 lb/mi21.8 mpg / 0.89 lb/mi
MAINTENANCE COST$0 (inspection)$0 (rotate tires, inspection)$0 (inspection)
3-YEAR RESIDUAL VALUE*$19,747 $25,110 $24,678
*Automotive Lease Guide data

 2014 Lexus IS 2502014 Lexus IS 350 AWD2014 Lexus IS 350 F Sport
DRIVETRAIN LAYOUTFront-engine, RWDFront-engine, AWDFront engine, RWD
ENGINE TYPE60-deg V-6, aluminum block/heads60-deg V-6, aluminum block/heads60-deg V-6, aluminum block/heads
VALVETRAINDOHC, 4 valves/cylDOHC, 4 valves/cylDOHC, 4 valves/cyl
DISPLACEMENT152.5 cu in/2499 cc210.9 cu in/3456 cc210.9 cu in/3456 cc
COMPRESSION RATIO12.0:1 11.8:111.8:1
POWER (SAE NET)204 hp @ 6400 rpm 306 hp @ 6400 rpm306 hp @ 6400 rpm
TORQUE (SAE NET)185 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm277 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm277 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm
REDLINE6500 rpm 6600 rpm6600 rpm
WEIGHT TO POWER17.4 lb/hp12.5 lb/hp12.1 lb/hp
TRANSMISSION6-speed automatic6-speed automatic8-speed automatic
AXLE/FINAL-DRIVE RATIO3.73:1/2.17:13.77:1/2.19:13.13:1/2.15:1 (F Sport)
SUSPENSION, FRONT; REARControl arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll barControl arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll barControl arms, coil springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar
STEERING RATIO13.2:113.3:113.2:1
BRAKES, F;R11.7-in vented disc; 11.5-in disc, ABS13.2-in vented disc; 12.2-in vented disc, ABS13.2-in vented disc; 12.2-in vented disc, ABS
WHEELS7.5 x 17-in, cast aluminum7.5 x 17-in, cast aluminum8.0 x 18-in (fr), 8.5 x 18-in (rr), cast aluminum
TIRES225/45R17 91V M+S Bridgestone Potenza RE92225/45R17 91V M+ S Dunlop SP Sport 5000 M225/40R18 88Y (fr), 255/35R18 90Y (rr) Bridgestone Turanza ER33
WHEELBASE110.2 in110.2 in110.2 in
TRACK, F/R60.4/61.0 in60.4/61.0 in60.4/60.6 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT183.7 x 71.3 x 56.3 in183.7 x 71.3 x 56.3 in183.7 x 71.3 x 56.3 in
TURNING CIRCLE34.2 ft35.4 ft34.2 ft
CURB WEIGHT3541 lb3822 lb3704 lb
WEIGHT DIST., F/R53/47%54/46%53/47%
HEADROOM, F/R38.2/36.9 in38.2/36.9 in38.2/36.9 in
LEGROOM, F/R44.8/32.2 in44.8/32.2 in44.8/32.2 in
SHOULDER ROOM, F/R55.9/53.4 in55.9/53.4 in55.9/53.4 in
CARGO VOLUME13.8 cu ft13.8 cu ft13.8 cu ft
0-30 2.5 sec1.9 sec1.9 sec
PASSING, 45-65 MPH3.82.82.9
QUARTER MILE15.5 sec @ 90.4 mph 13.9 sec @ 99.4 mph14.0 sec @ 99.8 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH116 ft117 ft111 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION0.87 g (avg)0.85 g (avg)0.86 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT26.6 sec @ 0.66 g (avg)26.4 sec @ 0.69 g (avg)26.1 sec @ 0.72 g (avg)
TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH1900 rpm1950 rpm1800 rpm
BASE PRICE$36,845 $42,610 $43,995
PRICE AS TESTED$39,494 $50,220 $48,389
AIRBAGSDual front, f/r side, f/r curtain, front kneeDual front, f/r side, f/r curtain, front kneeDual front, f/r side, f/r curtain, front knee
BASIC WARRANTY4 yrs/50,000 miles4 yrs/50,000 miles4 yrs/50,000 miles
POWERTRAIN WARRANTY6 yrs/70,000 miles6 yrs/70,000 miles6 yrs/70,000 miles
ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE4 yrs/unlimited 4 yrs/unlimited4 yrs/unlimited
FUEL CAPACITY17.4 gal17.4 gal17.4 gal
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON21/30/24 mpg19/26/21 mpg19/28/22 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY160/112 kW-hrs/100 miles177/130 kW-hrs/100 miles177/120 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB0.80 lb/mile0.90 lb/mile0.87 lb/mile
REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMBN/A20/29/23 mpg21/28/24 mpg
RECOMMENDED FUELUnleaded premiumUnleaded premiumUnleaded premium

2014 Lexus IS© Provided by MotorTrend 2014 Lexus IS

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