Lexus IS350, 2009: The Weekly Driver Car Review

James Raia

lexusThe Lexus IS350 debuted in 2006 and is still in its first edition. For 2009, one of the brand’s two premium midsize cars has a few minor mechanical changes, including a more advanced stability control system. The interior and exterior designs also received a slight styling makeover.

But Lexus has largely left well-enough alone. The IS350 is a four-door sedan with more desire to be a two-door sports coupe. It’s positioned in a competition market segment, matched largely against the Infiniti G series, Cadillac CTS and perennial favorite BMW.


The Weekly Driver’s Ratings

Acceleration (8)
It’s a four-door sedan with a six-speed automatic transmission that advances with sports car speed. There’s a 306 horsepower V6 and the standard 0-60 mph test is performed in 5.6 seconds. How many sedans can match that? A manual transmission is not available.

Braking/Steering/Handling (6)
Competition is fierce from industry leaders, including the Cadillac CTS, Infiniti G35 and BMW 3 series. There’s nothing wrong with Lexus, but there’s nothing great in these categories, either.

Cargo Room (4)
Not a strong Lexus characteristic. Total cargo room not quite average for the class. The trunk liftover isn’t problematic like some competitors, but space is cramped and curved and not inviting for bigger boxes or anything unusually shaped.

Controls (7)
Gauges are big and straightforward, but for a vehicle that prices out (with options) at more than $42,000, the windshield wiper stem shouldn’t be obscured by the steering wheel spokes.


Details (8)
A handsome combination of wood trim, paneling and grained panels give the IS350 a look (and feel) of the automobile equivalent of a summer log cabin. Noting work with that, right?

Front Seats (7)
Comfortable and and properly contoured seats translate into a comfortable ride. Visibility is keen, without blind spots. Head and leg room is adequate, except for particularly]]> tall occupants who get short-changed via the angular front and rear roof line.

Fuel Economy (5)
With its 305 horsepower V6 and premium gas recommended, it’s difficult to expect better gas mileage. Yet, it’s equally difficult to accept 18 mpg in city driving.

Quietness (8)
Throughout the line, Lexus is an industry leader. Wind noise and road interference is non-existent. This is Lexus at its best.

Rear Seats (7)
Five-seat sedan means three back-seat passengers, and like some competitors “three-in-the-back” is fine for short trips. But three adults are also likely to get cramped on a long journey. There’s a good view via the panoramic roof, but like the front seats, more head room would be welcomed. Entry and exit is easy.

Ride Quality (7)
Another Lexus trademark. It’s smooth going, for sure. But Lexus is in the same category as Cadillac CTS, and it leads the class that also features the Infiniti.

Total (67 out of 100)

Class — Premium midsize

Primary competition —  Audi A4, BMW 3 series, Cadillac CTS

Standard equipment/option packages — The one trim includes 17-inch wheels, leather seats, power front seats, automatic dual-zone climate control, a moonroof and an impressive audio system with a six-CD changer. The impressive sound system includes an auxiliary jack for MP3 players and a Mark Levinson 14-speaker 300-watt  surround-sound audio system. It’s available individually or as part of a voice-activated navigation system option.

For more standard and optional equipment, including the X Package with18-inch wheels, summer tires, and a spoiler, visit: www.lexus.com.

Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price —  $36,605.00.

Price As Driven — $42,311.00.

Mileage Estimates — 18 mpg (city), 25 mpg (hwy).

Warranty — Bumper-to-bumper, 4 years/50,000 miles; Powertrain, 6 years/70,000 miles; Corrosion, 6 years/unlimited miles.

The Weekly Driver’s final words:

“Sometimes, a car feels like you’ve owned it for a year the first time it’s driven. That’s the way the IS350 feels. Toyota does little wrong with its sedans, and Lexus, the premium brand of Toyota, does even less wrong with its offerings. Which is to say everything is right — comfort to speed, power to maneuverability.”

Article Last Updated: March 19, 2009.

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