The Lexus IS series was introduced in 1998 under the Toyota Altezza nameplate in Japan and in North America as the IS300 in 2000. Altezza mean “highness” in Japanese and the IS initials translate to Intelligent Sport.
The IS models are designated as entry level luxury cars below the ES in the Lexus lineup. Since its debut, now 11 years ago, many varieties have joined the IS offerings The IS350 receives exterior and interior restyling for 2011 and offers several new options, including all-wheel drive and the “F Sport” package.
The Weekly Driver Test Drive
Beyond its bright blue (Ultrasonic Blue Mica) exterior, which attracted a lot of attention, the Lexus IS350 gained quick admiration from everyone who rode in it discussed its merits. It was among the rare vehicles I’ve tested in nearly eight years of weekly test drives that proved difficult to return.
Why? The Lexus IS350 is classified as a compact sedan, but the edition I drove in city and freeway conditions included the F-Sport Package ($2,440.00). Among other items, that meant 18-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires, a sporty steering wheel with shift paddles and an impressive sport suspension.
Add its 24-valve, 306-horsepower V6 and that’s a lot of compact sedan. It accelerated quickly, zipped through traffic, made small, tight turns in parking lots of “flew” past cars on the open road with ease.
Acceleration. A sport sedan with 306 horsepower simply translates into a lot of fun.
Stylish interior with firm leatherette seats.
Tight turning radius.
Confidence on the open road.
Crisp dials and large navigation screen with back-up camera.
Small backseat, restricted legroom and headroom
Color. Ultrasonic Blue Mica is just way too blue.
Facts & Figures: 2011 Lexus IS350
Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 5.5 seconds.
Airbags (8): Driver and front passenger front and dual knee, seat-mounted side and front and rear side curtain airbags.
Antilock brakes: standard.
First aid kit: Yes (in trunk).
Fuel economy: 20 mpg (city), 27 mpg (highway).
Government Safety Ratings: Rollover, 5 stars; Frontal and side crash standards not tested.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $38,570.00
Manufacturer’s Web site: www.lexus.com
Price As tested: $44,487.00
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 4 years/50,000 miles; Powertrain, 6 years/70,000 miles; Corrosion, 6 years/unlimited miles.
What Others Say:
“These premium compacts impress for their design, features, and materials. They also benefit from Lexus’ strong resale-value record. However, they’re not quite alluring enough alternatives to the Audi A4 or BMW 3-Series — especially in rear-passenger room and comfort. ” —- Consumer Guide.com
“On the whole, it seems that Lexus was aiming for a slightly less sporty demographic with this car, namely buyers who want the aesthetics and track numbers of a sport sedan along with the compliant ride and coddling interior of a luxury sedan. If that sounds appealing to you, then the IS350 hits the bull’s-eye.” —- Edmunds.com.
“A luxury car with some sport pretensions, the 2011 Lexus IS350 is very satisfying to drive, but suffers from a couple of cabin tech glitches.” —- CNET.com.
What The Wife Says:
“It’s just a very nice car overall, and hard to find fault with.”
The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:
“Everyone talks about the BMW 3-series, and it’s a well-heeled brand. If Lexus marketed the IS350 better, perhaps the competition would be better. BMW rules, of course, but the cars should be good rivals, and the Lexus deserves it.”
Article Last Updated: January 26, 2011.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.