The IS sedan is Lexus' latest attempt to field a sporty four-door that rivals BMW's well-regarded 3 Series. Changes for 2008 include a handful of interior tweaks. Competitors include the BMW 335i, Infiniti G35 and Mercedes-Benz C350; the entry-level IS 250 plays against some of those cars' less-powerful siblings.
The IS 350 has a 3.5-liter V-6 that whips up a robust 306 horsepower. Lexus also offers an IS 250 and an IS-F, powered by a 2.5-liter V-6 and 5.0-liter V-8, respectively. Both are covered separately in the Cars.com Research section.
A six-speed automatic transmission is standard in the IS 350. The automatic's steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters give the driver extra involvement when desired.
High-tech features include Lexus' Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management system, which combines the electronic stability system with a host of other dynamic controls for an all-encompassing — or all-encroaching, depending on how you see it — path to safety. Also standard are eight airbags and a Smart Access keyless entry system with a push-button engine starter.
Lexus' LF-series concept cars influenced the IS 350's styling. The automaker says the latest IS bears a strong resemblance to its larger, redesigned GS series of sport sedans. A long wheelbase and wide stance help give the IS 350 a muscular appearance.
Built on a 107.5-inch wheelbase, the IS 350 measures 180.1 inches long overall and 56.1 inches tall. Despite these dimensions, the IS 350 still ranks as a compact car. Adaptive headlights are available. An optional X Package includes a sport suspension, sport pedals and a front lip spoiler. It also swaps the standard 17-inch wheels for 18-inchers.
Five occupants can fit inside the IS 350. Bright electroluminescent instruments light up the dashboard. Metallic trim is standard, and maple trim is available. A 13-speaker sound system includes Apple iPod and MP3 compatibility.
Options include ventilated front seats, dynamic radar cruise control, a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel and a navigation system that incorporates a backup camera that can help when parking.
Under the Hood
The IS 350's 3.5-liter V-6 cranks out 306 hp and 277 pounds-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard.
Antilock brakes, knee airbags for both front occupants and a new twin-chamber front-passenger airbag are standard. Side-impact airbags for the front seats and side curtain airbags for both rows are also standard. The VDIM system is designed to let drivers push the car toward its handling limits, but it discreetly applies braking, throttle and steering control as needed to avoid loss of control.