Lexus hopes to give the BMW 3 Series a run for its money with the 2019 IS. Both are compact sport sedans and share similar measurements. Both offer high performance options. Models are rear- or all-wheel-drive. The BMW has a turbo four-cylinder and so does the IS. Transmissions can be automatics or manual. The choice is the buyer's.
Both offer engines with differing horsepower outputs. Starting prices are in the $40,000 range. As engine sizes and trim offerings increase so do the prices.
A recently tested IS as an example of this type of product. The tested model was an upgrade AWD model with the optional F-Sport attributes including larger tires and wheels plus less significant trim elements such as aluminum pedals and a black headliner. The upgrade 3.5-liter V6, 311-horsepower engine was mated to a six-speed automatic transmission although an eight-speed was available. The engine moved this IS350 sedan from 0 to 60 miles per hour in an automotive media-tested 5.3 seconds. The Bimmer, with an optional 440-horsepower turbo V6 engine, can do it in 4.3 seconds. That option, though, can push pricing into the $50,000 to $60,000 range. With the F-Sport option on the 3.5-liter IS the manufacturer's suggested retail price is $46,460.
During the test week with two adults aboard in mostly highway driving, fuel usage averaged 22.7 miles per gallon. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the vehicle at 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined. Weight is a factor as the tested IS350 weighed close to 4,000 pounds, 3,737 to be exact.
Cabin space is a drawback to the IS. It is tight. Leg room is great in front at 44.8 inches. Lexus apparently thought that as a five-passenger sport sedan, few would take advantage of a rear seat. The most leg room in the back is 32 to 34 inches and that is with the front seat powered forward. Two adults can sit cross-wise in this rear eat. The generous (for a compact car) front leg room also cuts into trunk storage space which is 14 cubic feet. That trunk space is less than the norm for a compact sport sedan. In the tested IS350, it was somewhat shallow but deep. Packages and boxes of "normal" size fit into it. Out-sized boxes (four feet on a side) were problematic. The BMW 3's trunk space is 17 cubic feet, but then the front leg room is "only" 42 inches.
Another drawback to the IS350 is a memory system for one or two drivers. There is none. Perhaps for a vehicle costing $46,460 there should be memory at least for the driver for the power heated exterior mirrors and front heated leather seat.
Befitting a sedan with the F-Sport package, the ride was superb. No pitch and roll. No rocky, up and down behavior while traversing road imperfections. No racket, either from engine or 18-wheelers passing in the fast lane on the Interstate system. The ride was quiet and cushioned in the tested IS350.
F-Sport's independent suspension system relies on electronics to detect road imperfections and adjust the shocks and coil springs accordingly. Cavities, such as in doors, roof, floor, dashboard and firewall are buttressed with sound-suppression materials. Other luxury vehicles have these mechanicals and electronics but likely at more cost than the F-Sport Lexus IS350.
Standard for the first 10 years of ownership is Enform, the Lexus information and emergency system. It also monitors the vehicle and updates on a lot from fuel level and mileage to maintenance alerts. Enform acts as an enhanced roadside assistance system. If a crash or in distress, the system automatically alerts emergency services.
Vehicle: 2019 Lexus IS350
with F Sport package
Type: all-wheel-drive, four-door, five-passenger midsize sport sedan
Price of sedan: $44,095
Price of F Sport package: $2,365
Engine: 3.5-liter, 311-horsepower V6
Transmission: six-speed shiftable (paddles on steering wheel for manual-type shifting) automatic
Neat feature: sensible self-dimming headlights at night
Fuel tank: 17.4 gallons
Fuel: premium, 91 octane
Tires (225 front, 255 rear all-season), wheels (split five-spoke) alloy: 18-inch
Brakes: ventilated discs, 13.1-inch front, 12.2-inch rear, four-piston calipers per disc
Suspension: independent, adaptive double wishbone with coil springs, electronic shocks, stabilizer bar in front, adaptive multilink with coil springs, electronic shocks and stabilizer rear
Wheelbase, length, width, height in inches: 110.2, 184.3, 71.3, 56.3
Weight: 3,737 pounds
Trunk: 14 cubic feet
Leg room: 44.8 inches front, 32.2 inches rear
Turning circle: 35.4 feet
Standard safety equipment: 10 air bags, antilock brakes, traction-stability controls, five seat harnesses and headrests, radar cruise control, lane departure warning and steering assist, collision warning and mitigation system, tire pressure monitoring system (icon on screen behind steering wheel shows pressure in the four tires)
Warranty: four years or 50,000 miles with roadside assistance, six years or 70,000 miles powertrain, free first and second scheduled maintenance services