2011 Lexus IS350 AWD Review

Front 3/4 view of 2011 Lexus IS350


That's probably the word that best describes most people's admiration of Lexus. They build high-quality luxury and near-luxury automobiles at a price below...often significantly below...that of the competition from Germany.

Desire isn't heard as often, largely because Lexus' "relentless pursuit of perfection" has sanded off a lot of the rough edges that enthusiasts find interesting and exciting.

But for every rule, there's an exception, and for Lexus, it's the IS350.

This is Lexus' drivers' car. And it comes in a variety of flavors. Our most recent run was in the all-wheel drive version.

Rear view of 2011 Lexus IS350

The IS's agressive styling (certainly by Lexus standards) hints that this is something special. And the 3.5 liter DOHC 24-valve V6 more than delivers on that, with 306 horsepower and 277 pounds per foot of torque. That power gets to the four driving wheels through a six-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with intelligence...meaning it adapts to your driving style and the conditions you're driving in.

That all wheel drive is full-time AWD, by the way. So you're getting a consistent delivery of power to all four wheels. The IS350 is already a good-handling machine. All-wheel drive just makes it better...and an excellent companion in bad weather.
Well equipped? Well, yeah...and then some. The standard equipment list is a long one, including 17-inch alloy wheels, dual chrome exhaust tips, steering wheel-mounted shift paddles, Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management, anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and Brake Assist Smart Stop technology, a full complement of airbags, Bi-Xenon high-intensity headlamps with LED daytime running lights, automatic collision notification, emergency assist, roadside assistance, tire pressure monitor, a first aid kit and a tool kit.

Interior shot of 2011 Lexus IS350

And then there are the creature comforts that come at no cost with the base price of $41,030....leather trim, a moonroof, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, a Lexus Premium Audio System with 13 speakers, in-dash 6 CD changer, Bluetooth, XM and a USB connection.

The Lexus folks pushed the envelope of our tester a bit further with the Luxury Plus Value Edition Package (heated and ventilated front seats, wood interior trim, perforated semi-aniline leather seats, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, driver memory seat, illuminated scuff plate, power rear sunshade and rain-sensing wipers)...$2,795 worth of options ordered separately for $1,320. And they added a navigation system with Lexus Enform, XM NavTraffic, NavWeather, Sports & Stocks for $2,465.

$64 for a cargo net and $73 for a cargo mat plus $875 destination charges runs the bottom line up to $45,827...not bad for a car that easily runs with sedans that crack the $50K ceiling. And this one gets an EPA estimated 18 city/25 highway miles per gallon.

It's a wonderfully balanced sedan...hitting the sweet spot where performance and luxury meet. And it's well worth a test drive.

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