Relentless Pursuit: The 2015 Lexus IS350 F-SPORT

Front 3/4 view of the 2015 Lexus IS350 F-SPORT
The 2015 Lexus IS350 F-SPORT.
For several years, our Executive Editor and Publisher wrote of the ever growing presence in the rear-view mirror of Honda and Toyota---a speck that grew each year until, in less than five years, it filled the mirror, crowding the rear bumper and ready to pass.  That presence was Hyundai/Kia.

2015 Lexus IS350 F-SPORT
2015 Lexus IS350 F-SPORT.
If BMW is checking its mirrors at all, it may be getting the same feeling.  For years, Lexus was no threat. Arguably a contender for the same sport-luxury buying dollars, Lexus was always dismissed as too soft by anyone who would be a serious BMW intender.  That is changing quickly, and the IS350 F-SPORT is perhaps the best example.  For while Lexus is flashing its high-beams to pass with obvious sport machines like the now-sold out LFA and the new RC coupe, the IS350 aims straight for the volume part of the market...poised to take a not-insubstantial bite out of BMW's bread-and-butter 3-series.

$40,065 buys a 308-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, an 8-speed automatic transmission, an EPA-estimated 19 miles per gallon city, 28 highway, and the usual Lexus laundry list of standard equipment (click here).

Interior view of 2015 Lexus IS350 F-SPORT
2015 Lexus IS350 F-SPORT interior.
If an optionless Lexus ever leaves the factory, one certainly never makes it into press fleets.  The IS 350 we spent a week evaluating carried $7,840 worth of extra-cost equipment. $600 went for a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, $3,740 for the F-SPORT package which added an F-SPORT front bumper and spindle grille, LED headlamps, 18-inch F-SPORT split five-spoke wheels, summer tires, a TFT instrument cluster, heated and ventilated front F-SPORT seats, perforated leather steering wheel and shift knob, a black headliner, aluminium pedals, adaptive variable suspension and SPORT S+ mode, which lowers shift points and tightens up the suspension to make the IS350 a very serious road car.  There was also $400 for variable gear ratio steering with a power tilt/telescoping steering column, $2,995 for a navigation system with a 5.1 surround sound, 15-speaker, 835 watt Mark Levinson premium audio system, backup camera, voice command and Lexus Enform app suite.

Another $105 for a trunk mat and $925 for delivery, processing and handling and the as-tested price becomes $48,830, a price point that many comparable 3-Series (to get close to the Lexus' horsepower requires stepping up to the 335i) will blow past quickly with options.

Is it a BMW-killer?  No, not yet. But at the current rate of improvement, Lexus will get there, and soon. Meantime, it's close enough that the driver that isn't a die-hard BMW-or-nothing type could easily be swayed by Lexus' reputation for trouble-free cars to choose the IS.