Good daily driver.
The Lexus IS 350 hasn’t had a major overhaul since its introduction in 2014, but in 2017 the IS 350 did receive a refresh. When we drove it two years ago, we noticed the new grille, headlights (LEDs), and air intakes; while the back of the sedan was upgraded with different taillights and exhaust tips. Despite only minor changes, this luxury sedan is still relevant and offers a comfortable cabin, superior ride quality, and all-weather capability.
Over the weekend, we drove the 2019 Lexus IS 350 with all-wheel drive, the F Sport package, and other luxury items that made it extra comfy.
Lexus IS 350: What’s New For 2019?
Updates include a new LED headlight option and Amazon Alexa voice commands. A Black Line Special Edition IS 300 was also new for this year, but limited to just 900 units. For exterior colors, Liquid Platinum replaces Silver Lining Metallic.
Features & Options: A Good Mix
The 2019 Lexus IS 350 AWD ($44,095) comes standard with 18-inch wheels; LED headlights; a sunroof; heated side mirrors; keyless entry and ignition; dual-zone automatic climate control; power-adjustable front seats; simulated-leather upholstery (NuLuxe); 60/40-split folding rear seats; and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Tech features include Bluetooth connectivity; Lexus Enform Remote vehicle controls; two USB ports; and satellite and HD radio.
Standard driver assistance features include a rearview camera; automatic high beams; lane departure warning and intervention; adaptive cruise control; and a forward collision warning system with pedestrian detection and automatic braking.
Our IS 350 tester came with the Navigation package which provides speed limit information, weather updates, and predictive traffic analytics through its 10.3-inch display. Heated seats and a 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system were also included on our test vehicle.
Features & Options: Go For The F Sport Package
The F Sport package adds different styling; staggered-width 18-inch wheels; a sport-tuned, adaptive suspension; limited-slip rear differential; upgraded brakes; an intake sound generator that amplifies engine noise during acceleration (a bonus!); heated and ventilated front seats; and a special, sport-oriented gauge cluster.
Other stand-alone options included the upgraded triple-beam headlights, a power rear sunshade, parking assist, and a heated steering wheel. Total MSRP including destination: $53,647. By contrast, the 2019 Lexus IS starts at $38,560 with rear-wheel drive.
Related: On the road with the 2019 Lexus RC 350.
Interior Highlights: Comfortable But Just One Issue
The 2019 Lexus IS 350 cabin is a strong point for this sedan. It features the things you would expect from the luxury division of Toyota, with upscale materials and a first-class fit and finish. The interior has the visual effect and feel of a car costing nearly twice the price. Our tester had a white exterior with an attractive black and red interior. The F-Sport seats add extra bolstering for more spirited driving, which we did plenty of over the weekend.
The larger, 10.3-inch screen sits in the middle of the dash and contains the Lexus app suite called Enform. However, Lexus uses the mouse type joystick for navigating the infotainment screen. We are still not a fan.
We do like the steering wheel paddle shifters, and the analog clock is still an interesting feature in today’s digital world. It sits in the middle of the air vents. We appreciate the radio and climate control adjustments as they are easy to use. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the IS 350’s basic controls, which is a bonus considering it’s a luxury car.
Lexus says the IS 350 will seat five adults, but having three in the back will be only possible for short trips. The trunk is 13.8 cubic feet, more than the Mercedes-Benz C-Class but less than the top-selling BMW 3-Series.
2019 Lexus IS 350: Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs
The 2019 Lexus IS 350 is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine with both direct and port injection. The plant makes 311 horsepower and 280 lb-ft. of torque. It comes with a six-speed automatic transmission (two gears less than the IS 300’s 2.0-liter turbo) and steering wheel paddle shifters for driving enthusiasts.
Lexus has designed the all-wheel drive system to maintain a 30:70 front-to-rear torque split on dry pavement, but sends as much as 50 percent to the front wheels when needed. EPA fuel mileage estimates are 19/26 city/highway and 21 combined mpg.
Related: The Lexus UX is a small package for the big city.
Driving Dynamics: Fun & Confident
The 3.5-liter V6 is ultra smooth and gets a bit more horsepower and torque from previous years. We pushed the IS 350 hard up I-70 west of Denver and the sedan has enough power to have some fun. We used the steering wheel paddle shifters to manually row the six-speed automatic, bumping up the fun-to-drive meter. The six-speed transmission offers Eco, Normal, Sport, and Snow modes with the twist of a dial on the console.
The IS 350 with the F Sport package improves driving dynamics, especially with the sport-tuned suspension and upgraded brakes. The F Sport’s throttle and transmission respond quicker when you put it in Sport+ mode, so you need the extra stopping power. We enjoyed throwing this luxury sedan around a mountain curve or two, and felt we could comfortably unlock the car’s potential.
We consider the IS 350 a capable sports sedan, but not a true performance car like its German competition. However, with all-wheel drive, the IS 350 is an excellent year-round commuter. If you’re simply looking for a nice luxury sedan with a little power under the hood, then the IS 350 is a good choice.
Conclusion: Opt For All-Wheel Drive
The 2019 Lexus IS 350 has a lot going for it. The cabin is upscale, there are plenty of standard safety features, and the V6 engine is smooth. The IS 350 delivers a quiet, comfortable, and luxurious ride overall. Though all-wheel drive models give up two gears in the transmission versus their rear-wheel drive counterparts, it does broaden the sedan’s appeal for those who live where things often get slick.
Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. All of his firsthand reviews are archived on our test drives page. Follow Denis on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy
2019 Lexus IS 350 Gallery
Photos: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.