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2009 Lexus IS 350 Attempts to Dethrone BMW 3-series

Posted in BMW, Cars, Lexus, Luxury Cars by Geoff | April 29th, 2009 | 3 Responses |

2009 IS 350
2009 Lexus IS 350

The entry-level models from the majority of luxury automakers tend to leave most wanting more.  More power, more capable handling, just more performance in general.  So you have to give credit to Lexus who seems to have gotten things just about right with their newest IS sport sedans.  Like many things in life, the key to their success is rooted in keeping it simple.


The IS “family” is actually two cars, the IS 250 and it’s more powerful sibling, the IS 350.  For the sake of satisfying your performance needs, the IS 350 is the clear choice between the two versions, with a strong 3.5-liter V6 that produces 306 horses and 277 lb-ft of torque that utilizes Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i).  Those numbers push the rear-wheel drive sedan to 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds; as fast as many sports cars.  Although a manual would be icing on the cake, the IS 350 only comes with a six-speed automatic with wheel-mounted paddle shifters.  EPA fuel economy estimates are 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined.  Enhancing handling, the IS 350 comes with a double-wishbone front suspension, a high-mount upper control arm, and a liquid-filled bushing at the rear to minimize vibration and harshness. The multilink rear suspension emphasizes precise control of geometry in all dynamic conditions, helping make the Lexus IS sport sedans ultra-stable for confident driving. High-strength steel and aluminum suspension components reduce unsprung weight, helping the Lexus IS remain stable on bumpy surfaces and improving ride comfort. 

IS 350 Interior
IS 350 Interior

For better or worse, choosing a trim level is easy, there’s only one.  Thankfully that includes a long list of amenities including 17-inch wheels, leather seats, power front seats, automatic dual-zone climate control, a moonroof and an audio system with a six-CD changer.  A voice-activated navigation system is also available.  As a separate Luxury package, buyers can opt for heated and ventilated seats and HID headlights with Adaptive Front-lighting System (AFS) that light a curve as the driver steers into it.  The optional Intuitive Park Assist (IPA) system uses ultrasonic sensors to detect objects close to the car’s front and rear bumpers, alerting the driver and showing distance to objects in the multi-information display within the speedometer.  With the Sport package the wheels can be upgraded to 18 inches, sport tires and the suspension is tuned for more aggressive driving.

305 horsepower Lexus V6
306 horsepower Lexus V6

Inside, the interior is everything you’d expect from a luxury brand, although many feel it leans a little too far towards comfort.  In terms of an everyday driver, most will appreciate the comfortable seating, but when really pushing it the car’s less than supportive seats will come off a bit lacking.  Small quibblings.  The only other complaint is that while seating is stated for five, the backseat in particular is on the small side.  On the outside, Lexus has tweaked an already attractive style that carries on from past years.  Revisions for 2009 include the grille, both bumpers, taillight clusters and integrated turn signals in the exterior mirrors. The IS 350 comes with a strikingly wide and athletic stance that could almost be described as muscular.  It culminates in a ducktail-style trunk.  Starting at just over $31,000 the IS sedan is a decent attempt by Lexus to take on the BMW 3 Series.  For those looking for an extremely driver-friendly sport option, it may be just the right fit.

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3 Responses

  1. deep thoughts says:

    - the base/base package is 31k, ~the one picture above, is well over 31k…still a good deal for a hooked up Toyota with some Lexus badges?

    …..One thing Lexus does right is the paint, the colors are very rich! and no orange peel effect…..

  2. One mean magnificent son of a Japanese!! I want one! How come here in South Africa we only get the underpowered IS250, like the rest of Europe, at least an IS300 will do.

  3. Kiyoshi Manabe says:

    It is curious that Lexus only offers meager-powered IS250 and IS220d in Europe. With such mundane engine muscle, the IS can’t take on with the likes of Mercedes C-class and BMW 3-series there.
    On the other hand, in several countries of Europe Continent including France, Italy, and Switzerland parallel-importing dealers have been selling considerable number of IS350s(imported from Canada) for years, some sources say. So we do hope the official release of Lexus IS350 in all countries of Europe, anticipating Lexus’ effort toward right marketing!