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2014 Lexus IS F Sport Road Test & Review: Introduction
There is much to love about the new Lexus IS sedans.
Better looking, more spacious, and bristling with an abundance of tech, the small Lexus four-door now feels more like a Lexus than ever before. Interestingly though, the qualities that make a Lexus a Lexus have evolved somewhat over the last couple of years. The introduction of more driver focused models like the new GS and the new LS—which for the first time in that model’s history is truly capable of standing as a large luxurious sports sedan (when outfitted in F Sport livery)—have somewhat redefined the brand.
With all of that in place, we excitedly approached the 2014 Lexus IS F Sport models. After all, this is the Lexus challenger to the all-conquering BMW 3 Series. With its diminutive size, powerful engine, and rear-wheel drive, the Lexus IS was singularly responsible for giving enthusiasts a reason to look twice at Lexus when it was introduced to North America as the IS 300 back in 2000.
In fact, it can be argued the Lexus IS, rather than the GS, was really the car responsible for attracting young performance-oriented drivers to the Lexus brand. Further, the success of the Lexus IS contributed much ammunition to the faction inside Lexus responsible for getting the exotic LFA off the drawing board and out onto the street.
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2014 Lexus IS F Sport Road Test & Review: Models & Prices
For 2014, Lexus is once again offering the IS in two models, the IS 250 and the IS 350. Both are powered by V6 engines, both are also available with either-rear- or all-wheel drive, and both have F Sport packages. In addition to the more driver targeted F Sport packages, the IS models are also offered with a Premium Package and a Luxury Package.
Standard features on all 2014 Lexus IS models includes HID headlamps, L-shaped LED daytime running lights, Drive Mode Select, paddle shifters, a dual zone climate control system, a revised version of the Lexus Remote Touch Interface, Display Audio, a color 4.2 inch TFT multi-information display, and 10 airbags. The all-new multimedia system now delivers real-time traffic and weather information without a subscription.
The Premium Package features LED headlamps in addition to heated and ventilated front seats. The Luxury Package encompasses the Premium Package and adds a perforated leather-trimmed interior, linear wood trim, electrochromic exterior mirrors with reverse tilt, rain-sensing wipers, driver seat memory, a power tilt/telescopic steering wheel, center stack kneepads, and a Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
The F Sport Package incorporates specific exterior visual cues, in addition to performance hardware and interior upgrades. The IS F Sport package consists of a full-mesh grille and a unique front bumper, in addition to LED headlamps, 18” split 5-spoke wheels, front sport seats, and a more aggressive sport-tuned suspension.
Inside, all F SPORT models feature the attention-grabbing center-mounted tachometer with moving bezel adopted directly from the LFA. The IS 350 F SPORT adds standard Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) with a Sport S+ drive mode. For the first time, the F SPORT package is also available for IS AWD models.
Pricing for the Premium Package is $1050 on rear-drive models and $610 on all-wheel drive models. Similarly, the Luxury Package runs $3665 for rear-drive IS cars, and $3225 for al-wheel drive versions of the new Lexus four door.
The F Sport package costs $3,115 for the rear-drive IS 250, and $2,675 for the all-wheel drive IS 250. Rear-drive IS 350 models get the F Sport package for $3,620 while the all-wheel drive IS 350’s F Sport package runs $3,180. Thus, the rear-drive 2014 Lexus IS 250 F Sport starts at $39,960 including destination charges; while the rear drive IS 350 F Sport starts at $43,980. All-wheel drive versions of the car start at $42,055 for the 250 and $45,775 for the 350.
This base pricing is actually less than the outgoing 2013 IS. Additionally, according to Lexus representatives, some $1400 in optional 2013 equipment is included as standard equipment on the 2014 Lexus IS.
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2014 Lexus IS F Sport Road Test & Review: Design
While instantly recognizable, a number of new styling cues set the 2014 car apart from the outgoing 2013 model.
The recently introduced “spindle” grille is a prominent aspect of the new design. A windswept pair of headlight housings and a very aggressive lower fascia incorporating brake cooling ducts frame it. The shape of the headlights is nicely echoed by the “L’-shaped daytime running light LED array.
The sides of the car feature gently sculpted surfaces trailing away from the front wheels add tension and a sense of movement to the design. The upswept rear treatment adds to dynamically engaging appearance of the new model.
The wheelbase of the 2014 IS is up some three inches over the 2013 model—while the width has been expanded by about half an inch.
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2014 Lexus IS F Sport Road Test & Review: Comfort & Cargo
Spend more than five seconds talking with a Lexus representative and they will manage to slip in the fact the cockpit for the 2014 IS was inspired by the LFA supercar at least twice. And yes, the word cockpit specifically applies, as the driver is literally surrounded by the tools needed to manage the progress of the IS. Additionally, The seating position is configured such that you feel as if you’re sitting in the IS.
The sport seats in our F Sport test cars offered excellent support, though we do wish the lower seat cushion was either longer or offered retractable thigh support extensions. While lateral support during aggressive maneuvers is really good, we found the positioning of the headrest to be too aggressive. To improve comfort, the headrest’s angle could be relaxed by about five degrees and it would still provide the degree of whiplash protection it should afford.
A nice benefit of the three-inch wheelbase extension is improved legroom in the back seat (1.6 inches more according to Lexus spokespeople). It’s still a sports sedan, so don’t look for limo-like luxury, but it is significantly improved over the previous car. Trunk space measures 13.8 cubic feet and can be expanded even more thanks to the new 60/40 split folding rear seat.
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2014 Lexus IS F Sport Road Test & Review: Features & Controls
Looking around the interior of the 2014 Lexus IS F Sport you’ll immediately see you’re in something nice. The softly rounded surfaces, the graceful sweep of the center console, and the premium look of the materials—they all say Lexus, loudly and clearly. The design also says sporting Lexus; particularly that deliciously sculpted sport steering wheel. Sized just right, it really is a joy to both hold and behold.
Proudly facing the driver just aft of the wheel is an evolution of the TFT integrated tachometer/speedometer from the LFA. The adaptive center gauge can be reconfigured to provide a variety of information. We love the way it groups everything you need to know in one centrally-located place where it can be immediately digested and acted upon.
The touch sensitive controls in the center stack were largely satisfying to use, though we did find the slow responding controls for the audio system a bit frustrating. Still though, the ergonomics of the 2014 Lexus IS are beyond reproach. Everything you need to operate the car on the move can be accessed without leaning forward in your seat.
The incorporation of subscription-free traffic and weather is a welcome touch. Further, the optional Mark Levinson audio system is a revelatory experience. Boasting 15 speakers and 835 watts, it almost sounds like the musicians are in the car with you.
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2014 Lexus IS F Sport Road Test & Review: Engine/Fuel Economy
Carried over from the previous iterations of the IS, the engines are a 2.5-liter V6 producing 204 horsepower and 185 ft-lbs of torque for the IS 250 F Sport and a 3.5-liter 306-horsepower, 277 ft-lb V6 for the IS 350 F Sport. Delivering the same power, but saddled with more weight (2014 models are some 200 pounds heavier than the 2013s), the predictable result is that the 2014 IS F Sport models are a bit slower than the cars they replace.
Also carried over is the six-speed automatic transmission, which is fitted to all IS 250 models and the all-wheel drive iterations of the IS 350. An eight-speed Sport Direct Shift automatic transmission (originally fitted to the IS F) is standard equipment for rear drive versions of the 2014 IS 350. Offering paddle shifters and G-Force Artificial Intelligence the eight-speed is “geared” more toward driving enthusiasts.
The 2014 Lexus IS cars get the Lexus Drive Mode System with three modes for the standard cars (Eco, Normal, and Sport) and four modes for IS 350 F Sport cars (Eco, Normal Sport, and Sport +). All-wheel drive models get an additional mode—Snow.
Fuel economy is estimated at 19-city and 21 highway for the IS 350 and 26 in the city and 31 on the highway for the IS 250.
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2014 Lexus IS 350 F Sport Road Test & Review: Driving Impressions
With the same engines and more weight, the 2014 IS models are slower than the 2013 models. Dynamically, they don’t feel quite as sharp either. However, perhaps because of this actually, the 2014 IS models do ride better than the 2013s—they’re quieter too.
For some people, this will be welcome news.
For diehard car fans, the ones hoping the new IS would be a reasonable substitute for a 3 Series BMW the way the 2013 GS models proved themselves to be reasonable substitutes for 5 Series BMW models are going to be disappointed. The 2014 Lexus IS simply isn’t as sharp (nor quite as refined actually) as the BMW it competes against.
Now please, don’t go away thinking the 2014 Lexus IS F Sport cars are not fun to drive, because they are. They turn in nicely, they grip really well, they respond to steering inputs nicely, they change direction at high speeds quite readily, and their brakes respond quite obediently to modulation.
This is what we were referring to earlier when we said the new IS is more “Lexus-like” than any previous version of the car. Ironically, just as Lexus has made its big LS flagship luxury car sportier, it made its small sports sedan more luxurious.
This is exacerbated in the 2.5-liter version of the car by the fact it is considerably underpowered. Any car trying to compete in the sports sedan segment with a 0–60 pushing eight seconds…
Further, if you choose the new all-wheel drive option (even more weight) you’ll see that time get even longer. If any car ever needed a pair of turbochargers, the 2014 Lexus IS 250 F Sport is definitely one of them. A six-speed manual transmission would undoubtedly make it more fun to drive. Alas though, a clutch pedal is no longer numbered among IS offerings.
The IS 350 F Sport on the other hand, with its adaptive suspension system, Variable Gear Ratio Steering (makes the car turn in much more sharply), the Sport + drive mode, and the smart eight-speed automatic transmission is quite the engaging piece. Making all the right sounds, staying flatter when cornering, and still providing a comfortable ride around town—it’s a pretty complete package. Further, its acceleration is brisk, particularly in the Sport and Sport + modes.
Overall, 2014 Lexus IS 350 F Sport would be the one we’d choose.
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2014 Lexus IS 350 F Sport Road Test & Review: Safety/Ratings
Ten airbags are standard equipment. So is Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management, which integrates ABS, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Traction Control, and Vehicle Stability Control with the Electronic Power Steering system.
The optional Pre-Collision System incorporates Adaptive Cruise Control.
New active safety features include an Automatic High Beam headlamps system, Lane Departure Alert, and Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
Crash test results have yet to be reported.
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2014 Lexus IS 350 F Sport Road Test & Review: Final Thoughts
Being the most sporting Lexus model of all, (save of course the aforementioned LFA) we anticipated extraordinary improvements in the performance potential of this reworked iteration of the smallest Lexus rear drive model.
And, indeed, all of the right stuff is there. The mechanics include V6 engines, a new (to the IS 350) eight-speed automatic transmission, a longer wheelbase, a new suspension system, and a gorgeous new interior.
There really is much to love about the new 2014 Lexus IS model lineup. It’s more Lexus-like than either of its two generations of predecessors.
Although, in this category, that might be cause for concern.
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2014 Lexus IS 350 F Sport Road Test & Review: Pros & Cons
• Tasteful exterior styling
• Nicely crafted, well appointed interior
• More interior room and cargo space
• An abundance of modern tech features
• Underpowered base engine
• No manual transmission option
• Dynamically softer than the model it replaces
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