2015 Lexus IS 350

What's new for 2015? For 2015, the Lexus IS 350 is essentially unchanged from last year's redesign.

When we tell you that the 2015 Lexus IS 350 can't quite keep up with the competition on a winding road, we trust you'll take it with a grain of salt. What we're talking about, after all, is a mode of driving in which very few luxury sedan owners fully engage. Most shoppers in this segment want style, sophistication, premium features and perhaps a general sense of sportiness, whereas tire-squealing, at-the-limit handling ranks somewhere close to dead last. The 2015 IS 350 hits all of these important notes, delivering a smooth and suave luxury experience without renouncing its nimble feel.

Naturally, driving enthusiasts will always have a soft spot for well-mannered sedans that turn into pure-bred performance machines when you give them the spurs. So they may lament that the IS 350 isn't quite that kind of car, although its strong, ultra-refined V6 engine is an undeniable pleasure to operate. But this Lexus remains agile and composed outside of that rare max-attack scenario, with surprisingly precise steering to boot, and its comfort levels and build quality are beyond reproach.

While Lexus sells plenty of its RX 350 and new NX crossover SUVs, it still keeps a couple of traditional SUVs available as well. The 2015 Lexus GX 460 is one of them, and it carries the old-school SUV torch with sturdy body-on-frame construction, full-time four-wheel drive and a beefy V8 engine under the hood. But whether the GX is right for you will depend a lot on your priorities.

Interestingly, this Lexus is still a pretty well-mannered companion in the city. The suspension is apt at soaking up bumps and broken pavement to give you a comfortable ride. That 301-horsepower V8 is muscular enough to get you in and out of traffic without breaking a sweat. The GX 460 also offers an available adaptive air suspension (to further soften the ride) plus a solid amount of luxury-oriented features.

Exterior Highlights
Compact luxury sedan available in one well-equipped trim level

The 2015 Lexus IS 350 is a compact luxury sedan available in one well-equipped trim level.

Standard equipment includes 17-inch wheels, xenon headlights, LED running lights/foglights/taillights, heated exterior mirrors, a sunroof, keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, a manual tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, eight-way power front seats with driver power lumbar (and seat heaters in the all-wheel-drive IS 350), leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks, an 8-inch color display with a console-mounted control dial, voice command functionality and an eight-speaker audio system with Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a CD player, HD radio, iTunes tagging, satellite radio and dual iPod/USB inputs.

The IS 350 also comes with Siri Eyes Free mode (compatible with select iPhones), which basically turns the car into a rolling iPhone, allowing you to access iTunes, hear and compose text messages and emails, arrange your calendar and more, all facilitated by Apple's chatty digital assistant using the audio system's speakers and Bluetooth microphone.

Many desirable IS 350 options are grouped into packages. The Premium package includes LED headlights and heated and ventilated front seats. The Navigation package replaces the standard infotainment control dial with Lexus' Remote Touch mouse-type controller and adds a navigation system, a rearview camera (with new dynamic grid lines for 2015), enhanced Bluetooth (with automatic phonebook download capability) and the smartphone-based Enform App Suite (integrating Bing, Yelp, Pandora and other handy Internet services). A 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system can be added to navigation-equipped IS 350s. The Luxury package includes the Premium package and the rearview camera, and it adds auto-dimming exterior mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, leather upholstery with contrast stitching, wood trim, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel (with heating on all-wheel-drive models), driver memory functions, a rearview camera (with new dynamic grid lines for 2015), a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert and a power rear sunshade.

Finally, the F Sport package features a full-mesh treatment for the grille, a revised front bumper (which loses the foglights), staggered-width 18-inch wheels (with either summer or all-season tires), a sport-tuned suspension with adaptive dampers, upgraded brake pads, an intake sound generator that amplifies engine noise during acceleration, stainless steel door-sill inserts, heated and ventilated front sport seats with enhanced bolstering, aluminum pedals, a black headliner, perforated leather trim, a heated steering wheel (all-wheel-drive only) and a special sport-oriented TFT gauge cluster. Available exclusively on the rear-wheel-drive IS 350 F Sport is a variable-ratio steering system that includes the power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel.

Stand-alone options include a few of the above items as well as same-width 18-inch wheels (with either summer or all-season tires), adaptive cruise control (bundled with a collision preparation system), a lane-departure warning system with automatic headlights and front and rear parking sensors.

Traditional look, attractive and nicely put together cabin, comfortable front seats, foldable second and third row seats, lift-up rear glass window on gate

The 2015 IS 350's interior is one of the best in this class, boasting top-notch materials and unusual attention to detail. The dashboard, armrests, steering wheel and even the sides of the center console (where knees tend to rub) are swathed in dense, high-quality padding. The front seats are brilliantly comfortable and supportive under most circumstances, giving ground only during hard cornering -- yes, even the F Sport seats with their enhanced bolsters). In back, the formerly cramped IS is now one of the more accommodating compact luxury sedans, swallowing two adults with relative ease thanks to nicely shaped outboard seats and increased legroom.

The IS 350's dashboard design is attractive and contemporary, and the rakish angle of the center stack enhances the interior's feeling of spaciousness. The optional F Sport digital instrument panel features a cool (if not particularly useful) motorized circular gauge that slides side to side, as well as an LFA-inspired configurable TFT display. The high-quality buttons and knobs are easy to use, as is the nifty touch-panel fingertip slider for temperature control. Trunk capacity in the IS 350 is an above-average 13.8 cubic feet, and the rear seatbacks fold down to open up additional space.

The 2015 Lexus IS 350's standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes with brake assist, traction and stability control, front seat side airbags, front knee airbags, side curtain airbags and rear-seat side airbags. In Edmunds testing, an IS 350 required 123 feet to stop from 60 mph, which is an average distance for this class of car with all-season tires.

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