Driving the Lexus IS350 and GS350 F Sport Models
The Lexus GS 350 F Sport is the product of the team who also gave us the Lexus LFA V10 Supercar. Owing to its design origins, the GS 350 F Sport really makes for exciting driving and everything, from handling to accelerating, to craftsmanship, echoes the word ‘precise’.
There is no shortage of leading-edge technology and this is experienced through the Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) and the ‘Lexus Dynamic Handling’ that networks the AVS, Variable Gear Ratio Steering and Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management to not only ensure safety, but also a thrilling performance through its responses to road conditions and driver input.
As is synonymous with Lexus, the interior is plush and the combination of great quality and advanced technology, such as the remote-touch audio system, the 16-way electric seats and the sporty attire, such
as aluminium pedals and scuff plates, result in a real-attention grabbing interior. The seats are very comfortable, the two-zone air conditioner is as effective as can be and the ambient white cabin lighting makes the interior a comfortable place to be.
The distinctive styling of the GS 350 F Sport is Lexus all the way, but the F Sport is styled to give a more aggressive stance. A winner for me is the integrated upper and lower honeycomb grill. A discreet spoiler and 19-inch F Sport alloy wheels add to the bold and assertive design statement of this vehicle.
Performance is, as expected, very good and the 233kW V6 engine easily propels this car to 100kph in six seconds. The GS 350 is quiet at most speeds and it looks more than a premium luxury vehicle than a sports vehicle. This Lexus cannot be faulted in any area and the price of R677 500 is very competitive, since you have most of what is needed or should we say ‘desired’ – such as navigation, electric tilt and telescopic steering wheel, bi-xenon lights and many more luxury items.
Although I tested the GS 350 F Sport first and had made up my mind that this is really a true winner for Lexus, I was pleasantly surprised when I tested the IS 350 F Sport, being the younger or more athletic-looking sibling of the two F Sport derivatives.
The modern design of the IS 350 F Sport is even more striking than that of the GS 350 F Sport and that front end just reaches out to you with a statement saying it actually belongs on a futuristic fighter jet. Add to that the bouncing bonnet, or should I say the pedestrian safety measure and you can see that Lexus has again gone a step further in bringing practical safety innovations to affordable motoring.
When you step inside the IS 350 F Sport, you will find state-of-the art LFA-style instruments, aluminium pedals, metallic inlays, electrostatic air conditioner controls and an EMV- and DVD-compatible audio system. The interior is centred on the driver with its advanced support systems and features multimedia systems. The IS 350 F Sport is a most pleasant vehicle to drive, and, owing to its size, handles like a charm. Although it is only rear-wheel-driven, its roadholding is excellent and it is one of the most enjoyable vehicles to put through its paces, especially on a winding road.
As with the GS, the IS 350 F Sport comes with three modes for dynamic driving. These settings are Eco, Normal and SPORT S+ mode, which retunes Adaptive Variable Suspension and power steering for a much more dynamic drive. The powerful 3.5-litre engine delivers 228kW of power at 6 400rpm and 375Nm of torque at 4 800rpm. With steering and suspension engineered for extra responsiveness, the IS F Sport delivers more precise control and driving enjoyment. On rough roads, for example, damping is reduced for a more comfortable ride and, while cornering, the suspension is tightened to help provide even greater responsiveness. The IS 350 F Sport reaches a top speed of 225kmh.
I have always enjoyed a good sound from an engine and have missed that on some vehicles we have tested. The IS 350 F Sport actually sports an Intake Sound Creator that amplifies air-intake pulsations to create a sportier engine noise.
The IS 350 F Sport features 18-inch alloy wheels and a discreet F Sport badge. The ‘F’ refers to the birthplace and primary testing site of the high-performance Lexus F Sport vehicles, namely Fuji Speedway.
The IS 350 F Sport sells for R571 500 all inclusive, and, again, I believe it is excellent value for money in today’s motoring market.
Both the F Sport models come with a warranty covering any defect attributable to manufacturing or assembly under normal use. This applies for a period of four years or 100 000km, whichever comes first, with no mileage limitation for the first year.
All manufacturer-specified services (normal schedule) are free up to 4 years/100 000kms, whichever comes first and service intervals are at 15 000 kilometres.
The IS 350 and GS 350 F Sport models are excellent vehicles that deserve serious consideration before buying something else in the same category.
* Test vehicles supplied by Tania Cleary of McCarthy Lexus Lynwood.
OUT OF OFFICE | CAR REVIEW
by Carl Wepener
* Prices as at date of publishing