2011 Lexus IS350 AWD

Matt Tierney

The Lexus IS350 is an incredibly smooth-driving car, but not in the way that most other Lexus products are. This one actually feels tight, confident, sporty, and not overly soft. In fact, it actually rides a bit rough at times, something that its primary rival, the BMW 3-series, seems to manage slightly better. The powertrain is silky yet powerful, although I was a bit surprised to find that the automatic transmission has only six gears, particularly since our Four Seasons 2008 IS-F and 2007 Lexus LS460L both had eight-speed automatics.

In general, the IS350 has superlative materials inside, although -- supporting Eric Tingwall's critiques -- the fit of the molding around the center stack has some inconsistencies. The IS plays in perhaps the most competitive segment in the automotive world (3-series, Audi A4, Mercedes-Benz C-class, Infiniti G37). They're all very, very good cars. And the Lexus stands tall among tough company.

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor

When I got in this car on Friday evening it felt so good to get into a small, tight, sporty sedan that was low to the ground and compact, perhaps it was because I had driven all manner of crossovers over the previous week.

The IS has done a perfectly effective job of trying to be a Japanese 3-series. The V-6 sounds good and has excellent power delivery and tremendous off-the-line acceleration. I like the ride and handling balance, and the accurate steering is very un-Lexus-like. Even with high-performance Bridgestone Potenzas, the all-wheel-drive system enabled our IS350 to do remarkably well in a surprise five-inch snowstorm we got on March 5th.

Yeah, the cabin is a bit somber, but the ergonomics are very good. Further details on the orange rings that Zenlea mentions: if you accelerate hard, once the tach reaches 5000 rpm the rings illuminate; the similar rings around the speedometer, in my experience, light up at about 80 mph.

Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor

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