2011 Lexus IS 350 AWD Road Test

The following is a journal of my time with a 2011 Lexus IS 350 AWD, which is on loan to me from Lexus Canada until June 26th.

June 16th, 2011

2011 Lexus IS 350 AWD

Last week, I picked up a 2011 Lexus IS 350 AWD from Lexus Canada HQ for a road test, and so far, I’ve found it a very easy car to drive fast. I don’t know if it’s the AWD system or the memory of the LFA driving school, but there’s some serious confidence happening in this car.

Notably, this is the first time I’ve driven anything other than a barebones IS — this IS 350 is packed with all the trimmings, including the Mark Levinson 14-speaker sound system, navigation, even a rear power sunshade — and all that tech really bumps up the experience.

It also bumps up the price, from the base IS AWD price of $44,950 up to $52,950 due to its $8,000 worth of options — pretty serious stuff.

June 16th, 2011

With over 10,000km on the odometer, this IS has certainly made the rounds through the Canadian automotive media — here’s some other reviews of this very same car:

The National Post

Lexus IS 350 AWD National Post“The IS 350 AWD has legitimate sporting bona fides. Put your foot into it and the drivetrain hooks up immediately, launching the 1,656-kilogram four-door to 100 kilometres an hour in six seconds. But, as is Lexus’s wont, it’s also equally smooth and quiet — more so than in a Bimmer — which makes it deceptive. On a couple of occasions while on the highway at what I thought was a normal cruising speed, I checked the speedometer and found the car going 20 km/h faster.”

Read the National Post Review


Lexus IS 350 AWD Autos.ca“[The 2011 IS 350 AWD] is comfortable on even the bumpiest of surfaces and one of the quietest sedans in this class. If it has any noticeable fault, it would be its comfort – the Lexus favours a softer ride over driver engagement. Some, perhaps many, would not consider that a fault.

While we really couldn’t put the new AWD system to the test, at no time did it feel like we were pushing around any extra weight.”

Read the Autos.ca Review


Lexus IS 350 AWD Auto123“Aside from limited space and headroom, there’s really not much to complain about– albeit the small but unsightly lump in the driver’s side footwell that’s used to accommodate part of the vehicle’s AWD system mounted beneath. Cupholder placement is a little awkward, too.

Added up, the modest looks and heaps of power make this IS 350 one of Japan’s ultimate sleeper sedans.”

Read the Auto123 Review


Lexus IS 350 AWD Sympatico“The seating position is acceptable, but you never feel perfectly at home behind the wheel.

Where the Germans fit their sedans with firm, bolstered and supportive seats, the IS has soft and flat seats which are decidedly not comfortable for long drives…the space in the second row is limited. On the other hand, shorter drivers did confirm, in fact, that the IS is one of their favourites in terms of comfort and interior space.”

Read the Sympatico Review

June 19th, 2011

Front of the 2011 Lexus IS 350 AWD

The IS was updated for the 2011 model year, and most of that update centered around the front-end. The headlights, foglights & bumper were all tweaked to give the IS a more modern look, and for the most part, I like the results.

I’m certainly impressed with the new headlight:

2011 Lexus IS 350 AWD LED Headlight

The enclosure surrounding the bi-xenon headlamps has a darkened appearance that reminds me of the LFA’s design, and combined with the arrowhead LED strip, it’s a very distinctive light pattern.

I’m not as impressed with the new foglight design and the bulging top crease that runs down to the bottom intake. I just don’t find it aggressive enough, which is same problem I have with the grille — it’s just too “classy”.

Here’s the two photos above (plus another two) in a higher resolution:

June 23rd, 2011

One of the most common complaints about the IS is the lack of space in the rear seats — however, I can attest that it is a perfect size for a one-year-old:

Lexus IS 350 AWD Rear Baby Seat

What makes this particular IS so great is the rear sun shade, which has been in use far more than I would have ever expected:

Lexus IS 350 AWD Rear Sun Shade

My wife did mention that it’s a little hard to get our daughter in and out, but I haven’t been having much of a problem. Putting in the seat itself was easy enough, it took me all of 15 minutes to get it secure (as opposed to the LSh in February — not what I would call a kid-friendly car with those reclining back seats).

I’m of two minds when it comes to the wood trim that’s included with this upgrade package — while I’d prefer to see something more in-line with the IS, the Dark Grey Bird’s Eye Maple wood is such a beautiful pattern:

Lexus IS 350 AWD Dark Grey Bird's Eye Maple

Lexus IS 350 AWD Dark Grey Bird's Eye Maple

One thing I’m not really crazy about is the new steering wheel and its silver spokes:

2011 Lexus IS 350 AWD Steering Wheel

June 27th, 2010

Lexus IS 350 AWD

Last weekend, I returned the Lexus IS 350 AWD to Lexus Canada with the knowledge that I didn’t experience the car in its full capability — I really hope to get the chance to drive this model in the winter, when I bet it’s a blast.

And yet, even with the pavement completely dry and not even a puddle to drive through, there’s nothing quite like AWD, especially when you have such a great engine to back up all that grip. You do lose some power from the 304 hp V6 having to drive all four wheels, but at least here in Canada, the added benefits of the AWD system outweigh the effects on the 0-60 time.

Right now, the plan is to put together a final review to summarize my thoughts, plus I’ve got a killer set of photos that I’m excited to share ASAP.

Until then, thanks for following along with my IS 350 AWD test drive, and thank you to Lexus Canada for making it happen!