WTF-SPORT, Pt. IV: The IS350 AWD Strikes Back

Sections: Chassis, Powertrain

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2014 Lexus IS350 AWD F-SPORT Photo Shoot 011

(Lyndon Johnson photo)

So late last year, we got the chance to drive a Lexus IS350 AWD. Now, we’ve just finished a week in the Lexus IS350 AWD F-SPORT. Is the sporting package worth it?

That depends on your priorities in life.

The big thing the F-SPORT package brings you in the IS350’s case is Lexus’ Adaptive Variable Suspension with electronically adjustable shock absorbers. What this basically means is when you crank the Drive Mode Select dial twice to the right, the suspension firms up noticeably in addition to the steering, shift firmness, throttle tip-in, and brakes getting more aggressive. All the rest of the F-SPORT upgrades are less extreme performance mods or even purely cosmetic — yet sporty — changes:

  • F-SPORT specific high-friction brake pads
  • F-SPORT specific 18-inch wheels wear slightly lower-profile rubber of a stickier performance compound
  • Sport S+ setting on Drive Mode Select dial
  • F-SPORT specific perforated leather steering wheel and shift knob
  • F-SPORT specific front fascia
  • F-SPORT specific Roja Red NuLuxe seating surfaces
2014 Lexus IS350 AWD F-SPORT Photo Shoot 012

(Lyndon Johnson photo)

That Sport S+ really kicks things up a notch. The six-speed automatic transmission holds its gear longer and will even do some gear-brake downshifting when the brakes are applied when in automatic mode, and it’ll mostly let you do as you wish with the paddle shifters. I say mostly because it obviously won’t let you lug the engine or blow past the redline — to stop you from doing stupid things, more or less.

So with that said, the F-SPORT variant of the 2014 Lexus IS350 AWD is clearly for those discerning compact car buyers who want to hoon a little bit harder than your average Joe. That’s cool. I can respect that. The car was a lot of fun on twisty backroads thanks to Sport S+ and the AWD system’s tendency to give the car more grip than I have guts. I never could take it into a corner fast enough to upset the car’s balance, which says something about both the goodness of the AWD system and the good programming of the LEXUS IS350’s electronic traction control. Those F-SPORT specific sticky summer tires probably have a little to do with it, also. I noticed the sidewall of the Pirelli P-ZERO Neros offered a 260 treadwear rating, indicating a pretty soft compopund designed for roadholding at the expense of longevity.

The F-SPORT package wasn’t the only thing that differentiated the IS350 AWD F-SPORT from the previous IS350 AWD we tested, however. Cue groans from most autojournalist types (but not this one) when I say the latest iteration had Lexus Remote Touch for its infotainment control interface. More about that and the car’s Lexus Enform infotainment system in our next installment.

Disclosure: Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas.

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