Last time we had a Lexus IS350 AWD, I mentioned that it didn’t come with the oft-reviled Lexus Remote Touch infotainment control interface. But this time, the Lexus IS350 AWD F-SPORT comes to us with Remote Touch. And much like I’ve done before, I’m going to play devil’s advocate by sharing my unpopular opinion — among autojournalists, anyway — that Remote Touch is the better system.
I’m not saying Remote Touch is perfect. As I mentioned in the last IS350 review, some things about the non-Remote Touch IS350′s menu structure that I preferred over the Remote Touch menu structure. But overall, I vastly prefer Remote Touch for its haptic feedback capabilities and its rocker switch that makes scrolling through menus easier.
The IS350 lacks what our Brett Solomon calls “The IMAX of Infotainment Screens,” the ultrawide screen that can dedicate one-third of the screen to an auxiliary display, and the other two-thirds to a main display — both of which can be customized to show whatever information you desire. But the IS350′s more traditionally-sized display is capable of splitting its “home” screen into three parts — one main section that takes up half the screen, and two more sections that equally split the other half. That’s good enough for me. In some ways, it’s more practical than the bigger screen because it actually displays more info.
A criticism I have leveled at Lexus’ Mark Levinson sound systems in the past is that, while they have excellent dynamics and clarity throughout the volume range, they tend to be quieter than some sound systems in much cheaper cars, as if the Lexus systems were down on wattage. It was kind of like you had to make your choice in factory audio systems: Did you want excellent clarity of sound reproduction, or did you want the ability to feel like you were at a rock concert?
I’m happy to say with the Lexux IS350 AWD F-SPORT, that either/or situation is no longer a thing we have to deal with. The 15-speaker Mark Levinson system in the IS350 we tested lived up to the 835 watts Lexus promises in its specs sheet. It felt honestly powerful, and yet, the quality of its sound reproduction at all audio levels remained every bit as excellent as other Mark Levinson systems we’ve had in other Lexuses. It’s just that this one seemed more powerful than those did.
Cool gauge cluster
In addition to having the Remote Touch controller that our previous IS350 AWD tester did not have, our IS350 AWD F-SPORT got a sporty gauge cluster Lexus said was inspired by the LFA supercar. This gauge cluster should be the standard fare on any IS, if you ask me. It puts a large tachometer dead center, where God Almighty intended tachometers to go. If you’re the kind who wants to see auxiliary information such as navigation instructions or what-have-you in your gauge cluster, you can do that, too. The touch of a button on the steering wheel will cause the tachometer and its central, digital speed display to scoot over to the right a couple of inches, making room for the auxiliary info to be displayed.
Twist the Lexus Drive Mode Select knob to the right to put the car into Sport S or Sport S+ mode, and the tachometer will take on a more race-inspired look, donning a white background to make the tachometer display more high-contrast. That’s a cool party trick and all, but not as cool as watching that tachometer slide over to the right to make room for those auxiliary displays.
Disclosure: Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas.