If you own an SUV or pickup truck and are considering a sports sedan that can be a daily driver and in all weather, you must take a look at Lexus’ IS 300 AWD luxury sports sedan. The IS 300 AWD combines luxury accommodations, sporty performance and handling manners with AWD traction, all in one good looking, sexy sedan.
IS 300 comes in three forms; IS 300 RWD, IS 300 AWD and IS 350 RWD/AWD but with a more potent engine.
Upon slipping into the perforated heated/cooled Nuluxe front seats you’d think you were in a Learjet cockpit with its wide console, embedded transmission shifter, easy-touch flush-panel switches and 10-3-inch touchscreen along with easy to view and use HVAC controls. Lexus also remains one of the few carmakers that still offer a CD player that is located beneath the climate control panel in the IS 300.
The touchscreen serves the usual compliment of audio, rearview camera, Lexus’ Enform App Suite that contains Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, Amazon Alexa plus Wi-Fi connect.
With Lexus’ Safety System 2.5 you get a host of safety features such as pre-collision w/pedestrian detection, frontal collision warning, automatic braking, pedestrian detection and bicyclist detection, emergency steering assist, lane departure alert w/steering assist, lane tracing assist, high-speed radar cruise control, intelligent high beam (switches on/off when detecting oncoming traffic), blind spot monitor w/rear cross traffic alert and tire pressure monitoring. I have to laugh when some folks say older cars were much better. These safety systems avoid a considerable amount of accidents, especially fender benders in shopping malls/grocery stores when attempting to back out from a parking place when sandwiched between two tall SUVs.
On the large console is a large rotary dial for Eco, Normal and Spot modes, the latter increases performance somewhat by increasing shift points. There’s also a Snow mode to start off in slippery or deep snow conditions. An included hill Hold button is probably the least, if ever, used feature.
IS 300’s soft and comfy back seat has impressive leg and head room for two adults with wide opening doors for easy ingress/egress. Although the rear seat is rated for three, a high transaxle hump doesn’t allow any comfortable leg room for a third adult.
Trunk space is rated at 10.8 cubic feet or enough for two medium size rollie luggage bags and some small items. Flip the rear seat backs and capacity expands to accommodate a pair of golf bags.
The trunk’s underfloor holds a space saver tire with car jack and tools but no space to stow small items out of sight.
While IS 300 is offered with a choice of a 2.0L, turbocharged inline 4-cylinder with 241-hp and 258 lb/ft of torque; the tested
3.5L, V6 producing 260-hp and 236 lb/ft of torque; or the IS 350 with 3.5L V6 and 311-hp and 277 lb/ft of torque.
RWD models come with an 8-speed automatic transmission, while the AWD models are equipped with a 6-speed automatic. Coupled to the 3.5L, 260-hp V6 we tested, the IS 300 AWD has been 0-60 timed at a quick 6.1 seconds says Lexus. The combination offers a linear explosion of power and gets EPA mileage ratings of 20 city, 28-highway mpg. Sport mode livens performance by holding shift points longer. And the trans can be manually shifted via paddle shifters on the steering wheel.
Driving wise, the IS 300 is a joy especially in sharp tight turns where it sticks with security and virtually no body lean thanks to its double wishbone high-mount upper arm suspension with thick stabilizer bar. It also rode superbly on Michelin 18-inch all-season tires that are enhanced with gas filled shocks and coil springs front and rear. IS 300 also parked easily with a tight 35.4 foot turning radius.
As for the AWD system, it grips with tenacity. But with a low 5.51-inch undercarriage clearance, it can’t handle deep snow, merely moderate depths.
Since the test car was a pre-production vehicle, it did not have a sticker price. But Kelly Blue Book gives out an anticipated base price of $39,000 plus $2,000 for the AWD option. Perhaps some features are extra and then there’s the delivery price. But whatever the bottom line, rest assured it’s competitive and goes one further by providing sporty handling and performance while maintaining a luxury car ride that Lexus is noted for.