I was about to start this story by saying there has never been a more successful luxury SUV created than the Lexus RX, but after some in-depth research I’m finding out that’s an old, outdated statistic.…

2017 Lexus RX 350 F Sport

2017 Lexus RX 350 F Sport
Lexus’s RX 350 looks great with its F Sport upgrades, appearing more like a “sport” utility with every passing generation. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

I was about to start this story by saying there has never been a more successful luxury SUV created than the Lexus RX, but after some in-depth research I’m finding out that’s an old, outdated statistic.

The RX, which was the first car-based luxury crossover SUV ever produced, has been amazingly successful here in North America where it remains number one by a long shot, but within Canada alone it’s currently second behind Audi’s smaller albeit almost as accommodating Q5, while globally they both get beaten badly by Buick’s number-one selling Envision that sold 123,397 units worldwide during the first five months of 2017 (you can thank China for that), as well as Mercedes-Benz’ GLC runner up that found 117,856 global buyers over the same period. I don’t have exact numbers for the RX in all the countries it’s sold in because it didn’t make the top 100 vehicles list. So much for starting out this garage overview with a bang.

2017 Lexus RX 350 F Sport
Tiny rear quarter glass and a gently sloping rear window hardly make the RX the most practical SUV in its mid-size class, but its styling and stellar reputation make it number one in North America. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Of course, with 109,435 total U.S. sales last year and 8,147 here in Canada, and 46,737 in the States over the first half of 2017 and 4,501 north of the 49th, Lexus and its RX have nothing to be ashamed of. Toyota’s luxury division is really only getting its feet wet in China after breaking through the six-figure threshold for the first time last year with 109,151 total sales brand-wide, while Lexus International reported 677,615 global deliveries in 2016, which is a four-percent improvement over 2015 and its fourth consecutive record year of sales growth. Yup, it’s tough to complain with numbers like that.

It’s difficult to complain after picking up Lexus’ latest 2017 RX 350 either. The five-passenger SUV was redesigned for the 2016 model year and still looks very sharp, literally. There isn’t an edgier sport utility available, now that Lexus’ ultra-wide spindle grille is front and centre, made even bigger and bolder in our tester’s F Sport trim. It flows into a deeply sculpted hood up top, while yet more jagged edges outline each of its triple-stacked LED light cluster elements to each side, these finished off with checkmark LED DRLs at bottom. Even more radically shaped fog lamp bezels are immediately surrounded in chrome before getting finished off with apostrophe-style vertical vents at each corner, all sitting atop razor-thin lower valance detailing.

2017 Lexus RX 350 F Sport
The RX is nearly as angular inside as it is outside, while premium features abound. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

The RX 350 F Sport’s flanks are almost as chiselled, each fender shaved flat ahead of gloss black, chrome and LED-infused side mirror housings on the beltline and deeply gorged, upward sweeping rocker panel sculpting across the lower doors, former foreshadowing a glossy black D-pillar depicting a floating roof while the latter visually melds into a chunky rear bumper encasing a sporty rear diffuser and two angularly shaped exhaust ports. By comparison the LED taillights are almost conservative, although a nice fit just the same, while plenty of satin-finish metal brightwork combine with fabulous looking 20-inch dark graphite multi-spoke alloys on 235/55R20 rolling stock. Lexus is hardly a boring brand anymore, and its once conservative RX is now one of the more avant-garde in its class.

The RX 350 F Sport’s cabin is almost as creased and creviced as its origami-folded exterior sheetmetal, but I leave any comments about style, materials quality, refinement, switchgear, electronic interfaces, and feature usability to my upcoming road test review, due out soon so to beat the arrival of the 2018 model.

2017 Lexus RX 350 F Sport
These configurable colour TFT gauges are plenty nice and feature filled. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Other than rumour about a longer extended-wheelbase three-row seven-passenger version expected early next year I don’t have any info about that the new model year, but the five-occupant version arriving this fall is expected to be mostly carryover so you shouldn’t feel any hesitation about buying a 2017. Lexus made a few changes to this year’s model too, including the addition of a new Safety Sense+ suite of advanced driver-assistance systems, now standard. On the list is millimeter-wave radar sensing pre-collision warning, lane departure alert, dynamic cruise control, and auto high beams, all items that were previously bundled in with expensive option groups yet are now standard across the entire model range.

Other standard safety features include auto on/off full LED headlamps, LED DRLs, LED fog lamps, LED brake lights, auto-dimming rearview and side mirrors (the latter power-folding with heat and integrated turn signals), a backup camera with dynamic guidelines that’s projected onto a large 8.0-inch infotainment display, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, active front headrests with whiplash protection, front and rear outboard seatbelt pretensioners and force limiters, plus more.

2017 Lexus RX 350 F Sport
Now that’s how a premium grade infotainment display should look. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

On the options list is new Intelligent Clearance Sonar, which is collision mitigation for low-speed situations such as parking, while additional active safety options include Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM), a wide-view front, rear and side parking monitor, and a 12.3-inch Electro Multi Vision (EMV) display that most companies would call a head-up display, but as slick as some of these systems are Lexus has yet to adapt much in the way of autonomous mitigation systems to the RX 350, such as automatic corrective steering, but its aforementioned pre-collision system is designed to apply emergency auto braking after an initial warning.

The RX 350’s numeric designation actually refers to its 3.5-litre V6 engine, unlike so many other models that have deviated from this sensible practice (the RX 450h hybrid being one), its output a commendable 295 horsepower and 268 lb-ft of torque thanks in part to D4-S fuel injection that combines direct injection with conventional port injection in order to best balance performance and efficiency. Aiding both objectives is an eight-speed automatic gearbox, while standard all-wheel drive is par for the course in Canada’s premium SUV sector. Lastly, Lexus’ standard Drive Mode Select adds Sport, Eco and Normal modes to either enhance the driving experience or minimize fuel usage and emissions.

2017 Lexus RX 350 F Sport
Hmmm… I’ll comment about this later. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Once again I’ll leave any experiential comments to my upcoming review, and instead give you a rundown of some additional standard and optional features not yet mentioned, the $55,900 base RX 350 receiving a pretty impressive list of items including 18-inch alloys, a heated windshield, roof rails, proximity keyless access with pushbutton ignition, a heatable multifunction leather-wrapped steering wheel, a powered tilt and telescopic steering column, a 4.2-inch colour TFT multi-information display, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone auto climate control with a dust, pollen and deodorizing air filter, 12-speaker audio, satellite radio, Bluetooth phone connectivity with streaming audio, eight-way powered front seats with two-way powered lumbar support, perforated leather upholstery, driver-side memory, heated and ventilated front seats, heatable rear outboard seats, a garage door opener, a powered moonroof, and more.

As with most vehicles in this class there’s no shortage of available options with the 2017 RX 350 thanks to four packages. Rather than organize them by price, with the least expensive being the $7,600 Luxury package, followed by the $8,700 F Sport Series 2 package, and either the $13,450 F Sport Series 3 or identically priced Executive package, I thought it best to go over the two F Sport packages and then the two other option groups.

2017 Lexus RX 350 F Sport
Upgraded F Sport seats look fabulous, but how do they feel? Come back for the full review to find out. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

While all RX 350s are plenty sporty, adding the F Sport Series 2 package makes a difference visually thanks to a unique black mesh grille insert, premium LED headlights with cornering lamps, sportier lower fascia detailing, 20-inch dark-grey painted F Sport multi-sport alloys, upgraded LED combination taillights, and F Sport exterior badging, while that F Sport branding also enhances a unique set of treadplates, an upgraded gauge cluster, a three-spoke leather-wrapped sport steering wheel with paddle shifters, a special leather-wrapped shift knob, and a different set of sport seats. Additional F Sport Series 2 improvements include aluminum foot pedals with rubber inserts, that 12.3-inch EMV head-up display mentioned earlier, an automatic air recirculation control system, voice-activated HDD navigation with Lexus’ joystick-style console-mounted Remote Touch Interface, front and rear parking sensors, an adaptive variable air suspension, and VDIM.

2017 Lexus RX 350 F Sport
Five-seat SUVs have some very real benefits. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

My tester is fitted with the F Sport Series 3 package, which means everything above is included plus Qi-compatible wireless smartphone charging, the previously noted wide-view parking monitor, a 15-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound audio upgrade, a panoramic glass sunroof, power-reclining and power-folding rear seats, and a touch-free gesture-controlled powered rear liftgate.

Alternatively the Luxury package forgoes the F Sport styling and performance upgrades yet adds its own 20-inch alloys along with the aforementioned premium LED headlamps and taillights, parking sensors, 12.3-inch EMV, auto air recirculation, and navigation, plus includes LED illuminated aluminum treadplates, a leather-wrapped and wood-trimmed steering wheel rim, 10-way powered front seats with four-way powered lumbar support, premium leather upholstery, and rear side sunshades. Move up to the Executive package and everything just noted in the Luxury package is included, plus all F Sport Series 3 package upgrades. The only negative to the way Lexus Canada has packaged up its top-line RX 350 is an inability to get an F Sport with “the works,” or rather all available options.

2017 Lexus RX 350 F Sport
How does cargo space measure up? See you soon for the review. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)

Lexus also limits exterior colour options, my F Sport tester only available in five shades and hues including its chosen Nebula Grey, the remaining four being Atomic Silver, Obsidian black, Ultra White, and Matador Red Mica, although the ability to add a stunning Rioja Red interior to default F Sport Black is certainly notable. If you choose base, Luxury or Executive trim the exterior paint palette grows to include Eminent White Pearl, black metallic Caviar, and dark blue Nightfall Mica, yet excludes Obsidian and Ultra White, whereas a golden beige Satin Cashmere Metallic is exclusive to Luxury and Executive trims. The more luxury-oriented RX 350 gets more interior colour choices too, eliminating Rioja Red but adding Parchment beige and Noble Brown to the usual Black.

That’s probably enough detail for now. Stay tuned for a full road test that will include all of my dictated notes organized into slightly more readable commentary. Until then you can check out my review of the 2016 Lexus RX 450h F Sport…

Sporty looking and plenty quick with 194 hybrid horsepower, its standard AWD is conventionally powered up front and a battery sourced at the rear. The result is best-in-class fuel economy of 7.4 L/100km…

2017 Lexus NX 300h Executive Road Test

Amazingly, Lexus went from having nothing in the compact luxury SUV segment throughout most of 2014 and prior, to being one of the top-three players by the end of 2016. The story is even better in the U.S. where the new NX is now number one in the entire class.

That, of course, makes it top dog in the northernmost North American jurisdictions by default, with combined U.S./Canadian sales of 61,179 units compared to 60,048 Acura RDX deliveries. Where were Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi? The four-ringed brand was third with 57,863 Q5 sales (that being the old first-generation model that's since been replaced), Mercedes' new GLC fourth with 52,562 units, and BMW's X3 fifth with a total of 49,613 buyers.

How the mighty Germans have fallen, not that Lexus is particularly weak and feeble. The Japanese luxury brand is a powerhouse in the crossover sport utility sector where its RX has been the bestselling mid-size luxury SUV in both Canada and the U.S. (by a long shot) for as long Read Full Story
Toyota announced the new safety features in the Lexus LS in Japan this week calling it “the safest car in the world.” Toyota says “(the LS) aims to provide world-leading safety performance through…

Lexus Displays its Advanced Active Safety Technologies for the All-new “LS”

Toyota announced the new safety features in the Lexus LS in Japan this week calling it “the safest car in the world.” Toyota says “(the LS) aims to provide world-leading safety performance through the combination of two advanced Lexus safety systems.” The LS is a pre-emptive step for Toyota in its mission to end traffic casualties. The two safety systems that have been integrated into the new LS are the “Lexus Safety System +” which is based on the Integrated Safety Management Concept. The idea being that instead of using individual safety technologies and systems independently they are instead integrated for a higher level of driver support. The second safety feature that has been incorporated into the new Lexus LS is the “Lexus Safety System + A”. This system is designed with “advanced pre-collision support and sophisticated driving assistance.” The Lexus Safety System + A includes features such as driver emergency stop assist, lane departure alert, dynamic radar cruise control, front cross traffic alert, and a two stage adaptive high-beam system. The addition of active steering assist, pedestrian alert and nighttime pedestrian & bicycle response is entirely new to the LS. The addition of the latter three technologies to the Lexus LS helps prevent collisions that cannot be avoided through automatic braking solely. Pedestrian alert and active steering assist are Pre-Collision Systems (PCS) that are a world-first technology that works in four stages. In the first stage the car will recognize a pedestrian and assess the risk and direction in which they are moving. During the second stage, as the car gets closer to the pedestrian an alarm will sound and an animation will appear on the large colour high definition display. The third stage is that automatic brakes will be applied to try and stop the car from striking the individual. The final stage only happens if the car recognizes that a crash is imminent without further input from the driver. The LS will then automatically steer around the pedestrian preventing a crash. Another innovative safety feature on the new Lexus LS is the driver emergency stop assist, which gets engaged when the driver takes their hands off the wheel for an extended period of time. The LS gets “worried” that something has happened to the driver and it engages the hazard warning lights, honks its horn and slowly decelerates until coming to a stop at which point it unlocks the doors and calls emergency services. Toyotas Chief Engineer for Safety Technology Kiyotaka Ise reiterated in the presentation “there still remain wide differences in how OEMs define automated driving. The word automated driving should be handled carefully to avoid the hype that it means that drivers don’t have to do anything”. So despite all of the safety technology which by many accounts already classifies it as autonomous, Ise said that Toyota “does not wish to call this LS an automated driving vehicle, rather, we would like to define it as a vehicle equipped with advanced driver assist technologies that can pave the way toward autonomous driving.” According to Toyota the technology in the Lexus LS will be incorporated into all Toyota vehicles starting in 2018. The new Lexus LS is expected to go on sale in Canada later this fall.
What can I say about Lexus ES’ that hasn’t already been said countless times before, other than it’s a front-wheel drive, mid-size, premium-branded anomaly that’s managed to weather regular storms…

2017 Lexus ES 300h

2017 Lexus ES 300h
The Lexus ES 300h is one fine looking car, but is it too provocative for its traditionally conservative clientele? (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
What can I say about Lexus ES’ that hasn’t already been said countless times before, other than it’s a front-wheel drive, mid-size, premium-branded anomaly that’s managed to weather regular storms of negative driving dynamics criticism and come out shining as a top seller in its field? Of course, there really isn’t much else directly in its field to compare it to other than Lincoln’s MKZ or the front-drive Acura RLX that’s no longer available in Canada. Alternatively we could look down market into mainstream volume brands in order to face it off against its own platform-sharing Toyota Avalon or others like Buick’s LaCrosse, Chevrolet’s Impala, Chrysler’s 300, Dodge’s Charger, Ford’s Taurus, Kia’s Cadenza, or Nissan’s Maxima.
2017 Lexus ES 300h
No one should be offended by the ES 300h’ attractive rear end design. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
The major differentiator in this class is this electrified 300h that brought Toyota’s storied Hybrid Synergy Drive to the mid-size luxury class in 2012 (a year after the MKZ Hybrid), but even this is now old news in the premium sector thanks to much more advanced plug-in hybrids from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Infiniti and the like. And after all is said and done, most luxury buyers will look for their hybrid (or non-hybrid) fix in the SUV segment where Lexus’ own NX 300h utilizes the identical drivetrain in a more popular and more utile body style. To get a clearer understanding of all this, let’s take a look at sales. Unfortunately Lexus doesn’t report hybrid numbers separately, other than the dedicated CT 200h, but lumps them in with their conventionally powered equivalents, so we’re left to guess that hybrids sell at similar percentages of total sales from model to model. Lexus sold 2,153 ES models in Canada last year, a far cry from the 4,251 purveyed in 2007 yet better than the 1,892 delivered in 2011. The NX hasn’t been around that long, but its sales have steadily grown from 6,127 in 2015 to 6,295 last year. What’s more, after five months of 2017 the NX has found 2,766 new owners, so it looks like it’s on schedule for another record year, whereas the ES’ has only managed to lure in 775 buyers, which could result in a new low. Then again, compared to the 432 MKZs sold over the same five months, the ES is all roses.
2017 Lexus ES 300h
Lexus mixes some very good and some very average ingredients into the ES 300h interior. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
As for which vehicle matters more in the market, the numbers speak for themselves. To be clear, these sales totals in no way reflect which model is better or worse, but rather have everything to do with a near universal shunning of four-door sedans and adoption of crossover SUVs, other than a few exceptions like BMW’s 3 Series and Mercedes’ C-, E- and S-Classes in the premium sector and Honda’s Civic, Toyota’s Corolla, and Hyundai’s Elantra amongst mainstream brands. The sad reality is this 2017 ES is the best ever, and while halfway through the second year of its sixth-generation facelift, it’s still worthy of much higher sales than it’s getting, that is if there was anyone under 70 interested. We’ll likely never know if its traditionally conservative clientele has been rubbed the wrong way by the model’s adoption of Lexus’ avant-garde styling or if its drop in popularity is just a sign of the times, but a quick rundown of those “competitors” mentioned earlier shows a similar downward trajectory for the Taurus, Avalon and Cadenza, plus the MKZ mentioned earlier, although sales of Charger are surging (it had one of its best months ever in May) and 300 strong, while the Impala, LaCrosse and Maxima are on track to make small gains as well.
2017 Lexus ES 300h
The hardwood is a bit old-school glossy, but it’s real. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
As far as mid-size front-wheel drive sedans go, I find the ES 300h attractive from front to back. Its spindle grille, Nike swoosh driving lights and chromed apostrophe-squiggle fog lamp bezels are big bonuses in my opinion, giving the car a more daring façade than its inner personality deserves, while its rear end design, with its subtle deck lid spoiler overtop gracefully understated LED taillights and lovely lower body diffuser/undertray, is as pretty as its backside has ever been. Inside, the ES 300h combines high-grade furnishings with low-rung hard shell plastics, some top-tier switchgear with others pulled up from the Toyota parts bin, some old-school glossy albeit real woodgrain trim next to nice looking metallic surfaces albeit often hollow and plasticky, and one decent electronic interface with another that shouldn’t show its face in the premium class, making my comparison to the many mainstream volume-branded players earlier quite fair. The ES raises its game over these in some respects, but falls below some of them in others.
2017 Lexus ES 300h
The ES 300h doesn’t shortchange its customers on interior space. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Under the “What’s new for 2017” column, all ES 300h trims get standard rain-sensing wipers, a rearview camera, and Lexus Safety System Plus, the latter package adding auto high beams, dynamic cruise control with emergency autonomous braking, lane departure warning, and lane keeping assist. You’ll need to spend more for blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, but this is hardly uncommon in any class. I’ll go into more detail in my upcoming road test review, in which I’ll also dispel myths about comfort-focused, melted butter driving dynamics, or not, and praise its fuel economy—maybe (of course I’ll nee to compare it to the MKZ Hybrid). You’ll have to come back to find out, but either way Lexus won’t be selling anywhere near as many of its ES 300h models as it will the NX 300h, so I might as well skip this one and go straight to writing my review of the hybridized SUV, right? I suppose not. Instead I’ll get both finished as soon as possible. Stay tuned…
I’m always fascinated by how different the Canadian market is from our friends to the south. We speak the same language (accents and colloquialisms aside), watch most of the same TV shows and films…

2017 Lexus IS 350 AWD F Sport

2017 Lexus IS 350 AWD F Sport
Lexus gives the IS 350 F Sport a more aggressive front fascia for 2017. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
I’m always fascinated by how different the Canadian market is from our friends to the south. We speak the same language (accents and colloquialisms aside), watch most of the same TV shows and films (albeit skewed more towards all things hockey), and listen to much of the same music on the same brands of TVs, tablets and phones, buy most of our clothes from the same popular branded stores, and eat at many of the same fast food restaurants (although you can’t get poutine or a McLobster at McDonald’s U.S. locations), yet we still have unique national traits that show up in the types of things we purchase. Canadians tend to like hatchbacks, wagons and minivans more than Americans, and when we opt for four-door sedans we lean more towards smaller sport models than larger luxurious ones. Take Lexus, for instance. In the U.S. the mid-size front-wheel drive ES has long been one of the most popular luxury sedans in existence, more than doubling IS sales in 2012 and selling tens of thousands more every other year.
2017 Lexus IS 350 AWD F Sport
New taillight lenses are no less dramatic than the old ones, but a new diffuser-style lower bumper and new tailpipes look great. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Here in Canada, however, the IS is the Lexus sales leader, albeit not at such a wide spread. Last year Lexus Canada sold 3,033 IS series sedans compared to 2,153 ES models, whereas the year prior it found 3,401 customers for the IS compared to 2,305 for the ES. The IS’ best year was 2014 when it sold 3,945 units, while you’ll need to go way back to 2007 to find the ES’ best sales results of 4,251 deliveries. While I like the ES 350 and ES 300h, my feelings are more lukewarm than anything remotely fiery hot. It’s an excellent car from a mid-size family sedan perspective, but exactly how much better it is than any of the large mainstream volume-branded flagship models such as Toyota’s own Avalon, Nissan’s Maxima, Chrysler’s 300, Chevy’s Impala, Buick’s LaCrosse, and Kia’s Cadenza is difficult to surmise. The IS, however, has nothing from the lower class to compare it to. Perhaps Kia’s upcoming Stinger will measure up premium status, but for the time being we can only draw comparison to D-segment sport-luxury car leaders like BMW’s 3 Series,
2017 Lexus IS 350 AWD F Sport
An F Sport steering wheel, fully configurable TFT gauge cluster, 10.3-inch infotainment, and more make the IS 350 F Sport special. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Mercedes’ C-Class, Audi’s A4, Acura’s TLX, Infiniti’s Q50, Cadillac’s ATS, Volvo’s S60, Jaguar’s XE, and Alfa Romeo’s new Giulia, if I ever get my hands on one. In this way it’s a true premium product, unlike the ES that only really competes with Lincoln’s MKX and Buick’s Regal or LaCrosse in the near-premium sector. As for where the IS stacks up against those German, Japanese, American, Swedish, British and Italian competitors, Lexus can feel pretty good with its fifth place amongst 11 direct rivals (I included the Buick Regal due to its size). The only non-German car to beat it is the TLX, while the Q50 remains just behind nipping at its rear tires. I don’t necessarily want you to read performance into that last comment, as the Q50 is now the get-up-and-go leader amongst Japanese entries when kitted out in top trim. That would be the 400 horsepower Q50 Red Sport 400, that crushes the top-line 290 horsepower TLX as well as this top-tier 306 horsepower IS 350 (the mighty V8-powered IS F no longer part of Lexus’ “F” performance branded lineup).
2017 Lexus IS 350 AWD F Sport
The contoured F Sport seats are leather covered, powered, heated and ventilated. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Amongst the Germans, you’ll need to move up to the 354 horsepower S4 to get near the Q50’s highest level of boost, as the top-line A4’s 252 horsepower four won’t light a fire under any serious stoplight warrior, whereas BMW’s 340i now makes a heady 320 (but if feels like so much more), while Mercedes’ C 43 AMG sizzles with 362 horsepower. To keep you from bothering me with emails, the quickest non-Quadrifoglio Giulia makes 276 horsepower, the fastest non-Polestar S60 puts out 302 horses, the speediest non-V ATS puts out 335, and the hottest XE maxes out at 340; I’m not even going to go into the M3 and V8-powered AMG. So, to make a short story long, the IS 350 doesn’t pull in its buyers on performance alone. In fact, while 306 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque is nothing to be shy about, nor its bettering the already enjoyable IS 300 by a significant 51 hp and 41 lb-ft, its six-speed automatic is no more advanced than the ES 350’s identically cogged autobox. Where it deviates is in its aforementioned smaller size and rear-wheel biased standard all-wheel drive layout. I’ll delve into its overall driving dynamics in an upcoming review, so for now we’ll leave its drivetrain specifics at that.
2017 Lexus IS 350 AWD F Sport
Enough space in the back for you? Check out our road test review to find out what we think. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Hard to believe but I drove the original IS 300 soon after its 1998 launch, and was on the press launch for the second-generation 2006 model in Toronto, where we put it through its paces on a makeshift autocross course at the old Downsview Airport, owned by Bombardier incidentally. That was a breakthrough car for Lexus, but other than the sensational 416 horsepower IS F I mentioned earlier and tested in the spring of 2008, that second-gen car doesn’t come close to measuring up to this third-generation model. This latest IS was introduced in 2013 as a 2014 model, and thanks to dramatic styling and dynamic performance has garnered more fans than ever before. This year marks the current third-gen’s mid-cycle update, which includes subtly reworked styling from front to rear. Following a pattern already set out by its siblings, the front grille grows in size, especially in F Sport trim, as do new larger air intakes integrated into a totally reworked lower fascia. These details are even more pronounced in F Sport trim thanks to a glossy black grille surround and side vent strakes, these matching the grille and vent inserts ideally.
2017 Lexus IS 350 AWD F Sport
The trunk gets 60/40-split rear seatbacks to expand cargo space when needed. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
The checkmark LED driving lights remain unchanged, but the headlamps above truly catch the eye as they get a totally new shape and inner assembly, whereas the LED taillights are identically shaped yet receive new lenses and innards. A new lower fascia incorporates a new matte black diffuser style cap and new angular tailpipes, this latter upgrade winning my wholehearted approval. I’ll give you my honest opinion about changes up front in my upcoming review, but suffice to say bigger and bolder doesn’t necessarily translate into better. That said some changes inside are nice, including new “hairline” instrument panel trim and a gorgeous analog clock. As for feature details, the F Sport package mentioned earlier is the Series 2 version, which comes standard with the $53,350 IS 350 (it’s optional on lesser IS models). It boasts the previously noted styling enhancements as well as unique 18-inch alloys on 225/40 front and 255/35 rear tires, an adaptive variable suspension, an LFA supercar-inspired fully configurable colour TFT primary gauge cluster, a heatable three-spoke F Sport leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, an F Sport shift knob, scuff plates, F Sport performance seats, heat and ventilation for those front seats, auto-dimming side mirrors, a massive 10.3-inch infotainment touchscreen with navigation, a single in-dash DVD, remote control, satellite radio, USB and aux ports, Siri-Eyes-Free, a powered sunroof, blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and more.
2017 Lexus IS 350 AWD F Sport
Does this smooth performing V6 make enough power compared to competitors? Check out our upcoming review for a full critique after first-hand experience. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
Other features pulled up from lesser trims include aluminum sport pedals, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, filtered dual-zone auto climate control, a reverse camera with active guidelines, eight-way powered front seats, rear seat heater ducts, all the usual active and passive safety features, and more. Of note, standard with on all IS trims for 2017 are LED headlamps with automatic high beams, rain-sensing wipers, dynamic radar cruise control, and other Lexus Safety Sense+ features such as a pre-collision system and lane departure alert with autonomous steering assist, which would all come together to earn a best-possible IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus rating if it weren’t for a merely “Acceptable” rating for its small overlap front crash test and another “A” for its headlights. It scores best-possible “Good” marks in every other category, and a “Superior” rating in the area of Crash Avoidance and Mitigation under front crash prevention. Being that most other Lexus models earn top IIHS marks, they’ll want to modify whatever needs fixing in order to make this car qualify. Not safety related, unless trying to find your way, finding the optimal driving position, or getting the sun off the necks of rear passengers, my Atomic Silver painted tester included the reasonably priced $1,300 upgrade to the F Sport 3 package that added a 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio upgrade and a powered rear window sunshade. I’ll go over all-important driving dynamics in my upcoming road test review, plus talk about styling, interior materials quality and refinement, roominess, how all the features work, and more. Stay tuned…