First drive: 2014 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport in the UAE

First drive: 2014 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport in the UAE

2014 Lexus IS 350
The previous-generation Lexus IS 300 was a compromised but attractive sedan, easily the carmaker’s sportiest offering for the better part of a decade, if we were to overlook the overpriced (and overrated?) LFA. It was going to be a tough act to follow in terms of styling, although it was a given that the replacement also needed to address the issue of interior space. After the rather good GS sedan, every model in the Lexus range got a “spindle” grille and now looks like clones of each other, so their designers had to do something drastic to make the new IS be more than just a GS-lite. So they did.

The weird new styling looks, well, weird in photos, but it actually looks pretty unique in person, at least in some colours. We especially like it in graphite, with matching 18-inch F-Sport wheels. All IS 250 and IS 350 models gets 18-inch wheels except for the base model’s 17-inchers, but the F-Sport gets a different design to go with that F-Sport-specific front bumper.

The F-Sport package can only be had with the IS 350 model, powered by a 312 hp 3.5-litre V6 with direct-injection, rear-wheel-drive and an 8-speed automatic with paddle-shifters. The F-Sport’s interior gets minor trim enhancements, but the IS 350 has a rather interesting interior to begin with. The odd shapes are complemented with upscale leather trim, well-bolstered seats and a clean centre-console topped with Lexus’ trademark multimedia screen controlled by a joystick-mouse thingy. There’s obvious cost-cutting though, such as the hard plastics in all below-the-waist areas as well as the glovebox cover, while the front cup-holders are exposed cut-outs. We’d be fine with it, except that the BMW 3-Series raised the bar by making its higher price felt with much more soft-touch surfaces as well as a cover for the cup-holders.

2014 Lexus IS 350 7

The space issue of the previous model has been addressed well here. The IS 350 only loses 50 mm in wheelbase to the midsize GS 350 on which it is based, so it offers almost as much legroom. Though not terribly voluminous, it’s finally adequate for most adults. The boot under that gooseneck-hinged lid is sizeable, in contrast to the limited storage spaces between the front seats.

Getting back to the engine, its the same motor that Lexus fanboys here have been clamouring for since 2006. Finally making its GCC debut, it seemingly hasn’t changed much since 2006 either, in an age where everybody else is turbocharged. So we never felt like we were accelerating that hard with the pedal to the metal. Not even a smooth 8-speed automatic can imitate the crazy torque that the BMW 335i’s 3.0-litre turbo-6 can create, even if they match up as equals on the specs sheets.

The IS 350 now has electric power steering, just like in the latest BMWs. And just like in the latest BMWs, it feels a bit artificial in its responses. Still, the fact that it still offers some feedback is commendable, with enough sharpness and heft.

2014 Lexus IS 350 4

The handling is good, to say the least. There’s no untoward body roll, and the car manages quick directional transitions well, but on some of the smaller roundabouts we played with it on, the ESP cleanly kicked in and smoothly caused the car to understeer, well before we reached the actual grip limits of the tyres. Surely the car can manage more. Also, the brakes don’t have much bite if pressed on lightly, but stop strongly if the pedal is pounded on. It also rides fairly well with the help of adaptive suspension, although wind noise was too prominent at 130 kph for a luxury car.

The IS 350 F-Sport is a credible sports sedan, but didn’t particularly stand out to us in any department, aside from the exterior styling. You’ll save money springing for one of these reliable cars instead of a BMW 335i, but you’re not getting a bargain BMW either. Perhaps our test-drive around Dubai was too short during the launch event, and perhaps the test cars were too fresh to extract their full potential in one sitting, but even then, we suspect this car will still be a hit with its target audience — twenty-something hipsters whose primary interest has more to do with art, music and fashion rather than cars, judging by the promotional materials. But don’t fall for the marketing. It’s a nice enough car for enthusiasts as well.

What do you think?



  1. That awkward moment when a Japanese car looks more stylish and desirable than their European counterparts.

    • @GV: Audi looks the best, but I think the option list is shorter and you only get the 2.0T which is a great engine, but not a V6.

      Also Audi only has one service center in Dubai (close to the airport tunnel) and they are always crowded and the service sucks. I know cause I had a VW CC.

  2. I bet Al Futtaim will sell the “fully loaded” one for over AED 200k, which is over $50k!!!

    I hope Arabian Automobiles sells the Infiniti Q50 (formerly known as the G sedan) for much less than that!

    • I called and get quit on the prices, you are right, fully loaded is 230k.

    • The car certainly looks hot!…but..the 3.5 engine spec seems to be dissapointing since its over 7 years old while infintis g37 is awesome( even tho its 3.7)…nd is well under aed 200000….but yea lexus’s interior have always been gr8…I feel an audi a4 is a much better option than the lexusIS….in terms of ride….price….nd alsoo the service contract for 5 years

  3. This car looks absolutely stunning when examined in person. I had the chance to look at the car in blue color and it was gorgeous.

    Moving over to the review, no offense Mash but I don’t think you have done justice to this car. I have been following the car since its launch and have watched a lot of reviews, some even by the world’s leading motor journalists and they had better things to say.

    I personally believe that in terms of sporty driving, it comes second when compared to the BMW but as a daily driver and as a complete package, the Europeans are nowhere near to this Lexus.

    • Author

      Frankly, the “world’s leading journalists” are never consistent in their opinions, and I already know what goes on behind the scenes.

    • Haha I knew you would say that Mash. Even I know that, that’s needlessly said. My point is that this car is better than the review.

    • “The world’s leading journalists” were reviewing a car that is priced under the $50,000 (around AED 180,000) mark. Our Mash is reviewing a car that is priced at well over AED 200K…

    • @Khalid: That should not make a car good or bad! Isn’t it the same story with every car here! All cars are overpriced here, especially the luxury ones! Name it and its overpriced! That’s a norm here! Btw I test drove the IS350 F sport today and it is remarkable! Visited the BMW showroom and checked on 335i, it is a good 40-50k more expensive than the IS350 and the salesperson himself agreed that Lexus has better looks, better interior and way better reliability!

  4. Over priced, nothing more to be said

  5. Mash, did it have the speedometer like the LFA? You know the digital one? I love the interior but am not too sure about the exterior.

    The Q50 looks better from the outside, but the interior isn’t that great

  6. By all meaning it’s a great car however to get the TOR ISF you have to pay 230K AED which is too much for that category as in this case I might go for BMW 535 , 335 merc E/C 350 or even Lexus GS platinum/F sport with 232K
    Stupid pricing

  7. i checked this car and the best trim to price is one that costs 190K it has all the options except those pertaining to f sport design. The car is stunning in person and the interior design is superior in its class. At 190K this car gives overall BMW 335 a run for its money and its design is more screaming sport than BMW.

  8. And different front seats shape & colour , different gauge cluster (The F is like the one in the LFA) body kit , painted rims, completely different front end and the mechanical changes as well
    and that’s what you are looking for when buying a sport car

  9. I have been waiting for the IS350 F-sport launch, was expecting the full option to be priced at 170,000 AED

    At 230,000 AED I am totally going for the 300C SRT8 and still pay 15k less and get much more options, technology and performance..

    Maintenance wise both cost almost the same in my opinion, I’d get more resale with the lexus of course but ehh never mind I don’t really care

  10. u know what is the problem with Toyota and Lexus. the problem is that they literally think that by selling 30% more expensive than usa prices they will be in rang of Mercedes Benz and BMW or Audi. well Arabian automobiles ( Nissan & infinite ) are doing very good job by keeping the price fair while their products is more practical than Toyota and Lexus

  11. How is it compared with the Volvo s60 T6 in case of ride and performance?

  12. I test drove the IS 350F sport at Lexus Festival City. Anyways the moment I sat in the car I put the central Knob on sport+ too be very honest I was expecting a blast but disappointingly it turned out to be screaming v6 and no torquey push was felt. To be very honest my previous aurion gave quite a good torque and made glued to the seat on full throttle flooring. I also turned of the traction and slightly tired roll that I would not even count. Interior wise its too good to be mentioned oh yeah read seats are really awesome.

    • @adnan khan i had es350 which had very good torque when the shape changed i went and booked gsf 350 fsport and same issue the torque is so low u feel u r driving 4 cylinder car ,only car runs good on fulll acceleration very disappointed with lexus

  13. Competition for Infiniti G sedan…
    Nw Infinti has to come up with some thing new…to keep their last breath in GCC

  14. Q50 if priced right is a better proposition but a big feeling it is going to jump and be 30K more than the out going model initially and when sales stall it will be priced down…lexus sells mostly cuz of its reliability and well not much else…..avg age og lexus driver in US is 65+ here its much younger due to different tastes of people and that is why its for the young and the restless…..i still never consider lexus a luxry car….that belongs to merc alone…sorry BMW fan boys…but even beemer is more towards sporty than luxry and most people who drive bmw at least where i lived *(toronot) were plane show off jerks…

  15. Test drove a IS350 in Muscat today. Currently driving a G37S. The IS350 is no where a sports car. It came short on everything. The seats are smaller and less comfortable than the G, the interior touted as being ergonomic is not, the position of the cup holders is completely wrong and the plastic is uncomfortable to touch, the mouse like control is too ensitive. The IS is no where close to being a sport sedan it has no thrust and feels like the engine is screaming to get up in the high revs, too slow to accelearate. My G37S is starting to look old now and wifey wants a new car so buying the IS350…being dragged to the delareship screaming on all cylinders 🙁

  16. Mr. AG u had test drive the new IS 350 F Sport, I own it its a perfect sport sedan, IS 350 vs G37S = G37S bye bye, try it

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