When a car company claims they are “pursuing perfection”, we understandably raise our eyebrows in skepticism.
This is not the case for Lexus though, and certainly not the 2017 Lexus IS 300 F Sport. The car is outstanding in nearly every dimension. It’s a competent and engaging ride that pulls hard off the line sport mode — that probably has something to do with the 255HP naturally aspirated 3.5L V6 engine. It features a top-notch interior with bulletproof build quality and small but noticeable details, such as well-placed knobs and soft touch surfaces. When matched with a robust track record for reliability, it appears that the IS 300 is an absolute slam dunk.
Unfortunately, a number of downsides hamper an otherwise “perfect” car: For one, I found the extremely low seating position really hard on my lower back, especially over long distances. Secondly, the included infotainment system has a steep learning curve and can be hard to use. Lastly, after nearly a week of driving, I recorded fuel mileage of 12.5L/100KM on premium gas with mixed driving. It’s hardly remarkable real world fuel efficiency. Despite these few downsides, the car is otherwise outstanding. If you want something that is dead nuts reliable and amazing to drive, this is it—so long as you can stomach the mediocre fuel economy and uncomfortable seating over long distances.
What truly makes this car memorable are the engine, steering and suspension: all three work in perfect harmony. When you floor it, the car literally flies off the line like a racehorse on speed. The gear shifts are instant and smooth and the seats—while low and hard to get into—are well bolstered and padded. The car manages to exude refinement, as the cabin is silent, even at highway speeds. The leather wrapped steering wheel is sporty, and pleasantly thicker than most. That wheel is mated to steering that’s crisp and naturally weighted with neither understeer nor oversteer.
In corners, the car has outstanding traction. It’s as if Lexus duct-tapes itself to the road using some combination of physics and the will of the almighty. Furthermore, the firmer F-sport suspension and intuitive AWD do wonders on the road, keeping the car feeling stuck to the pavement and eliminating body roll. In spite of the sportiness, the IS 300 also handles bumps admirably. The car communicates the will of the driver to the tarmac in a way you have to experience to believe. I’m not Lewis Hamilton by any stretch of the imagination, but I felt superhuman behind the wheel of the Lexus.
Turning more inwardly, the interior is absolutely outstanding. While the aesthetics might not be to the tast of some, what is not contestable is its superb build quality. To be honest, I began my review unconvinced of Lexus quality; that is, until I spent a week in the driver’s seat. Inside, no attention to detail is spared and no corners were cut. The soft stitched dash surfaces feel like an extremely plush option — adding to the luxury atmosphere of the cabin. The knobs and switches are well placed and feel solid to the touch. For example, even the lowly turn signal is excellently implemented, requiring only a light touch instead of a hard push—a mark of Japanese quality. Visibility is also excellent, with no significant blind spots.
Unfortunately, the infotainment system was a mixed bag for me. On one hand, navigation was well executed (it even automatically provided a list of the closest exits by distance when on the highway), and the eight-inch screen was large, bright and well placed with a formidable sound system. The downside; however, was the funky input system which must be controlled by one’s index finger. I found it unintuitive and unwieldy, but started to get the hang of it by the end of the week.
Lastly are the car’s general issues. The hands down biggest issue is how low the seats are to the ground. Getting in and out of the car can be awkward, as you literally need to crouch in order to get into the driver’s seat every time. Furthermore, long road trips would be a real test of the cars comfort. On my way to Fort Saskatchewan to meet a friend, I developed some pretty significant back stiffness over the half-hour drive. In 2017, comparable sports cars are generally devoid of these kind of issues. Another smaller issue is the car’s thirst for premium gasoline. Couple that with an average fuel economy of 12.5L/100KM from mixed driving over just one week, and you could be shuddering after your next credit card bill.
In conclusion, don’t let my marked criticisms of the low seating position and mediocre fuel efficiency dissuade you from looking into this superb vehicle. Fuel economy is so driver-dependent that your mileage will most certainly vary. Focusing only on its downsides would be a disservice to the so many things that Lexus has done right with this car, from the superb handling and engine to its well-appointed interior. At the end of the day if you want something that is reliable, well-built and amazing to drive, this is it—so long as you are willing to overlook both mediocre fuel economy and potentially uncomfortable seating.
If you want to get four stars with the Edmonton Police while enjoying every moment of the getaway, buy a Lexus IS 300 F Sport.