Lexus is known as a luxury brand, but it also builds performance cars. That’s not what most people think of when they see one, but it’s there. Sometimes it’s hidden beneath that huge grille and a gorgeous leather interior, but it’s in there. The Lexus IS 300 F Sport is a great example of how Lexus blends luxury and performance in a single beautiful package.
That beauty is very much in the eye of the beholder when it comes to Lexus. The signature spindle grille is big and dominates the front of the car. You either love it or hate it, but either way there’s no arguing it attracts plenty of attention. Opt for the F Sport trim and and the grille gets a black finish along with unique front and rear bumpers and split 5-spoke wheels.
Inside, the IS 300 F Sport is every bit a luxury car. Leather surfaces abound and F Sport models get an interior upgrade with aluminum pedals, silver trims, black headliner, and F Sport seats. The sport seating is highly bolstered yet still comfortable for longer drives. Be warned, however, those of a larger frame may find the bolstered seats too snug.
Also snug is rear seating. It’s best for two, although three can fit if they’re willing to get closer. Where things get tricky is when the front seats are pushed back. Tall front passengers won’t leave much legroom for those in back.
Power comes from a 3.5-liter V6 with 255 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. This is paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission along with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters should you want to take control. There’s also a drive mode dial with eco, normal, sport, and snow settings to further tailor your ride experience. All-wheel drive is standard.
In normal mode, the IS 300 F Sport is an aggressive yet well-mannered ride. Shifts happen low enough that engine noise is muted and are smooth and well-timed for a nice, relaxing drive. Eco throttles it all back and takes much of the fun away, but sport moves in the opposite direction.
If you’re looking for the performance side of the IS 300, then this is how you find it. Shift points are noticeably higher and you can feel it and hear it as the engine revs with a nice, healthy growl. It makes the IS 300 especially responsive and outright fun accelerating to highway speeds.
Unfortunately, once you’re up to speed, the engine doesn’t boast the same response. It’s still powerful and fun, but the thrill hides in that initial acceleration and seems to disappear once you’re up to speed and press the gas for a little bit more.
The ride is smooth no matter the drive mode with crisp yet easy steering. F Sport models feature a unique suspension and adaptive variable damping that offers improved handling. This is a car that could easily get too stiff for its own good, losing much of its luxury aesthetic as it reaches for performance. The IS 300, however, walks that line beautifully with a consistently comfortable and relaxing drive experience.
Standard safety features include the Lexus Safety System+ with pre-collision, pedestrian detection, high-speed dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, and intelligent high beams. There’s also Lexus Enform Safety Connect with a one year complimentary subscription.
The base infotainment system features a 7-inch screen with Bluetooth, HD Radio, and dual USB inputs. Our tester came with upgraded infotainment that included navigation and a 10.25-inch display that we prefer. It also adds the Remote Touch controller. This joystick-like button lets you move between screen options. It takes some getting used to, but once you get the hang of how much you need to move the joystick to slide the cursor across the screen, it’s a decent system.
Base price on the IS 300 F Sport is $43,345 while our tester with options including navigation with Mark Levinson audio ($2,835) and blind spot with rear cross-traffic alert ($600) came in at $48,109. That’s a competitive price when you consider the number of standard features that would make the price creep much higher with other comparable cars.
Its combination of luxury styling, performance handling, and affordable pricing make the 2017 Lexus IS 300 F Sport a sedan that deserves a second look.