When the IS debuted, in the form of the IS 300, in the 2001 model year, it was Lexus' way of taking a direct shot at the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Though it never has overtaken the 3-Series and C-Class - not that it was ever expected to - it has gained its own share of fans and has managed to last through the 2013 model year, which includes two models: IS 250 and IS 350.
The IS 350 is the top format of the UIS lineup and is only available in one trim level. Within this trim level, however, you can choose to have a rear-wheel-drive model or opt for all-wheel drive. Additionally, there are five different option groups to choose from that add in some extra features to the base model. The first package is the Navigation System/Mark Levinson Premium Audio System Package, which adds in a hard-drive based navigation system with a color LCD screen, NavTraffic, NavWeather, Lexus Enform application suite, and a 14-speaker Mark Levinson audio system with 300 watts, 7.1-channel surround and a CD/DVD player. Next up is the Navigation System package, which adds the hard-drive based navigation system, CD/DVD player HD Radio, Enform, NavTraffic and NavWeather.
For those that want a touch of extra comfort, there is the Premium Package Value Edition, which adds maple interior trim, perforated leather interior, and heated and ventilated seats. For even more comfort, buyers can opt for the Luxury Plus Value Edition Package, which includes power tilt and telescoping wheels, Lexus Memory System for the seats, mirrors and steering wheel, auto-dimming side-view mirrors, illuminated scuff plates, maple interior trim, heated and ventilated seats, power rear sunshade, HID headlights, and rain-sensing wipers. The Luxury Plus Value Edition Package with 18-in Wheels adds in all of the Luxury Plus Value Edition Package’s features and tosses in a set of 18-inch wheels with Y-rated tires.
The top optional group for the IS 350 is the F Sport option group, which adds in tons of performance, luxury and appearance upgrades. Added luxury is realized with the addition of microfiber inserts on the seats, heated and ventilated rear seats, and aluminum scuff plates. The appearance is upgraded via upper and lower grille inserts, a front lip spoiler, aluminum sport pedals, a rear spoiler, silver-metallic interior trimming, and F Sport seats, steering wheel, shift knob and badging. Lastly, performance is upgraded through a set of 18-inch rims with Y-Rated rubber and a sport-tuned suspension.
Competition is plentiful for the IS 350 with some of being old rivals and others being relative newbies to the scene. The 2013 BMW 3-Series starts off the competition list and comes standard with a 2.0-liter engine with 240 horsepower, six-speed manual transmission, leatherette seating and a 5.9-second sprint to 60 mph. Next up is the 2013 Mercedes-Benz C-Class, which comes standard with a 1.8-liter engine with 201 horsepower, a seven-speed automatic transmission, leatherette seating and a 7.4-second sprint to 60 mph. Last on the list is the 2013 Cadillac ATS, which features a standard 2.5-liter engine with 202 horsepower, a six-speed automatic transmission and leatherette seating.