Although the all-wheel-drive IS 300 occupies the middle point of the trio, its new 3.5-liter V6 engine has considerably less power than the same-size V6 in the IS 350. At 255 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque, delivered from 2,000 to 4,800 rpm, it’s not much more potent than the new turbocharged four-cylinder in the rear-drive IS 200t. A six-speed automatic is the sole transmission. Fuel economy is estimated at 19 mpg in city driving and 26 mpg on the highway (21 mpg combined), which is exactly the same as the estimate for the more powerful IS 350 AWD.
All-wheel drive was developed to respond to road conditions, varying the front/rear torque ratio from 30:70 to an even 50:50. Electronic power steering is derived from the larger Lexus GS sedan. A Drive Mode Select system has four modes: Eco, Normal, Sport, and Snow. Like the other IS models, the IS 300 can be fitted with an F Sport package.
Priced at $41,175 (destination charge included), the all-wheel-drive IS 300 has standard equipment similar to other members of the IS trio. Included are 10 airbags, leatherette upholstery, heated mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, push-button start, and heated power front seats. LED headlights now are standard, along with LED daytime running lights, a sunroof, 60/40 split-folding rear seats, and 17-inch alloy wheels. The Display Audio system, with a 7-inch screen and 10-speaker sound, provides satellite and HD radio with traffic and weather updates, as well as Bluetooth and USB smartphone connectivity.
Options include parking assist sensors, a heated steering wheel, 18-inch wheels, and a backup camera. Premium, Premium Plus, Luxury, Navigation, and Navigation/Mark Levinson Audio packages are available. Lexus's navigation system features a Remote Touch Interface system that provides point-and-click control.
For an additional $3,145, the F Sport adds a sport-tuned suspension system. Lexus has claimed that the F Sport’s “deeper and more aggressive” styling, compared to the regular IS, yields a “more sporting personality,” even though performance changes little. Standard equipment includes five-spoke 18-inch wheels, a perforated leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, aluminum pedals, a black headliner, twin projector LED headlights, a backup camera, and heated/ventilated front seats. Instruments were inspired by gauges used in the Lexus LFA supercar.
Compared to the IS 200t with its turbocharged four-cylinder engine, or the more potent IS 350, it’s hard to make a compelling case for the IS 300. An exception would be shoppers who emphatically favor all-wheel drive, but neither need nor want the additional power of an IS 350. If the F Sport is tempting, remember that it doesn’t affect performance, except for tighter suspension tuning. (The IS 350 F Sport gets an adaptive variable suspension with Sport+ driving mode.) Most F Sport extras are cosmetic in nature, or promise greater comfort.
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