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  • 2018 Lexus IS 300 AWD

    Posted on October 18th, 2018 ninarussin

    All-season sport sedan

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Lexus IS 300

    The IS sedan that started as Lexus’ answer to the tuner craze of the late 1990s has evolved into a more diverse, upscale vehicle, with two available powertrains and rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. The IS underwent a major redesign for the 2017 model year. For 2018, improvements include a five-horsepower bump, available adaptive front lighting, standard backup monitor and complimentary 10-year subscription to Lexus Enform Safety and Service Connect.

    Power for the IS 300 comes from a twin-scroll turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine that develops 260-horsepower for the all-wheel drive version. For better control on wet roads, drivers can engage a snow mode that starts from a stop in second gear. A six-speed automatic transmission includes paddle shifters for drivers who want additional control when driving for sport.

    Base price for the IS 300 AWD is $40,660 excluding the $995 destination charge. Options on the test car include 18-inch alloy wheels, navigation and Mark Levinson audio system, intuitive park assist, a comfort package adding driver’s seat memory, power tilt-and-telescoping steering column, blind spot monitoring and rain-sensing wipers, heated and ventilated front seats, cargo mats and wheel locks. Final MSRP is $47,289.

    Test drive in southern Arizona

    2018 Lexus IS 300

    Over the past week I drove the IS 300 around the Phoenix metropolitan area, east valley cities, along the I-10 freeway and sections of the Gila River Indian Community to the south. Some unseasonal rain was an opportunity to test the sedan’s traction on wet roads.

    While the IS remains true to its roots- a sporty, personal car- it is significantly more refined. Styling for the first-generation sedan appealed to Gen-Xers, then coming of age. While the current model is aggressively styled, it has broader appeal, incorporating the brand’s signature spindle grille, long hood and short decklid, for a coupe-like profile.

    While the IS 300 block can’t match the larger 350-engine for zero-to-sixty acceleration, it’s no slouch: 6.1 seconds for the all-wheel drive model according-to the manufacturer. The smaller engine’s secret sauce is the twin-scroll turbocharger than develops peak torque at 2000 rpm as opposed to 4800 rpm for the naturally-aspirated block in the IS 350.

    The six-speed automatic transmission delivers a linear progression of power with no shift shock under normal driving conditions. The paddle shifters are a nice add-on, enabling drivers to downshift and keep the revs up in the corners.

    2018 Lexus IS 300

    Front-to-rear weight balance is a favorable 55/45 for the all-wheel drive car. The all-wheel drive sedan also sits slightly lower than the rear-wheel drive counterpart, with 5.1-inches of ground clearance versus 5.3. The low center of gravity translates to better stability at speed.

    An electric power steering system delivers plenty of assist at low speeds for maneuverability with positive on-center response on the highway.

    The four-wheel independent suspension consists of compact double wishbone setup in front and multi-link in back. Gas-filled shocks deliver a firm, but comfortable ride, while stabilizer bars on both axles keep the chassis flat in the corners.

    Visibility around the perimeter is good. Blind spot monitoring eliminates problems around the rear pillars that are rather thick, making it easier to weave through dense traffic. Over the shoulder visibility is fine: I had no problems seeing vehicles in the adjacent lanes.

    The IS maintains Lexus’ hallmark quiet interior, so occupants can converse on the highway or enjoy the optional Mark Levinson audio system.

    After dark, LED headlamps provide bright, long beams of light close to daylight in intensity, with minimal drain on the battery. Standard LED daytime running lamps make the sedan easier for other drivers to see in low light conditions.

    Upscale interior

    Lexus IS 300 Interior

    Both in choice of materials and fit and finish, the IS 300 interior is hard to beat. The power driver’s seat is easy to adjust with ample lower lumbar support. Driver’s seat memory makes it easier for multiple family members to share the car.

    The optional Mark Levinson audio system delivers unparalleled quality. To truly appreciate this listen to classical music: Levinson’s proprietary technology decompresses digital files to give acoustic instruments their unique nuances.

    Dual-zone climate control enables front-row occupants to choose their own temperatures. Heated and ventilated seats help to maintain a comfortable interior in thermal extremes. Since the IS 300 is a relatively small sedan (competes against the BMW 3-Series and Audi A4), the second-row seats are better suited for two passengers than three, especially on longer trips.

    Standard safety

    The IS 300 comes with 10 airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, Lexus Safety System Plus with pedestrian detection (lane departure assist, adaptive radar cruise control, intelligent high-beams and backup camera), and tire pressure monitoring. The IS received a five-star overall crash test rating from NHTSA.

    Lexus builds the IS sedan at its Tahara, Aichi Japan assembly plant.

    Like: A stylish sedan with good wet weather traction, a peppy engine and beautifully crafted interior.

    Dislike: Both IS engines require premium gasoline, increasing ownership costs.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Lexus
    Model: IS 300 AWD
    Year: 2018
    Base price: $40,660
    As tested: $47,289
    Horsepower: 260 HP @ 6400 rpm
    Torque: 236 lbs.-ft. @ 2000 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: 6.1 seconds
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: No
    Off-road: No
    Towing: No
    Fuel economy: 19/26 mpg city/highway

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