Now THAT S what I m talking about. After having endured the illusory pleasures of helming The Emperor s New Luxury Car (the GS300), I was delighted to find myself behind the wheel of a truly distinctive automobile wearing the Lexus badge. Actually, the IS 350 is NOT what I was talking about: a Luftwaffteriffic luxobarge that makes you wonder why anyone would throw 300 large at Mercedes re-animated Nazi staff car. And by distinctive I mean barking mad. In fact, the IS 350 takes the Lexus brand, stretches it back a hundred yards or so, and then fires it straight at BMW s 330i Road Runner — with predictable results.
Who cares? Does it really matter that the baby Lexus can t hold an apex to Munich s highly evolved corner carver? The point here, the only point here, is that the 306-horse IS 350 is ALL OVER the Bimmer s straight line acceleration. How does zero to sixty in 5.3 seconds grab you? By the lapels; and then it throws you down the road whether you like it or not. For real. Not only is the IS tip-in more aggressive than GM s accountants, but the autobox doesn t know the meaning of the word amble. I swear I was stuck on some sheer ice with my foot planted on the brake and the IS rear wheels were still scrabbling for traction. This bad boy wants to GO.
When it does, man do you feel it. The Nissan Skyline GTR is the only unmodified car I know with a harder suspension. Let that settle into your consciousness for a second: a Lexus with a rock hard ride. Huh. But hey, it makes sense. With an engine this hot to trot, Toyota had to tie its 3-fighter down within an inch of its life or face the prospect of drivers losing theirs. Ditto the IS 350 s brakes. Their trick high-friction front pads snatch like a spoiled two-year-old, yet provide the kind of stopping power usually reserved for large caliber handguns.
Which reminds me: the hard-chargin' white dudes in the mainstream motoring press have continually slated the IS 350 for its intrusive handling Nanny. Well duh. When you thrash the IS 350 to the ragged edge — which is simply a matter of forgetting to slow down — she hops, skips, jumps, twists and turns like a colt struggling to get out of a horse box. While most electronic interventions attempt to pull you back from the brink, this one, sensibly enough, tries to stop you going there in the first place.
As for the looks of the thing, there's more than a little Maserati in the profile, along with the usual nose-heavy proportions peculiar to the four-door pocket rocket genre. Inside the IS 350 s cabin, it s all very worthy, except for the same old grey Toyota plastic dash surround and the gorgeous gauges, complete with a ring of red lights within the tacho that lights up when you drop the hammer. Now that IS clever.
Which still doesn t answer the question: why would anyone opt for a hard-riding, hopped-up mini-Lexus instead of a more accomplished, performer from the House of BMW, Audi< Mercedes or even Acura? It sure isn t the sandpaper sound of Lexus s mill, or the fluency of its handling over broken pavement. I suppose the only plausible excuse is that you want a raw yet leather-lined hot rod that doesn t break and earns you respect down at the gym, serviced from a dealer who knows how to kiss ass. Talk about niche marketing. [by Robert Farago]
Jalopnik Reviews: 2006 Lexus GS 300, Part 1 [internal]