2014 Lexus IS Long-Term Update 4: IS 350 AWD
It's the Little Things
As I touched on in my last update, the primary difference between the IS 250 I started with and the IS 350 I'm driving now is the power. The all-wheel drive doesn't affect handling so far as I can sense from the driver's seat, and the drop in fuel economy is to be expected. Otherwise, the two cars are very similar, which makes this a good time to talk about the little things I've come to like and dislike about the IS line.
Starting positive, I have to mention the seats again. I've talked about them in past updates, but they really are a superb combination of comfort and support. They've got big bolsters that hold you in place under hard cornering but aren't too stiff or thinly padded to take on a long road trip.
Also firmly in the plus camp are the stereos. The standard stereo on the IS 250 was crisp and clear, and the optional Mark Levinson in the 350 takes it a step further. To be fair, satellite radio audio quality is far from the best available, but to my non-stereophile ears, it sounds clean and clear even when listening at high volumes or to heavy bass. I like my music loud and clear, and both stereos deliver.
On the minus side are a few small annoyances. The most irritating is the hyper-sensitive seatbelt lock. The IS line is the only car I've ever gotten into that locks up the seatbelt if I try to put it on too quickly. Both the IS 250 and IS 350 do it, and when you're already in a hurry, it's incredibly frustrating to have the seatbelt lock up as you're trying to put it on and get going.
My other gripes are smaller potatoes. There's a big hump in the driver's footspace of the IS 350 from the all-wheel-drive unit that pokes me in the back of the leg all the time. It drove me crazy at first, but I've learned to live with it. It doesn't seem to bother drivers who are taller or have longer legs. The IS 350's shifter knob is loose and turns around on its stalk, and there's no apparent way to tighten it up. Two pieces of the IS 350's dashboard come together just below the engine start/stop button and don't line up quite right. The IS 250 didn't have either issue.
Then there are packaging quirks. The cupholders on the IS are at the rear of the center console near your elbow, requiring an awkward and somewhat difficult reach back to get a drink. In fact, the whole center console layout bothers me, as there seems to be a lot of empty space around the various elements, all of which could've been packaged better. The glove box is also arranged poorly, with virtually no space for your stuff with the owner's manual in its place. Same story in the trunk, where a handy First Aid kit is strapped to the trunk floor on the right side. There's got to be better places for these things.
Overall, though, I'm pretty happy with the IS. Both cars have had a single, complimentary service and neither has had so much as a flat tire or burned-out bulb. Neither is making any noises or showing premature wear, inside or out. I definitely haven't had to have the steering rack replaced in either, as was the case with my old long-term BMW 328i Sport. So far, they've been solid, reliable cars that are also kind of fun to drive in the right situation. I don't think the average IS buyer is looking for anything but that, and they're getting it.
More on our long-term 2014 Lexus IS: