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2nd Gen IS350 Balancing Sport Sedan Capability

Spotlighting Lexus 2nd Gen IS350 Balancing Sport Sedan Capability

When Lexus launched in 1989 as a spinoff luxury division from parent company Toyota, the bold maneuver initially questioned whether adequate separation distanced itself stylistically and reputation from economy car roots. But wider subsequent model ranges broadened appeal attracting customers seeking refined reliability absent from some German counterparts.

The second generation rear-wheel drive IS line sports compact sedans launched for 2010 (XE20 chassis) continued walking this tightrope blending Lexus comfort perfectly with surprisingly deft performance stepping beyond the aloof isolation common among peers. In particular, the IS350 model peppering in a 306 hp direct injection V6 strikes the best balance wooing drivability enthusiasts on a budget too. We revisit why Lexus’ middle child IS350 sports sedan presents an intriguing formula Frankenstein-ing family car familiarity with engaging chassis competence.

Tweener 2nd Gen IS350 Sedan Attempting Rare Appeal Duality

Slotted size-wise between compact and midsize segments, Lexus engineers faced challenges preventing their middle IS350 sedan from seeming an overt 3-series BMW copycat after an overly cautious debut generation. Exterior styling was sharpened adopting the brand’s polarizing spindle corporate grille to lead the eye. But underneath, modifications improved weight distribution concentrating more mass rearward. Along with a retuned double wishbone independent suspension and quicker variable-ratio steering rack, the new chassis prioritized improved turn-in and rotation physics while retaining compliant cruising refinement expected from big Lexus sedans when driven gingerly.

Power rises over earlier IS models too thanks to a revised 3.5 liter 2GR-FSE V6 engine now incorporating both port and direct fuel injection for extra efficiency. This 306 horsepower unit propelled Lexus IS350s from 0-60 mph in under six seconds – matching straight six powered BMW 330i rivals. Performance gains came without sacrificing expectations of cabin quietness or open road composure staples appreciated by Lexus ownership more interested in cruising in comfort vs attacking apexes during weekend canyon runs.

Where German analogues often sacrificed street compliance chasing test track statistics, the latest IS350 felt bespoke tweaking strengths and boundaries in both directions expanding appeal and welcoming ordinary luxury car drivers alongside enthusiast subset demographics.

2nd Gen IS350 Nimble Handling Maximizing Controlled PowerDelivery

While subsequent compact performance sedans eclipsed sheer output figures, the second generation IS350 impresses through meticulously massaged chassis balance rather than trend-chasing max power wars alone. Lexus engineers elongated the platform between axles enabling sportier rear-biased weight distribution not otherwise possible working around shared components with the Toyota Camry.

 This fundamental geometry advantaged paired stiffer suspension bushings which sharpened transient response reflexes when needing sudden direction changes. Companies boasting decades of racing heritage took notice of how precisely the unassuming IS350 rotated entertaining advanced drivers on twisty passes without compromising composure. Lexus gradually earned legitimacy swagger absent during its 1990s debut thanks to succeeding generations honing this tricky razor’s edge walking contrasting priorities.

Naturally aspirated engine response offers linear engagement through rev range absent forced induction lag equating hard launches off the line for max acceleration runs. While falling behind modern turbocharged numbers games, the high compression V6 brims a 7200 rpm ceiling keeping drivers immersed and holding gears longer stretching their full potential. Paired with an available short throw 6-speed manual gearbox (yes from Lexus!), the IS350 delivers intangible sensation amplifying connected road feel cementing bonds between human and machine missing among present autonomous driving nationalism. This throwback character channeling drifted away from the virtual reality infotainment direction.


By chasing BMW’s established benchmark status driving dynamics while clinging to Lexus heritage hallmarks of comfort practicality and sharp looks, their second generation IS350 walked contradicting mission objectives yet achieved respectable success. Engineers sweated details extending capabilities in both directions expanding customer breadth beyond sporting subset enthusiasts alone.

The resulting middle sports sedan child split differences retaining accessible V6 power always ready for opportunistic backroad detours after comfortably conquering commute gridlock without excessive running costs. While subsequent generations adopted complex forced induction or hybrid powertrains, there’s an argument purists proclaim the original IS350 struck the best compromise between hitherto exclusive opposing goals. This high point offered glimpses of Lexus reaching confident maturity.

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