2011 Lexus IS 350 Performance

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Performance
While many of the other models sold by Lexus embody a soft, detached definition of luxury, the 2011 Lexus IS sedans have pushed Lexus in a sportier direction. These compact sport sedans have always performed very well—not satisfying in the nuanced, balanced way that a BMW 3-Series (or Infiniti G37) is, but boasting satisfying performance all around.

The 2011 Lexus IS 250 is available with either a 2.5-liter V-6 engine rated at 204 horsepower, or a 306-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 (IS 350), and for this year the IS is offered with either rear- or all-wheel-drive configurations for either model. A six-speed manual gearbox is offered with the IS 250 power, but the acceleration on tap from this engine is only adequate for a vehicle that's purported to be sporty. All IS 350 models (and most IS 250s) come with a paddle-shifted six-speed automatic.

Overall, the IS models drive like proper sport sedans, with a rather taut suspension, strong grip, and crisp steering response. The rear-drive Lexus IS handles a bit better between the two and has a better steering feel, and while the IS 250 can be fun with its manual gearbox, our editors' pick of the lineup is the rear-wheel drive IS 350. But if you're a serious enthusiast, you might be a little disappointed with the IS's handling near the limit; it's possible to accidentally push the IS too hard in a corner as the steering is one of the least communicative we've felt in this class of sport sedan.

The 2011 Lexus IS 350 especially is a strong performer, though it's not quite as satisfying to drive as top sport sedans in this class.

For 2011, an F-Sport Package is an official factory option and adds a host of appearance upgrades to rear-wheel drive models with the automatic transmission. In addition to those, it should drive differently thanks to the sport suspension, special steering tuning, and larger 18-inch wheels it includes.

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