The unfortunate reality of any competition is that something has to come last, and this year, in the $50-100K category at least, it’s the Lexus IS350 F Sport.
Sadly for the Lexus, Bang for your Bucks is a numbers game, and in all the major categories – 0-100km/h, 0-400m, 80-120km/h, lap time – the Lexus occupied the bottom rung of the class ladder.
But it’s not all bad news for the IS350 though, because the fact that it trails the field in terms of performance is more due to the incredible pace of the other contenders rather than any deficiency on the Lexus’s part. The Golf R’s 4.92sec sprint to 100km/h would’ve put it at the pointy end of a PCOTY field not too long ago.
The IS350’s 3.5-litre V6 produces a handy 233kW/378Nm, and it puts every single one to good use, cracking 100km/h in 6.10sec and flashing through the quarter mile in 14.10sec.
With better traction it would go even faster, but it’s all too easy to break into wheelspin off the line thanks to the lack of a limited-slip diff.
It sounds the business, too, howling furiously down Winton’s main straight like it wants to be an E46 M3 when it grows up.
Hot-lapping was never part of the IS350’s design brief, but it makes a remarkably good fist of it. That open diff hurts it badly, effortlessly spinning the inside wheel at the slightest provocation, but the steering is sharp and accurate, there’s reasonable grip and the brakes copped a full day’s punishment with few complaints.
The biggest improvement, though, lies with the chassis balance. The last IS350 F-Sport was almost comically oversteery on track; it was like the V6 was mounted in the boot.
It had turn-in oversteer, mid-corner oversteer and power oversteer, constantly wagging its tail like the happiest dog in the land. It was fun, until you wanted it to settle and do a clean lap.
This new generation is far more neutral, but still allows you to subtly play with the balance at will. Brendo was a huge fan, ranking it third, though everyone else was more reserved in their praise, Morley and Dupriez feeling it lacked that final few percent that separates the good from the great.
While it earns the class wooden spoon, punching its numbers into the overall field lifts the Lexus above both the Audi RS Q3 and Volvo S60 Polestar, a more accurate representation of its ability, as it’s a more enjoyable car to drive hard than either.
$50-100K placing – 8th
Overall placing – 18th
Judges’ Ranking – 11th
0-100km/h – 6.10sec (11th)
0-400m 14.10sec @ 167.91km/h (10th)
Lap time – 1:46.50sec (15th)
Price – $73,800 (18th)
Engine 3456cc V6, DOHC, 24v
Power 233kW @ 6400rpm
Torque 378Nm @ 4800rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
Suspension A-arms, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (f); multi-links, adaptive dampers, anti-roll bar (r)
Brakes 334mm ventilated discs, 4-piston calipers (f); 310mm ventilated discs, single-piston calipers (r)
Wheels 18 x 8.0-inch (f); 18 x 8.5-inch (r)
Tyres 225/40 R18 (f); 255/35 R18 (r) Bridgestone Turanza