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2006 Lexus IS350

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San Francisco: I spent a week with the all-new Lexus IS350. The IS sedan is the baby sport Lexus aimed squarely at a certain German automakerís North American entry level vehicle.

The new V/6 engine is a jewel and has been awarded the honor of being one of the best engines available. This new V6 is a DOHC design with dual Variable Valve Timing, and with direct fuel injection (more precise) (the 3.5 adds port injection as well).

The all-new engine is available in two sizes, 2.5-liter and 3.5-liter. As far as I can see there are only two good reasons for choosing the smaller engine, the availability of a manual transmission and slightly better fuel economy. The 2.5 is also available with all-wheel-drive, but with traction control standard anyway I do not see that as a big plus. The smaller engine puts out 102 hp less than the 3.5, a big loss for maybe 4 mpg. The IS350 is rated at 21-city and 28-highway.

Both engines have a very high compression ratio (2.5 is 12.0:1, 3.5 is 11.8:1), which requires premium fuel but the output is an excellent 306 hp from the 3.5! Both engines are certified Ultra Low Emission Vehicle II, which is very, very clean.

Some people may bemoan the lack of a manual transmission with the larger engine. I do not. I would be surprised if 10% of the 2.5 engines are sold with a manual transmission. The automatic is a 6-speed gearbox that can be shifted manually with F1-style steering wheel paddle shifters, the gearshift lever, or left to its own devices. It is so good that I really do not see a reason for the manual transmission.

I know you probably think I am getting old; I am but that has nothing to do with my choice. When an automatic transmission offers a better combination of shift-ability and speed there is just no reason to go with a manual. I will say that I had trouble mastering the paddle shifters and relied on the shift lever to up & down shift.

The IS is rear-wheel-drive. With either the Vehicle Stability Control (VSC)(standard on the IS250) or the Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM)(standard on the IS350) wheel spin is not a problem. VDIM also assists handling.

The IS is a four-door sports sedan; it is made for driving quickly through the twisty bits. The standard wheels are 17-inchers, while the tires are 225/45VR17 in the front and 245/45VR17 in the rear. There is an optional 18-inch package for optimal handling. The IS350 I drove had the luxury package with the standard 17-inch wheels and tires.

Size wise the IS is not huge, it is only 180.1 inches long. Front seat room is comfortable, and the rear is fine for two adults of average height. Styling is subjective but I think the new IS is much nicer looking than the first generation. This is a performance sedan and it has that look. It also has the performance; 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds, the quarter mile at 14.2 seconds, and top speed of 142 mph are listed for the IS350.  

The IS is not just a straight-line burner though, it corners and stops with the best of them. The IS350 has 13.15 inch, spiral vented front disc brakes and 12.2 inch vented rears.

All of this is not cheap but it is competitive. The base IS350 lists at $35,440.00; and as tested it was $46,593.00.   By Bruce Hotchkiss © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline: Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo © AutoWire.Net
Column Name:
An all-new Lexus for 2006
Topic: The 2006 Lexus IS350
Word Count:  639
Photo Caption:
The 2006 Lexus IS350
Photo Credits:  Lexus Internet Media
Series #:  2006 - 60

Download the Microsoft Word version here:   2006 Lexus IS350

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