The 2011 Lexus IS range, despite gaining a new convertible member in 2009, feels like it's falling a bit behind its competition, whether German, American, Japanese, or other. Despite the aging feel, the IS remains a capable, well-built luxury sedan, and it earns a rating of 7 from MotorAuthority.
Under the hood of the 2011 Lexus IS, you'll find a range of engines, each denoting its numeric moniker. The 2.5-liter V-6 in the IS 250 generates 204 horsepower, while the 3.5-liter V-6 in the IS 350 and IS 350C rates 306 horsepower. A high-performance variant, the IS F, gets a 5.0-liter V-8 good for 416 horsepower and 371 pound-feet of torque.
Styling is a large part of what makes the IS range feel a bit dated, but the newest member, the IS 350C, wears the look well. A power-folding hardtop makes it nearly as comfortable and quiet as the standard non-convertible model. All IS models share the same wide, low hoodline and rising belt line, giving it a wedge-shaped look from the side. A new grille, revised bumpers, and slightly different headlights featuring HID lamps and LED accent lights on the IS 350 are new for 2011, as is a new 17-inch alloy wheel design. A new F-Sport package is also added for 2011, bringing a sportier look with 18-inch alloy wheels, dark chrome grille, front lip and rear trunklid spoilers, and a unique Ultrasonic Blue paint option--but, sadly, no improvements to its actually performance. The IS F gets a much more aggressive styling package than the rest of the IS range, with unique bumpers and badges, and unique wheels among other details.
Handling isn't really a strong suit of the IS range, though the IS F sharpens the platform to match is powerful engine. The rest of the IS line rides smoothly, backing up the cushy seats to keep the front-and-center role of passenger comfort humming smoothly. Speaking of humming, you'll notice a bit from the tires. Unlike the Lexus ES sedan, the lower-positioned IS range cabins lack excellent sound insulation.
Other areas where the IS pulls up a bit short inlcude the design and finish of the interior, though most buyers will find it suits its price level. Materials are generally good, and fit and finish are very good, though we find many of the available cabin configurations dreary and a bit monotonous in their design and color schemes. The IS F is equally susceptible to the dreariness, with a monochrome black interior that makes heavy use of a rubbery soft-touch plastic across the dash.
Swinging back to the upsides, the 2011 Lexus IS range offers quite a bit of technology for an entry-level luxury sedan, including Bluetooth hands-free as a standard feature, built into the (also standard) 13-speaker, six-disc, Bluetooth audio streaming, 194-watt stereo system. A 300-watt Mark Levinson surround sound system is available, and makes truly gorgeous sounds thanks to 10 separate amplifier channels and support for DVD audio. Other optional extras include navigation, ventilated front seats, a retractable moonroof, dynamic radar cruise control, adaptive headlights, and a rearview backup camera.
For a detailed analysis of the 2011 Lexus IS's strengths and weaknesses, read the full review at TheCarConnection.