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Lexus IS 350 AWD: No cut corners
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The Lexus IS 350 AWD is lively to drive, with a ride quality that is luxury-class firm and not harsh on any surface. - photo by Photo Contributed

The Lexus IS midsize sport sedan is virtually unchanged for 2012 after a significant “freshening” for 2011 that included front and rear styling updates and minor interior changes.

Sold in IS 250 and IS 350 models, in rear- or all-wheel-drive, starting prices are up by $300. The IS 250 has a starting price of $34,170 and comes with a six-speed manual transmission and 204-horsepower, 2.5-liter V6 engine. A six-speed automatic with steering-wheel shifters will add $1,170. The all-wheel-drive model starts at $37,800 and includes the automatic transmission. Pricing includes the $875 freight charge from Japan.

The 306-hp IS 350 AWD, today’s test car, starts at $43,055 and was $47,627 as tested.

The IS 350 AWD is lively to drive with a sport mode that gives some eagerness to shift points and acceleration. Lexus claims 0-60 mph in a respectable 5.7 seconds.

Ride quality is luxury-class firm and not harsh on any surface, though there can be road and tire noise on the interstate.

The IS is attractively styled and youthful throughout, but it’s among the smaller midsize sedans. While the front seat area feels open with its long legroom, headroom with the moonroof (37.2 inches) will be limited for some. The back seat space is snug and low, with narrow footroom, but there is a broad and comfortable armrest with storage and cup holders. There is a ski passthrough, but the back seat doesn’t fold to expand the 13-cubic-foot trunk space, which is on the small side.

I like the short dashboard in the IS, rather than a large, cab-forward design that can appear massive and induce glare and reflections in the windshield. The tight turning circle, 33.5 feet, is a bonus when parking in tight spaces.

There aren’t many cut corners in the standard equipment list, which includes SmartAccess (lock/unlock) with push-button starting, 10-way power adjusted front seats, a 13-speaker Automatic Sound Levelizer audio system with Bluetooth and carpeted floor mats.

Also, sure to be popular is the navigation system, $2,465, which adds a rearview camera (always useful) and the Lexus Enform system with Destination Assist, voice command, NavTraffic and more.