Lexus IS 300 AWD

Lexus’ IS 300 sedan strikes a fine balance between comfort, luxury and driving dynamics

“It’s a nice balance between a smooth and comfortable ride, a luxurious interior, adequate power and handling, and plenty of high-tech features,” Mallett says of the all-wheel-drive IS 300 she tested for a week.

Introduced to North America in 2000, the third-generation Lexus IS was released in 2013. For 2017, Lexus has tweaked the car with a restyled front fascia with larger air intakes. Lexus’ signature spindle grille also evolved, and all models now feature LED headlights.

Inside, Lexus has upgraded several of the surfaces and added plenty to the list of standard features found across the lineup, including a leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters and keyless entry. Available in three different models with numerous packages, the first is the rear-wheel-drive IS200t, powered by a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Next up is the six-cylinder IS 300 with 255 horsepower and all-wheel-drive, while the IS 350 – with its 306 horsepower V6 engine and all-wheel drive – sitting atop the lineup. The IS 200t has an eight-speed automatic, while the IS 300 and IS 350 both feature six-speed automatic transmissions.

Depending on the model, available packages include F-Sport, Premium, Luxury and Executive. The IS 300, which Mallett tested, was equipped with the Luxury Package. It’s a $6,700 touch that brings the as-tested price to just under $52,000.

Lexus IS 300 AWD
2017 Lexus IS 300 AWD


Mallett grew up in Montreal and learned to drive in Toronto. The first car she drove was a nine-seat Pontiac station wagon, but she yearned for the opportunity to cruise in her mom’s 1969 Opel GT. That never happened, as the Opel suffered an electrical system failure after being driven through a large puddle and never got fixed. Mallett’s first car was a 1970s ToyotaCelica. She’s since owned a Honda Civic, before moving onto a Ford Windstar and a GMC Yukon XL Denali. Mallett is now on her third Mercedes-Benz E350 Carbiolet, a vehicle she uses for year-round commuting around the city, and for longer road trips.

“I thought the profile of this Lexus, with its sculpted line from the front to the tail, was very striking,” Mallett says of her first impression. “I also liked the larger alloy wheels, but felt that the grille didn’t really stand out like it could have because of the dull colour of the paint; that’s just my opinion.”

Inside, it took Mallett only a couple of minutes to get everything adjusted to her liking. The gauges were well laid out and convenient to see and the console-mounted gearshift lever was easy to reach.

“The fit and finish was upscale, and the leather seating surfaces were comfortable,” Mallett says. “Several of my passengers made that comment as well.” After a few days on the road, Mallett reports the 3.5L V6 engine in the IS 300 offered plenty of performance.

“It accelerated quickly and responded beautifully,” she explains. “I tried out the different drive modes, including Eco, Sport and Normal but couldn’t detect too much difference in the driving characteristics.”

Lexus IS 300 AWD
2017 Lexus IS 300 AWD


The ride was smooth, comfortable and quiet and the handling inspired confidence, Mallett says. When driving at night, the interior lighting impressed her, as every control and button was clearly illuminated. Mallett also appreciated the ability to change the background colour on the 10.3-inch display screen between blue and brown. During the day, Mallett says she’d use brown, while at night, the blue screen was a better option.

Mallett found the IS 300 easy to park, thanks to the display screen together with the clearance and back up sensors. She says these features helped her to manoeuvre into all parking spots. She noticed a slight blind spot due to the B-pillar, but says the blind spot and lane departure warning systems were useful.

Mallett’s 18-year-old son is tall – six-foot-three, to be exact. He sat in the front and rear seats, finding adequate leg and headroom in all corners. In terms of utility, Mallett says there’d be plenty of room in the trunk for suitcases or other gear. She also liked the ability to fold the rear seat backs forward, greatly increasing the cargo carrying ability.

A criticism of the IS 300 was its sensitive indicator stalk. Mallett says she’d tap it to signal left for a lane change, for example, and it wouldn’t go off. She’d then tap it right, and find the same frustration. “For the whole week, that was my biggest beef,” she says. But the pluses outweigh the minuses.

“I think it would work great for a young family or a couple at any stage in their lives,” Mallett explains. “It’s suitable for going to the football game or the opera.”

Day One: Nice looking compact sporty sedan with pleasing sculpted lines, especially on the side panels. The Luxury Package includes 18-inch aluminum wheels, an attractive upgrade from the standard wheels. Definitely like the convenience of both the smart key entry and the push button start. Headed west on Glenmore Trail on a warm, sunny afternoon and the drive was smooth, comfortable and quiet. The audio system’s 10-speaker surround sound was a little disappointing.

Day Two: Canmore road trip. Noticed a nice balance between power and ride comfort. Chose to keep the drive in Eco mode to maximize fuel efficiency for the trip and barely used a quarter of a tank of gas. The car accelerates nicely, handles well, is very stable on windy highway sections, and the brakes are smooth and responsive. I did like the assurance of the blind spot monitor on the side mirrors, as well as the lane assist/departure alert. A really nice feature is the voice activated link to both the audio and the climate control systems. I also enjoyed the contour of the steering wheel, which gave me a resting spot for my thumbs and relaxed wrists on a long drive.

Day Three: Passenger perspective. My passengers were impressed with the feeling of spaciousness in the car. The seat belts adjust nicely and feel very secure while maintaining an extremely comfortable and non-invasive fit. Lots of legroom and head clearance, even for the six-foot-three teenager with his school and sports gear. The four-door model allowed for easy access into the back seats for passengers of all ages. All were impressed with the trunk space and the ability to lay flat the rear seats to offer even greater loading capacity.

Lexus IS 300 AWD

Colleen Mallett liked the Lexus IS 300’s sunroof, as part of the Luxury package.

Day Four: City driving. Used Deerfoot Trail to run between appointments from the city’s south into downtown and experimented with the Sport mode. I really did not feel a significant difference in acceleration and power between Eco, Normal and Sport mode.

Day Five: Night driving. Driving home in the late evening I was pleased with the cabin’s lighting. A very peaceful, enjoyable and smooth drive home. Again, I was reminded how this car offers a nice balance between sporty and elegant looks, backed with enough power in addition to a satisfying amount of modern and high tech features.

Day Six: All weather. A typical Calgary weather day where the morning was a blast of winter and the afternoon warmed to sunny, spring-like temperatures. This gave me the opportunity to see how quickly I could comfortably get going when coming out to a cold, snow-covered car. The heated seats and steering wheel had the interior warmed up within a couple of minutes. The temperature sliders for the dual-zone climate control is very unique, and it’s easy to use. The all-wheel-drive system gave me peace of mind that I would not get stuck in the snow. I was very impressed with the windshield wiper’s large blades and sweep. Come the sunny afternoon, I welcomed the bright, warm and fresh air entering the car through the sunroof.

Day Seven: Comparison shopping. I decided to take the morning and have a look at other luxury vehicles in the same price range as the Lexus. After researching on the Internet, my list included the Infiniti Q50Mercedes-Benz C-ClassBMW 3 SeriesCadillac ATSAcura TLXAudi A4 and a few more. I had time to check out comparable models at the Mercedes, BMW and Infiniti dealerships. Each manufacturer offers a particular identity for the driver, be it aggressive power, a smooth drive or high-tech cabin features. Lexus offers a little bit of everything with the IS 300, resulting in a car suitable for drivers of many ages, stages or lifestyles.


    All-wheel-drive, entry-level luxury sedan


    3.5L DOHC V6


    255 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm, 236 lb.-ft. @ 4,800 rpm


    Six-speed automatic


    Four-wheel disc with ABS


    P255/35R18 rear, P225/40R18 front






    (L/100km) 12.6 city, 9.2 highway


    Dual zone automatic climate control w/cabin air filter, 17” aluminum wheels, leather wrapped steering wheel w/paddle shifters, 10-speaker Lexus premium audio w/7-inch display and USB/Bluetooth/XM Satellite radio, heated NuLuxe 10-way power adjustable driver seat and eight-way power adjustable passenger seat, power windows, backup camera, garage door opener, push button start, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert, pre-collision system, auto high beam, rain sensing wipers w/de-icer and more


    Luxury package ($6,700, includes GPS navigation, backup sensors, power moonroof, blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, 18-inch wheels and more)