Lexus IS VS Honda Accord
- Smooth powertrain
- Bulletproof quality
- Individual looks
- Feels heavy
- Odd-bod interior
- Some ergonomic failures
- Smooth V6
- Mostly excellent ride
- Plenty of gear
- Foot-operated parking brake
- High speed ride unsettled on sharp bumps
- Capped price servicing has a few too many asterisks
Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the Lexus IS350 Sport Luxury with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
The Lexus IS has carved out a niche in the executive sedan market - some owners would require dynamite to shift them to another brand. With an unparalleled commitment to post-sales service and a reputation for absolutely bulletproof reliability, Lexus hasn't exactly beaten the Germans into submission here in Australia, but it has given them a good fright. If you want to take on Audi, BMW and Mercedes, you've got to bring what Americans call 'your A-game.'
Explore the 2016-2017 Lexus IS Range
Lexus IS 2016 review | first drive video
Lexus IS300h 2016 review | snapshot
Lexus IS350 2016 review | snapshot
Lexus IS200t Luxury 2017 review | road test
Lexus IS200t F Sport 2017 review | road test
The IS350 is a niche within a niche, though. At this level, the Germans have convinced their customers that forced induction fours or sixes are the go, while Lexus soldiers on with a naturally aspirated V6 and a specification list as long as your arm.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Twenty-five years ago I was the only kid at church who read car magazines. Nobody was interested unless the subject was a Patrol, Pajero or HiLux (it was Sydney's Sutherland Shire) and even then, they only wanted to know if they could tow a tinnie with it.
Every now and again someone would approach me and ask me for advice on a car that wasn't a ute, and then buy a car we didn't even talk about. They would politely return my magazines, though, which was nice.
Anyway, the point of that story is that one of the cars one of these nice people bought was the Honda Legend. It was a lovely thing - so quiet, so smooth, so cool. Well, not cool in the hip to the groove sense, but in the easygoing Palm Springs kind of cool.
And the point of telling you that is it turns out that they still make that car, only it's not called the Legend anymore, it's called the Honda Accord V6L. Costs less, too.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The IS350 is a fine car and is edging ever closer to the truly European feel the marque seems to crave. It's also different enough for those who don't want to be a part of the German triad and want to do something different while getting an after-sales experience that's hard to beat.
The thing about the IS is that it feels a little old - the interior tech and naturally-aspirated V6 are a bit 2009. That's not to criticise the car itself because it's beautifully made and if past IS generations are anything to go by, will outlast humanity. The 350 feels, and is heavy. It's a bit thirsty and doesn't quite tick all the boxes many in the sector are looking for. But wow, is it getting closer.
Is the Lexus IS in the running for you? Or does your wallet only speak German?
The Legend is long gone but the Accord seems have taken up the mantle. When you compare it to its immediate and most obvious competition there's plenty of gear aboard, and while the other cars are good, none - except maybe the new Camry V6 - have the same appeal of cubic inches, tidy handling with a terrific ride and manners better than a June Dally-Watkins graduate.
While the engine and transmission may not be bang-up-to-date, and there's, uh, fake wood inside, the Accord V6L is a fine car that carries on a tradition of big, cushy Hondas.
The Accord is a classic nameplate in a shrinking - but still busy - segment. Is it on your list? Tell us in the comments below.
This third-generation IS is, at last, a distinctive looker. The first car was a clean design that aged reasonably well (as did the car - there's still a ton of them kicking around) but the second one seemed a bit timid, a sort of slimmed version of the first car's styling ideas in a bigger body. Things weren't quite right and that car's look has not aged well at all.
The third generation, though, is much more aggressive, more individualistic. The mid-life refresh made the front end look a bit frowny, but the Lexus spindle grille really looks the business even if the headlights appear awkwardly finished. In profile it fits in well with the pack and then it all gets a bit aggro again at the back, with that extravagant downward sweep of the taillights. Pretty, no, memorable, yep.
Inside is less adventurous and, annoyingly, not ageing as well as Lexus might have hoped. The two-storey dash feels a little heavy-handed with its double chin rolls. I can see what the designers were going for, but they missed.
And that chintzy analogue clock in the centre stack. Please. Stop.
There are also too many Toyota-style buttons littering the dash. Having said all of that, the obvious Lexus bits are terrific to touch and use, apart from the entertainment system's click mouse thing. That's a bit of a mess and the screen's software actively works against precise operation.
All is mostly well on the instrument pack except when the sun is coming over your shoulder. The reflections obliterate both of the traditional dials and if you'd already driven, say, an IS200t with the digital dash, you would be asking tough questions about why that instrument set isn't in the top-of-the-range machine.
The Accord's design has been with us for over four years now. It's one of Honda's more restrained efforts, with fewer mad lines, flourishes and creases than other models. That doesn't mean it isn't without some interesting details, though.
The headlights look great up close, with each unit looking like a set of teeth has been installed, giving the impression of a grille when illuminated. Its profile is fairly normal, and apart from a slightly heavy-handed rear end, the Accord's exterior is quietly elegant.
Inside, it's remains toned down. Instruments and switchgear will be familiar to owners of pretty much any car in the Honda range, with bits from here and there making up a simple, user-friendly cabin. Apart from the stacked screens.
This is probably the weakest part of the Lexus equation. While front and rear seat passengers enjoy a pair of cupholders per row, there's little in the way of storage for our ubiquitous phones. A centre console bin is provided (from which your USB cable must sprout), but the dash and console are bereft of a good place to stow your phone. Each front door will carry a small bottle but rear seat passengers miss out. The glovebox is a good size and cooled for your convenience.
Cabin-dwellers enjoy four cupholders, two up front and two in the rear, plus a bottle holder in each door. There is plenty of space for four, with good head and legroom front and back, with just the irritating foot-operated parking brake ruining the driver's footwell.
Cargo capacity starts with a 457-litre boot and you can drop the rear seatback for extra space, or use the ski port. That boot capacity is among the best in the segment but unfortunately, the seatback doesn't split and the aperture is really narrow when the space is open.
Price and features
The IS range kicks off at $59,340 for the base IS200t but it's not until you're spending $65,390 that you'll find yourself in a V6-powered IS350. Another twenty large will see you in the Sports Luxury we had for the week, at a not inconsiderable $84,160 (although that's $4000 less than a BMW 340i). What do you get for that? Quite a bit, as it happens.
A 15-speaker stereo (with Mark Levinson branding, whoever that is), 18-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, a hefty safety package, active cruise control, LED headlights and daytime running lights, auto headlights and wipers, heated, cooled and electrically-adjustable front seats with three memory settings on the driver's side, sat nav, lots of leather, park assist and power everything including sunroof.
Metallic paint is a breathtaking $1500.
The stereo, sat nav and various functions are controlled from a rectangular click-mouse arrangement reminiscent of a '90s laptop. It isn't great and my impression of the software is that the designers need to go out and buy some Apple and Android devices and learn how modern things work. Or at least have a look at iDrive and MMI. Having said that, the sound is epic, although the radio's insistence on switching to KIIS FM on start-up, no matter which device or station was last used, was irritating.
The sat nav also has some annoying functions that are, mercifully, switchable. The speed camera warnings are helpful and insistent while the incessant school zone warnings were hugely annoying. That's hardly Lexus' fault given there are so many of the things, but the constant 'ding-dong' in urban areas is infuriating and sounds like you're trapped in an airport.
At first glance, $52,290 seems a bit rich for a car of this age and stature, but there's a long list of standard equipment.
Your V6L arrives with 18-inch alloy wheels, six-speaker stereo with 7.7-inch media touchscreen, dual-zone climate control, electric windows and seats, reversing camera, side vision camera, keyless entry and start, automatic active LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors, active cruise control, sat nav, leather seats and trim, auto wipers, woodgrain dash and door trims, sunroof and a full-size alloy spare.
The 7.7-inch touchscreen runs the stereo which includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and in-built sat nav. A second screen higher in the dash displays car information, and the camera views, and it's odd.
Engine & trans
The IS350's power comes from a 3.5-litre 60-degree V6 producing 233kW and 378Nm. Zero to 100km/h for the 1685kg sedan is dispatched in 5.9 seconds with the aid of an eight-speed automatic transmission driving the rear wheels.
Towing capacity is rated at 750kg unbraked and 1500kg braked.
This is not a bang up-to-date engine - it's not even a twin-cam, and there isn't any turbo action. But goodness is it smooth.
For some reason, the IS always feels heavy. There's something about the way the car moves that makes it feel chunky. That's not all bad, of course, because it imparts a feeling of solidity and strength, but when you line it up next to a BMW 340i, it tips the scales a further 145kg the wrong way. When you look at it that way, you're always carrying two medium sized people around with you.
It doesn't seem to blunt the performance too much, reaching 100km/h in 5.9 seconds, about eight tenths slower than Beemer with the same number of gears and a torque deficit of almost 70Nm.
Another reason it feels heavy is that the sprint itself is one of the most drama-free acceleration events you'll ever experience. The 3.5 V6 is as silky as they come, as smooth as any in-line six, which have the advantage of not having pistons punching away from each other throwing the engine about.
It's not as sharp on the throttle as the 340i or A4, even when in Sport+ mode, so the Sports bit of the Sports Luxury tag is about thirty percent of the equation.
It does steer and brake with great accomplishment, but there's no life in the chassis, really, so it's best regarded as a luxury car rather than a sporting sedan. The IS has always been thus but with the sad demise of the IS F, there's nothing to really go after the quicker Audis, BMWs or Mercs. You have to lose two doors and move on to the RC F for that.
Ride quality is superb and the cabin is seriously quiet. Rough roads with huge expansion joints and zingy concrete surfaces fade into the background, conversation remains easy with just the stereo to push what little wind noise penetrates the cabin into the background. The adaptive damping must take a lot of the credit for the ride and handling refinement - it's unobtrusive and doesn't suddenly pour concrete into the dampers when you switch things up.
Barry White. Whipped King Island cream. The opposite of Shane Warne. This car is smooth. Few engines this side of an electric are as quiet as the Honda's uncomplicated V6. Even though the power is high up in the rev range, it never feels like a struggle in the Accord.
There's a distinctly American feel to the suspension as well as the steering. Not everyone likes light steering - me included - but it does mean progress is very relaxed. The steering weights up on the freeway, and that's where you spot the only gap in the Accord's defensive line. Most of the time the ride is completely sorted, but hit a bump or an Aussie motorway's typically sorry excuse for an expansion joint and you get a jolt through the cabin. It doesn't happen very often, it's just a surprise when it does.
Passengers do love the quiet cabin, though, and rear seat passengers report having tons of room even if they're north of 183cm (six foot) tall. The welcome addition of air-conditioning vents and window blinds make it a nice place in summer, too.
Eight airbags (including knee bags for front seat occupants), ABS, stability and traction controls, blind spot sensor, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, auto emergency braking, forward collision detection, brake assist and driver attention detection.
The IS scored five ANCAP stars, the highest available.
The only complaint here is that both lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert are too polite - a little more information as to what's going on would be helpful.
Honda wasn't mucking about when it put together the safety specs, with six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, auto emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane keep steering assistance and trailer sway control.
Honda also fits 'LaneWatch', a tricky little camera that hangs off the passenger side rear vision mirror that gives you a view down inside of the car to help stop you wiping out cyclists or pedestrians when you're turning left.
The Lexus range comes with a four year/100,000km warranty with roadside assist for the duration. Servicing is every 15,000km or twelve months, whichever comes first.
The ownership experience only loses marks because of the lack of capped or fixed price servicing. Service intervals are well-spaced at 12 months/15,000km but Lexus will only commit to "indicative" pricing after the first service (which is, to be fair, a freebie).
The Lexus experience is legendary - owners with cars well over a decade old still have them collected from their homes come service time. Technically, you may never have to visit a dealer again, just pay the nice person when they comes back with your freshly washed, and serviced car. Or they'll give you a loan car to drive yourself around in for the day.
Honda usually offers a pretty impressive five year/unlimited kilometre warranty. At the time of writing (December 2017), the Accord was shipping with a seven year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Both come with roadside assist for the same length as the warranty.
Honda's 'Tailored Service' program covers the first five years or 100,000km. Costing $3299, the average cost of a service is $330, with a lowest price of $273 and the final service $700. There's a sting in the tail, though - if there's a bit of a racket under the bonnet, you might have to cop another $556 to adjust valve clearances and at 80,000km you'll have to swallow $285 for a fuel filter.
Honda expects a visit from you twice a year or every 10,000km, whichever comes first.