By Andrea Skerritt

As a busy professional whose daily routine relies on the New York City MTA and taxi commission, I often dream of a life where I swap being sandwiched between multiple humans on my morning commute for a relaxing morning drive, complete with music (no headphones required), fresh air and a little alone time.  I use my jaunts outside New York as opportunities to test-drive that life, renting cars that I might consider owning and taking the long route as I drive to meetings or visit local attractions.

A recent trip to Los Angeles rendered me sold on the idea that the 2013 Lexus IS 350 might be the only car that could fit both my budget and my lifestyle. It provides a dynamic luxury experience without the six-figure price tag and is well suited for any burgeoning young executive with discerning taste looking to purchase her first luxury vehicle.

By the end of my four-day adventure with the IS 350, I was sad to part ways with it. The car had been my companion on drives through at least a half-dozen districts in and around Los Angeles. It won the admiration of friends and valet attendants alike and, most important, it so reflected my own personality that I’d come to believe it was an extension of myself. I have since longed to relive those moments driving down Sunset Blvd. with the blue sky sitting radiantly atop the one-touch Moonroof while Bruno Mars serenades me through the 13-speaker Mark Levinson Surround Sound System.

Here are 6 more features that fueled my love affair with this car:

1. The Navigation System: My delayed arrival at LAX was less than ideal. The 30-minute drive to LA Live at 2 a.m. seemed daunting at best and risky at worst for a near-sighted, navigationally challenged individual like me. I was pleasantly surprised at how effortlessly I found my way to my hotel using the navigation system. The large display screen with intuitively labeled controls, zoom capability, and multiple map display options minimized the number of times I needed to glance at the map before each turn, ensuring that my eyes remained fixed to the road. Coupled with the voice recognition system and Destination Assist with a 24-hour live operator, what would have been a tiresome voyage was instead a pleasant start to my vacation.

2. Safety: “I feel so safe in this car,” proclaimed my first passenger, a long-time friend who joined me for a late-night taco expedition. It might’ve been because of my careful driving. But more than likely it was the combination of having side curtain airbags, impact-absorbing door and body construction, a Tire Pressure Monitor System, headlight-off delay feature (particularly useful when parking in quiet areas alone at night), and, neither last nor least, the Toyota Smart Stop Technology brake override system, which prevents sudden, unintended acceleration.

3. Versatile Beauty: In Los Angeles, the neighborhoods are as diverse as the people who inhabit them. There’s a sanctuary for every soul, from the artsy hipster to the grungy rocker or showy starlet. The 2013 Lexus IS 350, with its sleek silhouette and classic leather interior, is sporty enough that it compliments the active beach vibe along the Malibu shore, contemporary enough that blends in with the art scene in Silver Lake or Echo Park, bold enough to take on the bright lights of LA Live, and refined enough to grace the streets of Beverly Hills.  There’s virtually no place where this car doesn’t fit right in.

4. Parking Assist: Anyone who has ever accused me of having “Parking-son’s disease” would have to rescind their statement if they saw me drive the IS 350. The Intuitive Parking Assist works with both front and rear sensors that beep when approaching any object and a camera display on the navigation screen that makes reverse parallel parking so easy a caveman could do it.

5. Fuel Consumption:  The IS 350’s fuel economy is listed as 22 miles per gallon.  This technically nets out as “about average.” But, as a former SUV (read: gas guzzler)-lover, I was pleased to find that two full tanks (roughly $110 worth of Premium gas) carried me for four days on long-distance drives from Silver Lake to LAX (four times), Rancho Cucamonga, Long Beach, Venice Beach, Malibu and Tarzana – all while enjoying the same space and comfort in the driver’s seat that I’d come to enjoy in most mid-sized SUVs.

6. Lexus Owner Benefits: Just like Citi and American Express provide their Cardmembers with exclusive perks via the Citi Private Pass and American Express Membership Rewards programs, Lexus gives its car owners access to exclusive deals and added-value perks on hotels, restaurants, events and more. Once you’ve purchased your IS 350, go to LexusDrivers.com to register and begin receiving those benefits. (source)

2013 Lexus IS 350
Starts at: $35,065
Color shown: Deep Sea Mica
[Watch this space for our review of the 2014 Lexus IS!]

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