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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Next generation Lexus IS makes the rounds

Next-gen Lexus IS mule makes the rounds
Much like the larger GS sedan that we recently spied, Lexus is apparently working on a substantial overhaul for its smaller rear-drive IS, as well.

Though still in early test mule stages, the next IS is expected to ride on a shorter version of the GS platform, which could give it a slightly wider stance than the car currently on the road. Expect the usual sedan and convertible variants to be on hand, as well as a forthcoming IS coupe set to battle the BMW 3 Series and upcoming Mercedes-Benz C-class two-door.

The reworked IS sedan will likely bow sometime in 2012 and the coupe is pegged to arrive shortly thereafter with the usual V6 powertrains as well as an eventual high-performance F variant in at least one bodystyle. The only question we have is, will a force-fed four powerplant also join the party?




 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Update!

2014 Lexus IS
Work has started on a new 4-door sedan based on the FT-86 platform.

Although it’s nearly a half decade away, we are hearing reports that the next-generation IS sedan will make its debut sometime in 2013. The reason, according to our sources, is that work has started on a new 4-door sedan based on the FT-86 platform. For those who are not familiar with the FT-86, it’s the concept car that made news at last year’s Tokyo Motor Show. As the spiritual successor to the old Levin AE-86, a car we called the Corolla coupe, the rear-wheel-drive FT-86 will make its debut in June 2012.

As for the Lexus IS, this car will be built atop a stretched version of the FT-86 chassis. Toyota boss Akio Toyoda is keen on spicing up Toyota’s image into one with a more powerful emphasis on sport, so we hear the next IS will look and perform sportier than the current model.

While the FT-86 sports car will be powered by Subaru’s EJ20 engine (2.0-liter flat-4), the IS will be powered by a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated 4-cylinder and/or a 3.6-liter flat-6. The 2014 Lexus IS F will continue with a high-powered V-8 that’ll make the luxury sedan a presence on the racetrack.
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Update!

Next-Gen Lexus IS Hybrid?
Japan*ese mag*a*zine Best Car is report*ing the next-generation Lexus IS will be com*ing this Sep*tem*ber, and will be avail*able as a V6 hybrid capa*ble of 58 MPG (4l/100kms) — here’s their pho*to*chop attempt at the third gen*er*a*tion IS.
 

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Discussion Starter · #21 · (Edited)
Update!

Next-Generation Lexus IS Photochops from Japan
Our source for Japanese magazine rumors, has come through again with these Best Car renderings of four possible next-generation IS variants.

With the exception of the IS wagon (which is just hideous), these photochops have some mixture of good and bad elements, with the bad mostly winning out — every single rendering has an awkward C-pillar and an oddly exaggerated front face. That said, I do think the new spindle grille will fit the IS range well, and I look forward to seeing something a little closer to the real thing than these mockups.

Even the included spec sheet has its share of ugly.
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Take it with a grain of salt.
 

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Discussion Starter · #24 · (Edited)
Update!

Next Generation Lexus IS
The next Lexus IS has been spotted testing ahead of its debut early next year

Our spies have spotted the next generation Lexus IS testing. The new BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class rival has been seen with a modified version of the current car’s body. This version has been in showrooms since 2005, so is substantially older then its competitors.

Lexus has confirmed that the next IS will look more like a shrunken version of the new GS, which goes on sale in June. Styling wise, that means the new IS will wear the new corporate grille that’s appeared across the entire Lexus range, and will have more angular styling to match.

Optional F Sport packages will also continue to be available, while it’s also likely that the next IS will have adaptive suspension, like its GS stablemate and German rivals, as well as the Dynamic Handling System that includes rear-wheel steering.
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Discussion Starter · #25 ·
Update!

New 2014 Lexus IS Rumors from Australia
The Age in Australia has some new rumours regarding the next-generation Lexus IS:

Due to be unveiled next year, the third-generation IS compact sedan is likely to follow in the footsteps of its bigger sibling, the GS, by delivering a richer, more upmarket look in the cabin and improved road manners.

Unlike its German rivals, the IS’s exterior will be more than just a shrunken version of its bigger brother, according to a Lexus insider. Distinguishing features over its ageing predecessor include a wider, more aggressive stance, a sleeker profile and the most radical iteration of the company’s new spindle grille to date, as our artist’s rendering shows.

The corporate marketing manager at Lexus Australia, Peter Evans, recently told Drive the Japanese luxury brand couldn’t afford a gentle evolution of its popular IS midsize sedan.

“When you’re a challenger brand and you’re No.4 [in sales], you can’t afford to be evolutionary.”


Also included is some drivetrain details, with specific mention of a four-cylinder, V6, and hybrid option. A next-gen IS F is also expected.

There is one rather large nugget of speculation worth highlighting:

Media speculation says the Japanese luxury brand’s smallest sedan could be based on a modified version of Toyota’s 86 sports car – not the GS – allowing Toyota to spread the development costs between the two models. This may also pave the way for a sporty coupe body variant, alongside a coupe-cabriolet and possibly even a sleek wagon or four-door coupe.

I suppose anything’s possible, but modifying the 86 platform to accommodate a luxury sedan would likely negate any “development costs” savings — more likely, the IS will continue to be based on the GS.

Please note — the above image is a rendering created by The Age, and is not the next-generation IS.
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
Update!

2014 Lexus IS Previewed in Video
Finally, the clip gives us a look at what appears to be the next-generation IS, which will come to market as a 2014 model. There’s nothing truly shocking here; it will adopt the same basic styling as its bigger brother, the GS. The spindle grille will be part of the deal, along with a more aggressive lower-fascia design. The new IS will make its debut sometime next year.
 

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Discussion Starter · #35 ·
Update!

Spied! Can You Identify This Mystery Sedan?
One staffer said the wheels look “Lexus-y.” We can scratch the 2013 Lexus LS 460, GS, and ES since all three have been unveiled. Could it be the IS? Another staffer said the LED taillights could be from Audi, but others insist it’s a Toyota or Honda, as both companies’ North American headquarters aren’t far from where this sedan was caught. However, this tester also sports a Michigan plate.
 

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Discussion Starter · #36 ·
Update!

Imagining the Next-Generation Lexus IS Coupe
Just hours before the Lexus LF-CC coupe concept debuts at the Paris Motor Show, let’s take a look at what the concept could mean for the next-generation IS — here’s some photochops from Club Lexus member SNiiP3R.

By merging the LF-CC concept with the GS front-end, these images are a decent attempt to imagine the next-gen IS.

There’s sure to be more visual differences between the GS & IS — I’m expecting the IS to have a much larger lower grille, and it’s doubtful that the side mirrors and rear wheel intakes will make it to production — but squint your eyes, and these photochopped IS coupes appear quite realistic.


:thumbup:
 

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Discussion Starter · #38 ·
Update!

2014 Lexus IS To Debut At Detroit, Coupe A 'Maybe'
Lexus will showcase the all-new replacement for its mid-sized IS sedan at January's Detroit Auto Show.

Speaking with TMR in Sydney, Lexus Australia chief Tony Cramb hinted strongly that the new IS sedan, a strong-seller for Lexus in the United States, will make its debut at the biggest event on the North American motor show calendar.

A local launch would likely follow in the the fourth quarter of 2013.

Powertrain details for the next-gen IS are still hazy, but if the GS is anything to go by, expect evolved examples of the current range of 2.5 litre and 3.5 litre V6 petrol engines.

However, with the current IS being only one of two Lexus models not available with a hybrid powertrain (the mammoth LX 570 is the other), a hybrid is also possible.

There are a few options available for an IS Hybrid, but the only ready-to-go RWD hybrid powerplant is the 3.5 litre V6/electric-motor combo used by the GS 450h.

Another possibility is a development of the Atkinson-cycle four-cylinder used by the LF-CC concept, which uses both port and direct injection to put out around 150kW.

“It's not confirmed, but I'd like to see a hybrid. I definitely want a hybrid,” Cramb told TMR.

But what definitely won't be on the Lexus stand at Detroit, however, will be an IS coupe.

Following the LF-CC concept's debut at the Paris Motor Show, many automotive publications (including TMR) speculated that it would be productionised as a coupe variant for the IS range.

However, when asked if the LF-CC was destined for the assembly line, Cramb simply replied: “Time will tell... time will tell.”

“We did confirm that the LF-CC is the basis for a D-segment coupe in the future, but we didn't confirm that it's necessarily IS-related,” Mr Cramb said.

“A lot of people are drawing that conclusion, but it's not completely accurate.

“The feedback from Paris has been amazing on that coupe, but nothing has been confirmed at this point in time.”

Cramb also told TMR that other bodystyles, such as a wagon, were not part of Lexus' plans for the IS.
 

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Discussion Starter · #40 ·
Update!

Lexus IS (2013) to get mini-GS look
(artist's impression by Christian Schulte)

The new saloon, launching around May 2013, will rectify that by adopting the 2.5-litre petrol/electric hybrid shown in the recent LF-CC concept car. But the range will be strictly petrol or hybrid, because Lexus won't replace the IS220d diesel. Is the lack of a derv option a mistake? Give us your thoughts in the comments below.

A successor to the M3-challenging, 417bhp IS F isn't completely ruled out, but unlikely in the current climate, say insiders.

What bodystyles will I be able to choose for a 2013 Lexus IS?

The volume seller will of course be the saloon, as shown in CAR's artist impression. However, Lexus will come good on the LF-CC's coupe bodystyle and build a sleeker two-door option to fight the Audi A5 and BMW 3-series coupe. The current IS never got a true coupe model: the closest we got was the IS250C folding hard-top. We'll see the saloon first in March at the 2013 Geneva motor show, with a coupe to follow on in 2014. Prices will rise slightly over the current car's £24-£32k, but Lexus hints standard equipment levels will be higher to compensate.

Both the saloon and coupe IS will be available with Lexus F Sport trim - a range-wide sporty trim option in the same vein as BMW M Sport packs, or Audi S-line. As we've seen on the GS and LS, F Sport models get bigger alloy wheels, wider grille openings, and a rear lip spoiler (not to mention copious one-upmanship badging inside and out).
 

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Discussion Starter · #41 ·
Update!

2014 Lexus IS Caught Less Disguised
This time we have new shots taken in Belgium with a new camouflage, that reveals more of the design compared to previous photos.

The front and rear look similar to the new Lexus GS, which is not surprising.

In addition to standard petrol and diesel engines, a hybrid version is also very likely to debut in the new IS. The top of the range IS-F is very likely going to use a smaller turbocharged unit in favour of the current naturally aspirated V8.

New Lexus IS will debut in early January at the Detroit Auto Show.


 

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Discussion Starter · #43 ·
Update!

Quick Drive: 2014 Lexus IS 350 F Sport Prototype
Well, things are not going entirely according to plan. The car splashes through a big puddle and the steering suddenly gets light, and it comes to us that maybe our enthusiasm has sucked us a little too far and a little too fast into this big bend on slick, rain-swept pavement with the 2014 Lexus IS 350 F Sport.

Fortunately the boundaries here are set not by big trees but instead by little traffic cones, so the consequences of busting out of this autocross course on very wet pavement will involve only small embarrassment instead of a large fireball. And then suddenly it doesn't matter, as the 18-inch Bridgestone tires find some bite, the gentlest of steering corrections picks up the drift from the rear tires, the chassis gives a little wriggle as the car hooks up, and then the direct-injection V-6 is warbling as the car finds its way into the straightaway and the eight-speed automatic transmission begins firing off the gear changes. Let us all praise the opportunities for learning experiences offered by wet pavement.

Lexus IS chief engineer Junichi Furuyama laughs off our subsequent report, of course. Lexus has been going to the Nurburgring in Germany to test its cars for a decade now, and Furuyama is a lot more concerned with the way the forthcoming 2014 Lexus IS 350 F Sport feels on the long, long, roller-coaster straight down to the Tiergarten at 150 mph than in our little adventures at 60 mph in a big parking lot. What Furuyama really wants to know is if we can feel the F Sport version of the 2014 Lexus IS sports sedan communicating with us through the steering wheel.

Well, yes we can. But we can also tell you that what we feel most in this car is the struggle that's going on within Lexus to rediscover its soul.

The company has made no secret of its desire to put more emotion into its identity, and this has been expressed of late by the way Lexus has embraced the notion of pure speed. Evidence is right here in the F Sport, a new trim level for both the 2014 Lexus IS 350 and 2014 Lexus IS 250. The F Sport lies between the cooking versions of these cars and the unabashedly high-performance Lexus IS F. We'll see the final form of the heavily revised 2014 Lexus IS sports sedans at the 2013 Detroit auto show, but right now Furuyama is giving us a chance to drive some optically challenged prototypes of the F Sport cars.

The key technical improvement here is quicker response and clearer, more tangible messages from the steering, and indeed Furuyama's benchmark has been the BMW 335i coupe - the previous-generation version of the 3 Series, which he regards as a better car than the new-generation car (we're right there with him in this). The first step in delivering this kind of steering lies in a body that's ten percent more rigid thanks to the use of structural adhesives and more high-strength steel among other things. The second measure is carefully tuned steering gear for quicker response, smoother action, and enhanced on-center feel.

When you're at the controls of the IS 350 F Sport, you really feel like you've got hold of something substantial. Part of the reason can be found in a much better driving position thanks to a steering wheel that's more vertical and a seat that's located 20mm lower, plus a high-bolstered seat that feels like a deep, racing-style bucket of the 1970s. But what you really notice is the direct-injection V-6 and eight-speed automatic transmission from the current Lexus GS sedan, plus brakes that really bite hard when you lean on the pedal.

As we weaved through the winding corners of San Gabriel Canyon in Azusa (not too far from well-known Glendora Mountain Road, where street racers gather late at night), the IS 350 F Sport proved to be the kind of car that you could steer with your fingertips. There's enough body roll to let you know what the F Sport is doing, yet the car is always poised on top of its tires. A quick flick of the steering wheel also instantly gives you more bite from the front tires, so you get a second chance down there at the apex if you need it.

In the Lexus fashion, there's an extensive cast of electronically controlled features to help the F Sport deliver on its promises in every kind of situation, notably a four-position chassis calibration (Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport+) that you dial in with a rotary knob on the center console. When you select Sport mode, you get a different shift schedule for quicker acceleration. When you select Sport+ for the IS 350 F Sport, you get the different shift schedule plus quicker response from the electric-assist power steering and firmer suspension damping. And when you slide the eight-speed automatic into manual mode, you get faster upshifts plus engine blips for faster downshifts.

In the Lexus fashion, this is a lot of stuff, all of which is synonymous with speed. Yet you're always aware of the refinement that's also at the core of the Lexus identity, and the fundamental feel from the new car - the smooth swell of power from the V6 and the ride motions from the chassis - is familiar. In fact this makes us always aware that refinement has always been the key measure of a Lexus, not speed. And every thump from the rear suspension as the F Sport's Bridgestone Turanza ER55 summer-performance tires (225/40R-18 99Y in front; 245/35R-18 103Y in the rear) slap against a seam in the pavement makes us fret about whether such compromises in refinement are appropriate for a Lexus.

The 2014 Lexus IS 350 F Sport wants to speak to you of speed, yet it also wants to retain the refinement that sets apart the cars this company has always made. The question lies in blending these two things together, and the F Sport makes us keenly aware of the way we struggle with finding the right balance point just like the engineers struggle with the same thing.

Part of the answer lies in not asking the F sport to do too much. If you want refinement in a sport sedan, we're confident that the conventional trim levels of the 2014 Lexus IS will deliver just as always. We're glad that Lexus continues to set itself apart in this way, even though it doesn't always get the respect it deserves for doing so.

Meanwhile the F Sport represents a more mature approach to speed from Lexus, one that's more civilized than the Lexus IS F. The 2014 Lexus IS 350 F Sport is apparently the kind of car that you can drive to the Nurburgring, roar around for an afternoon, and then drive home again and go to the supermarket along the way. Furuyama tells us that he's not after an ultimate lap time at the track, but instead he hopes to deliver the kind of car that every driver will find natural and even effortless to drive in such demanding circumstances.

To us, this seems like the right kind of ideal from Lexus. We'll see if it's truly our kind of thing once we get hold of these cars for a drive, and we're booking rooms at the Hotel am Tiergarten even now.
First Drive Review: Lexus IS 300h
Lexus’s German-baiting hybrid promises remarkable diesel-beating CO2 figures in a compact, agile, rear-drive format

What is it?


This is an early prototype of the all-new Lexus IS. The IS isn't being launched until the Detroit show in mid-January so much of the car's detail, including the interior and exterior styling, was under wraps for this drive. The UK will be getting two models: a V6 petrol-powered IS 250 (which is mainly for the model's UK private buyers), and the new IS 300h driven here, which combines a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor and a battery pack.

This latter car is intended to be Lexus’s big breakthrough in the UK’s CO2-driven fleet market. Remarkably, Lexus is aiming to get the IS 300h certified at "under 100g/km". The new car is based on the same new rear-drive platform as the recently-launched GS, although the wheelbase has been shortened and the track is also slightly narrower.

Lexus's engineers say the structure is extra-stiff, using 25 metres of adhesive, extra spot welds and a new technique called laser screw welding in its construction. The double-wishbone front suspension set-up gets stiffer anti-roll bars and softer spring rates (to try to improve the ride without sacrificing handling), and the multi-link rear suspension is new. The biggest advance is the redesigned CVT transmission, which finally eliminates the widely disliked mismatch between engine speed and vehicle speed so typical of previous CVT ‘boxes.

The interior styling is close to that of the CT compact hatchback. There are two centre console dials, one for the multimedia system and one for switching the chassis between Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport+ modes.

What is it like?

On the short track course on which we drove it, the IS 300h was swift and surprisingly capable, with good brakes and fine stability. However, compared to the agile V6 petrol IS, the hybrid was slower to respond to steering inputs and was less keen on rapid direction changes. The extra weight of the electric motor in the nose and the battery packs in the rear are to blame.

On the road, the IS 300h is refined and easygoing. It’s fluid on winding roads and has a decent amount of bite in the steering. The overwhelming sense is of effortless progress with a reasonable dash of driver involvement. It is also impressively swift to switch into EV mode in urban traffic, something other hybrids are reluctant to do. It was hard to be definitive about by the ride, which was excellent on smooth roads but thumped somewhat on broken Los Angeles concrete.

Should I buy one?

If you're fed up with rattling and thrumming four-cylinder premium-car diesel engines (which have generally become less refined since the EU5 regulations), the IS 300h could be a very tempting alternative to the German oil-burners. However, only when we establish the real-world economy and have driven it on European roads, and once the pricing is etablished, will be able to get a definitive answer.
2014 Lexus IS Prototype Review
Intuitive driving feel meets Lexus luxury with mixed results

Chief project engineer engineer Junichi Furuyama had but one question for the journalists selected to evaluate a selection of 2014 IS test mules: has Lexus succeeded in building the next 3 Series?


The comparison is a familiar one, with the compact Bimmer having a target on its rear bumper for several decades now. Everyone from Cadillac to Infiniti wants to build the next 3, both for bragging rights and to reap the rewards in sales.

So to make a long story short, the answer is: No. But to make a long story long, there’s one particular reason why, and it’s hardly a bad thing.

And let’s not forget, even BMW didn’t manage to build the next 3 Series, choosing instead to dilute the car’s raw driving characteristics in favor of improved luxury and everyday usability. So if BMW can’t do it while meeting the increasing demands of buyers, how would we expect Lexus to?

In fact, to the surprise of all, the car that most closely resembles the Platonic “form” of the 3 Series is the Cadillac ATS; something Caddy has discovered doesn’t automatically mean it has been anointed with success.

So where does that leave the Lexus IS? One could say in a middle ground, but that terminology reeks of compromise: a word that would be unfair to use against the new Lexus sports sedan.

DECEPTIVE HANDLING

Hitting a large parking lot autocross course in the IS, the unusually wet LA weather, at first both a literal and figurative rain on our parade, later became a ray of sunshine – again, both literally and figuratively.

The low grip surface delivering traction at 30 mph like you’re going 60 through the same corner in the dry, the characteristics of the IS proved difficult to discern at first. With current generation IS 250 and IS 350 on hand, Lexus also made available two new IS 250 and two IS 350 test mules.

The current generation of cars, with what appears to be a slightly shorter wheelbase, feel more toss-able and nimble. Brought to the limit, however, and they’re also more of a handful.

Behind the wheel of the new IS, either in 250 or 350 grade, and it lulls you into thinking it’s not as agile. Smoother and more planted, once the rear starts to rotate, its easier to modulate.

Essentially, the built-in Lexus qualities of smoothness and refinement work to mute the sensation of what is ultimately a very capable car.

With no specs being released on the engines, we can report that while IS 250 models will continue to use a 6-speed automatic, the IS 350 now makes use of the brand’s 8-speed box.

Certain to help improve fuel economy, it delivers impressively fast shifts via the paddle shifters, though most buyers are certain to stick to the pre-set gearing of the automatic modes – even if pulling the paddles yourself is met with a throttle blip on the downshift.

DRIVE MODE SELECTOR, WITH SPORT+

For 2014 IS models gain a drive mode selector knob, with IS 250s sporting three modes while 350 models gain a fourth. With Normal, Eco and Sport, our 350 F Sport test car also included a Sport+ option, the difference being that rather than just enhancing the throttle response, Sport+ delivers heavier and more responsive steering as well as new settings for the Adaptive Variable Suspension.

While the feel of the heavier steering is more aesthetically pleasing, even the base steering is impressive. Lexus adapted the unit from the GS to deliver a feel that’s smoother, with a clear on-center feel, while reacting better to inputs. As a result it’s another part of the reason the IS fails the 3 Series test, its smoothness and lightness masking its reactive capabilities.

Back to the transmission, Lexus boasts numerous programming enhancements in Sport mode that help keep the car in the ideal gear, and while that was almost unanimously true on the road, when pushed hard in an auto-cross environment, which often demands sudden, extreme changes of steering and throttle, waiting for a downshift was common.

While understandable, we were disappointed that the Sport+ mode didn’t take this to the next level, demanding the car default to the lowest possible gear – though perhaps we’ll have to wait for a next-generation IS F for responsiveness as hard-edged as that.

In fact, greater overall differentiation between the different drive modes would be ideal. We even found throttle response in the Eco mode to be decent… and expected it to be quite muted. While pleasant, one has to think a more restrictive Eco mode could deliver added fuel economy benefits.

STIFFER CHASSIS MAKES FOR SOFTER SPRINGS

As for the underlying vehicle architecture, again it’s adapted from the GS and while we don’t have hard numbers, there’s a slightly longer wheelbase (making for better rear seat legroom), while Lexus claims it’s more rigid than before. Suspension updates include a new pickup point for the front sway bar that improves its function; while in the rear the springs and shocks have been separated to tune responsiveness independently.

By isolating these aspects, engineers were, surprisingly, able to reduce the spring rates in the car, helping improve the overall ride comfort – likely another contributing factor to the IS’s luxury-over-performance feel.

INTERIOR A NOD TO THE LFA

Inside the car there are some very cool toys, with the car’s “killer app” being the central speedometer adapted from the LFA supercar. A circular single gauge pod slides left to right, with the rpm displayed inside on a digital screen, while small screens on either side display other vehicle data from the trip meter and fuel gauge to radio information.

Another impossible-to-miss feature are the newly designed seats. With improved bolstering, particularly on the F-Sport models we tested, perhaps the biggest advantage is that they sit 20mm lower in the car. The benefit isn’t just a more engaging position for the driver, rather, the reduced height allows for more head room resulting in a more spacious feel to the IS’s cabin.

THE VERDICT

Looking to rebrand its image with heightened focus on the communication between a car and its driver, based on our time beyond the wheel the 2014 IS does not meet the lofty goal it set out to achieve. It is not the new 3 Series, if for no other reason than that it does achieve true-to-the-brand levels of smoothness and refinement.

And this is before we’ve had a chance to enjoy the many other aspects the third generation IS will offer, from luxury materials and craftsmanship, to new technology and safety features that could just make it the most well-rounded car in the segment.

While the goal of “the most fun” is a noble one to strive for, perhaps the best compact luxury sports sedan is not the one that offers the most extreme dynamic personality, but the one that delivers in all areas to a higher level than its rivals. After all, that’s what BMW aimed to do with the new 3 Series and while the IS targeted the previous generation E90 (2006 to 2011) model, perhaps its failure to meet that goal is actually its own success.

LOVE IT
LFA Gauges
Capable handling with Lexus luxury
Lower seating position

LEAVE IT
Sport+ not sporty enough
Luxury feel dilutes sporty capabilities

FAST FACTS
1. While no engine specs have been revealed, Lexus will continue to offer the IS 250 and IS 350 models, with the latter receiving an 8-speed automatic transmission.
2. Based on a shared architecture with the GS, the IS grows slightly for 2014 with a more rigid chassis and softer springs.
3. A Drive Mode Selector on IS 250 models will offer Eco, Normal and Sport modes, while 350 models will gain Sport+.
4. The car’s “killer app” is a new gauge pod adapted from the LFA with a sliding central tachometer with a digital screen inside as well as additional screens to the side.








 

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Discussion Starter · #44 ·
<iframe width="640" height="360" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/lqvYM-3DjYo?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

2014 Lexus IS Prototype: Review
John Travolta and Nicholas Cage turned things upside down in the action blockbuster "Face Off". Now they could easily star in an automotive re-make of the movie, if Lexus and BMW hadn't already filled their starring roles.

Just as Travolta went from nasty to nice and Cage went cop to crook in Face Off, Lexus and BMW have traded places in 2012.

The Germans have gone soft and cushy with the latest 3 Series and, after driving a lineup of disguised Lexus prototypes this week in the USA, I feel that the new IS is probably now the ultimate driving machine.

This is my second deep dive with Lexus - after a preview drive of the GS last year - but landing in Los Angeles I'm aware that the new IS is the most important car in the history of Lexus.

The original LS 400 was a bigger gamble, but this is the car that must bring younger buyers to the brand and finally give Lexus a prestige starter car that's more than just nice, but... Lexus knows it too, which is why chief engineer Junichi Furuyama has only brought F Sport versions of his IS to LA and only seems interested in the way the car drives.

There is nothing about comfort or quietness in his short, sharp, presentation and he only talks about the back-seat space when I raise the obvious question. "When developing the new IS, we set ourselves the target to be the best fun-to-drive car," Furuyama says. "We believe we were able to achieve that." He talks about driving harmony and fun, as well as the car's "flavour", before a brief technical rundown.

VALUE

The IS lineup is basically unchanged, although there is now a hybrid model - still to be confirmed for Australia - and the IS F could change into an upcoming IS coupe. There is nothing to report on prices because the car will not be stripped of its camouflage until the Detroit motor show in January and Australian deliveries do not begin until the second half of next year.

Still, based on Toyota's red-pen work this year on the showroom stickers of the all-new 86 and Corolla, it would be no surprise to see a slight drop from the current base prices of $55,800 for the IS 250 and $64,300 for the IS 350.

Also, I cannot comment on the final finishing, or the equipment, because the various prototypes were still some way from showroom standard and almost everything in the cabins was covered with metres of black tape.

DESIGN

A similar IS was well beaten by the Benz C and BMW 3 in my prestige comparison earlier this year and I'm reminded of the outdated cabin, cramped back seat and suspension that makes the car feel a bit skittish.

But the new IS is improved in many, many areas, finally getting a useable back seat and a much bigger boot. It's two ticks there.

The cabin space is a huge improvement with better-shaped front seats. The wheelbase is out by 75 millimetres but there is 90 more in the back-seat space, and even the door opening has been enlarged for easier access. The view from the back bench is also helped by front seats that are set 20 millimetres lower, although that was done to improve comfort in the front. Oh, and the boot is about 20 per cent larger.

The hole in the dashboard points to a 20-centimetre display screen, the new switches and stalks feel more substantial, and Lexus promises a review-camera across the local lineup.

SAFETY

It gets 10 airbags and a standard reversing camera with parking radar.

TECHNOLOGY

The IS is basically new - "about 80 per cent of the parts" - but shares its mechanical package and suspension layout with the bigger GS. That means rear-wheel drive with more travel and control, but the basic body is much more rigid.

It has a system that plumbs engine intake noise into the cabin during enthusiastic driving. Among the claimed improvements for driving enjoyment are lighter steering, better Bridgestone tyres, softer springs and rear suspension that separates the springs from the dampers.

There is now an eight-speed automatic gearbox with various driving modes, and the gauges are a new take on the impressive TFT layout in the Lexus LFA super car.

DRIVING

The cars are waiting and the first job is a couple of track laps in the superseded IS, just to set the ground rules. Onto the track and the new transmission is more aggressive in its response, the front end grips better and the car sits a little flatter through the curves.

So I step up to the camo 350 and find more of the same, with extra urge of course, and a bit more compliance in the rear suspension. But it's the road drive that will provide the real answers, so we hit the freeway and head for the hills. Literally.

The IS 250 is immediately quieter than I remember - Furuyama confirms big cuts to wind and road noise - and the eight-speed auto is great. As the road turns twisty the IS responds in the way I used to expect from a BMW. It responds eagerly to the wheel and drives confidently through turns.

The IS 350 is not as precise - with an extra 30 kilograms in the nose - but the extra punch makes any short straight a fun run. I also enjoy the LFA style instruments and the multi-mode automatic, which responds almost like a manual in the sportiest setting.

So I'm convinced. These are real driving cars for people who take their motoring seriously, but they also have the sort of practical improvements that are essential for the long-flawed IS. Yes, the IS could do with more punch as both a 250 and a 350, I'm not a fan of plumbing engine noise into the cabin, and one of the suspension set-ups is significantly better for grip and comfort.

But those are relatively small things. Overall it's a great drive. There was a time when the IS was really just a tweaked Toyota, but the new cars have grown up and improved in so many ways. Now I'm waiting to get the 'real' car out from under the camo and onto some home roads to ensure I have the story right. But, right now, it looks to me as if the BMW benchmark batton has been snitched by the IS.

VERDICT

A one-day run is not enough for a final verdict, but I have rarely pushed a car as hard as I did in the California canyons - or hustled as enthusiastically as I did on a closed course at the Santa Anita raceway - without finding something big to complain about.
 

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