Over the last 18 months you can really see Akio Toyoda’s fingerprints on the Lexus brand. For many years Lexus was considered a brand of fine cars with excellent build quality and a dealer network that set the standard for the industry. However, they were also thought of as bland and emotionless vehicles. Cars and SUV’s for those that wanted something nice, but didn’t care about cars or want to think about cars.
Akio’s statement was that cars bearing his family’s name WOULD have emotion, would have a connection to the driver, they would NOT be thought of as just a commodity item.
The all new GS was the first real statement along those lines and now with the 2014 Lexus IS, the third generation of the car, Akio has focused Lexus’ efforts into not just drawing event with cars like the BMW 3 Series and the Audi A4, but setting the standard for the small luxury performance segment.
The new IS draws from it’s larger stablemate, the GS, in several areas. The front end is a further, more aggressive evolution of the spindle grill, the interior continues the horizontal theme dash, and the rear suspension is derived from the GS as well.
The new IS gains 2.5 inches in wheelbase allowing for a further 1.6 inches of rear seat legroom. The overall length has been extended 3.5 inches, the trunk now has an additional .5 cubic foot of space and the first time offering a 60/40 split folding rear seat for additional cargo capacity.
When the new IS is ordered with Satellite Navigation, it comes loaded with 3D mapping including Street View. Traffic and weather information are now subscription free, weather is updated every 10 minutes and traffic every 2 minutes. Traffic also has the addition feature of Predictive Traffic which can forecast ahead 15, 30 and 45 minutes so that you can see what your route may look like, and if you should choose a different way. Also when you are running low on fuel gas stations will appear as Points Of Interest on the map.
The 2014 IS has all of the safety features you’ve come to expect on a car at this level, 10 air bags, Blind Spot Warning with Cross Traffic, lane departure alert, and Pre Collision Radar cruise control down to 25 miles an hour.
The F-Sport version of the new IS, available on both the IS 250 and the IS 350 is distinguished by a different nose and bumper, different seats, LED daytime running lights, variable adaptive suspension and additional drive modes of Sports S and S+. Also in the F-Sport is a different gage cluster that draws it’s inspiration from the LFA Supercar. The center dial slides from the center to the right and alters the information on the LCD gage cluster.
Optional on all models is the 15 speaker, 835 watt Mark Levinson audio system. The system features a full digital (Class-D) amplifier, 5.1 channel/7.1 channel surround system, a total of 15 GreenEdge™ ultra-high efficiency speakers and a Lexus-first Auto Volume System,which automatically adjusts volume when changing between sources or radio channels.
The IS 250 and 350 can be had either as Rear Drive or All Wheel Drive. Power comes from either a 2.5 liter V6 in the IS 250 offering 204 horsepower and 184 lb/ft of torque, or the 3.5 liter V6 in the IS 350 which offers up 306 horsepower and 277 lb/ft of torque.
Fuel economy is rated in the IS 250 at 21/30/24 (city/highway/combined) for the Rear Drive and 20/27/23 for the All Wheel Drive model. The IS 350 rates as 19/28/22 for the Rear Drive and 19/26/21 for the All Wheel Drive.
All IS 250’s, plus the IS 350 AWD will use a six speed automatic transmission, while the Rear Drive IS 350 will use the eight speed automatic from the outgoing IS-F.
On the road the new IS has a very comfortable and controlled ride quality, the cabin is very quiet, as you’d expect. However, when you put your foot down, there is a very sporty sounding exhaust, and when tossed aggressively into corners, the body stays very flat, and the handling is very neutral, with just a hint of understeer to keep you safe.
Lexus believe you can have your cake and eat it too with the suspension in the new IS. They have soften the springs at all four corners to make the ride more supple, yet larger anti roll bars allow the handling to be very sporty and controlled without being overly stiff. When you want a more aggressive suspension you can dial it up with the drive mode selector. In the standard IS you have a Sport mode, and in the F-Sport there are Sports S and S+ options. The additional modes will not only change the suspension calibrations, but alter how aggressive the throttle is as well.
For 30 years the BMW 3 Series has set the benchmark for the small sport luxury segment, and Audi in the last decade has been running neck and neck with BMW with their A4. Lexus have now gone all in on this segment, and just like when Lexus entered the market with the original LS, the Germans will be may need to re-evaluate their current efforts.
Pricing for the IS 250 begins at $35,950 and $39,465 for the IS 350, All Wheel Drive adds $2,515 to the IS 250 and $2,235 to the IS 350, all models of the new IS will be available mid Summer.
With the exception of the LF-A when you think Lexus, you think conservative, understated luxury car. Lexus has always been the “safe” choice when you wanted a luxury car, but didn’t want something from Germany.
The IS range from Lexus tends to fly under the radar. Most people tend to focus on three models in it’s lineup. The top end LS, the mid level ES and the RX crossover. While there is nothing wrong with those vehicles, they don’t come within a solar system of what you might consider engaging drivers cars, but that’s not what they were designed to be either.
The IS is the exception to that rule. Even in it’s standard IS 350 guise, the IS does not feel “blandtastic” it does have strong elements that at times make you scratch your head and wonder how did this one make it through. That’s before we get to the IS-F.
If you like fun and engaging cars to drive, then the Lexus IS-F is for you. It starts under the hood with a 416 horsepower 5.0 liter V8 which sends power to the rear wheels via an eight speed automatic gear box. It should be required in owning or driving this car that you either (a) have a radar detector, (b) have an attorney on retainer, or (c) be on good terms with your local police department.
Why you ask? Because once you hit about 3500 rpms the exhaust note is so glorious, that you want to keep hearing it! We hope which ever engineers were responsible for tuning the exhaust note got a large bonus because this is one of THE GREAT V8 exhaust notes of all time!
The suspension also gets an upgrade over the standard IS 350. The ride is firmer, but it is also not harsh, it is something that is very livable in everyday driving. The IS-F does corner flatter and is quicker to change directions when called on to do so quickly.
As fantastic as the engine is, the brakes on the IS-F are equally as good. The pure stopping power can generate enough negative g-forces to make you think your eyeballs will come out of their sockets. Yet unlike many big brake systems, it doesn’t feel light a light switch which is either on or off, there is a nice linear travel, with excellent feedback. The brake system is sourced from Brembo and have 14.2 inch discs up front with six piston calipers and 13.6 out back with two piston calipers.
Inside the car has all the luxury touches one would expect in a $60,000 car. The leather is of good quality and the micro-fiber inserts in the seats give it an even more upscale touch. In hot or cold clients the micro-fiber is much more comfortable than leather, while waiting for the cabin to come up or down to temperature. It also offers better traction for your backside when you decide to push the car hard.
Looking onto the instrument cluster, a 9000 rpm tachometer is dead center and dominates your view. While the tach may go to 9,000 shift are handled closer to 7,000. There are a series of lights that change from yellow to red as you close in on the redline helping you if you are choosing to shift up manually in the gearbox.
Best be quick with those shifts as the engine revs very quickly! In first or second gear it is not difficult to bounce the engine off the rev limiter because the engine revs so quickly. There is a digital readout on the tach to tell you your speed, to go along with a smaller speedometer to the right of the tach.
The IS-F has an optional Mark Levinson audio package that comes with navigation. If you are familiar with the system in other Lexus models, it’s features are similar. To our ear, it could use a little more base, and a little more “presence” in delivering the audio, and that is true in listening to several different genres of music, from classical, to jazz, rock and trip hop.
Fuel economy is not unreasonable for the IS-F, the EPA rates the car at 16 city/23 highway/18 combined. Our experience with the car says those numbers are very close, and thats when were were not shy with the right foot. Take it a little easier on the loud peddle and you will see the number increase. We saw fuel economy at almost 20 in the city and 24 on the highway driving in a more restrained manner.
The IS-F has to rate as the most fun cars to drive in the Lexus lineup outside the $400,000 LF-A. The best part of the LF-A is that it doesn’t scream performance car, even though there are some very aggressive styling cues. There will be many a shocked BMW M3 driver when they see the IS-F’s taillights disappearing into the distance, and that may be the point, excellence in performance doesn’t have to be flashy, just quiet professionalism.
The Sustainable Business Council of Los Angeles (SBCLA), a non-profit organization which provides a professional networking and education forum for Southern California businesses and individuals working with sustainable products, services, and processes, hosted “Electric Vehicle Roundtable and Drive-a-thon.” The panel featured six key players in this fast-emerging and competitive industry who guided the audience through a topic that is especially integral to the fabric and future of Los Angeles.
The event took place on Thursday, September 30, 2010, from 7:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. at Valcucine’s showroom in Beverly Hills. The distinctive presentation reinforced SBCLA’s commitment to showcasing environmentally-conscious businesses, and spotlighted cutting-edge sustainability trends and best practices across a broad range of industry sectors.
Moderated by Plug In America’s (http://www.pluginamerica.org) VP, Paul Scott, who is also President of the Electric Vehicle Association of Southern California, “Electric Vehicle Roundtable and Drive-a-thon” presented: Laura Marion, CFO, Aptera; K. Forest Beanum, VP of Public Affairs & Communications, CODA Automotive; Richard Steinberg, Manager, Electric Vehicle Operations and Strategy, BMW of North America, LLC; Eric Shieh, Account Executive, Coulomb Technologies and Mike Sullivan, Owner and President, LAcarGUY
This distinguished group of professionals—representing the cycle of invention to delivery and consumer use—addressed the value proposition of these businesses and California’s leading role in the sector’s growth.
-Why is the timing for electric vehicles more ideal now than when “Who Killed the Electric Car” was released in 2006? What has changed? Or has it?
-What are the sustainable aspects of the vehicle industry vs. other forms of mobility, especially in Los Angeles?
-What are the economic implications of millions of Californians switching from 60% foreign oil to 100% domestic renewable electricity?
-What plug-in vehicles are available today and what will be available in the near future? What are the predictions for the future of electric vehicle adoption?
The event was sponsored by Stonefield Josephson, Inc., LAcarGUY, Valcucine, “Dom,” Luna & Larry’s Organic Coconut Bliss, Summa Marketing Communications, New Belgium Brewing, Evenson Design Group and dubroWorks Public Relations/Marketing/ Project Management.