By on March 25, 2013

Every car company hates the BMW 3-Series. It’s always the benchmark, always the sales champion, always the golden boy. BMW shifted nearly 100,000 3-Series models in America last year and they did so not by being “the best” luxury sedan, but by pandering to the shopping public’s desires. Buyers have shown they want a comfy ride with a luxury logo on the front, they want good fuel economy and they want to hear journalists say how well the car handles on a track. The average buyer will never be on a track, but it’s critical to know your car belongs there. The old IS was a good car on the track, but its demure looks sold more on Lexus’ reliability and dealer reputation than the car’s track diaries. As we know from Volvo and Lexus’ sales numbers in this segment, two things don’t move metal: reliability and safety. For 2014 Lexus went back to the drawing board completely redesigning the IS sedan to be their most dynamic sedan ever. Does it have what it takes to take on the Germans and Infiniti’s new Q50?


Let’s get the disclaimer out of the way up front: the IS-F and convertible IS C are continuing as-is for 2014. Lexus wouldn’t comment on any time-frames for their refresh, but you can bet nobody in Japan wants to keep stocking parts for both generations of IS vehicles. 

Lexus’ exterior styling has always stuck me as graceful, sophisticated and reserved. While that mantra holds true for the side profile of the IS, the front reveals the largest and most stylized grille, not just for Lexus, but for the whole small luxury segment. The photos above are of the F-Sport model which has a more aggressive “squiggle” grille rather than the more reserved horizontal lines of the regular IS. Regardless of the model you choose, this is one big maw. Lexus tells us the sloping profile and demure grill of the old IS, got no respect on the autobahn while this ginormous opening makes Germans run for their lives for fear of being devoured. That I believe. I tried to keep my distance for fear of being consumed myself. Whether you like the grille or not (I find it quite attractive on the F-Sport, a little unbalanced on the regular) our drive around Texas proved the grille received more looks than the old IS.

Out back, less has changed with the rear being more reserved than the front but it’s the side profile where things really change. The 2014 IS is a whopping 3.5 inches longer than the 2013 model and rides on a 2.7 inch longer wheelbase. Combined with the blunter nose which makes the hood look longer, the IS has gone from stubby to elegant. Remind you of anyone else in the segment? Yep, the BMW 3 grew by leaps and bounds last year. Unlike the Caddy designers who didn’t expect their target to shift so much, Lexus outpaced the 3 landing about an inch longer than the BMW.


Rather than evolving the IS interior, Lexus has gone for a revolution appearing to have changed absolutely everything about the IS’ interior. I’m not 100% sold on the design yet, mainly because of that enormous airbag bump on the passenger side. Unlike the Germans and Swedes that seem to enjoy using exactly the same interior design scaled up or down in every model, Lexus opts for similar cues but unique components. I give them credit for going this extra design mine but for my tastes I think I prefer something less avant-garde. But then again I own an X308 Jaguar XJ, the antithesis of modern.

Most companies would shy away from discussing their standard pleather seats but Lexus is a different sort of company and spoke at length about their NuLuxe faux-cowhide. In a further twist, F-Sport models eschew real leather for the fake. Thankfully this is one of the best leather look-alikes going and if you didn’t have a leather model on hand to compare it against you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference by touch. Smell is another thing, the NuLuxe interiors don’t have an unpleasant aroma, but its obviously not a leather smell. On the flip side Lexus tells us these are the first seats where the foam padding is molded into the upholstery fabric making the padding and the surface one unit. This supposedly will result in a longer lifetime and less “bunching” over time.

It’s hard to say what the IS would be like to live with since we had such a limited time with the car, so be sure to check back with us when we can snag one for a week. During our limited time in all varieties of IS, the front seats proved supportive with a nice range of motion although the seating position may be low for some drivers. Rear seat room has increased a much needed 1.6 inches while front legroom has gone up nearly an inch allowing a 6′ passenger (yours truly) to sit behind a 6’2 driver in relative comfort, a significant change from the last generation IS. Sadly however all that room had to come from somewhere and while some came from the wheelbase stretch, plenty came from the trunk as well with the cargo hold dropping from 13.3 cubes to 10.8 which is about 40% smaller than BMW’s cargo hold.

Infotainment & Gadgets

One item that hasn’t changed for the better (in my opinion) is the infotainment system. 2014 brings a raft of new features from traffic maps on non-navigation equipped models to predictive traffic, improved voice recognition and some slick smartphone app features. Alas, the lord giveth and he taketh away. Along with the new software comes Lexus’ Remote Touch input device, or as I prefer to call it: the Lexus joystick. Sadly I find little joy in the mouse-like controller. Don’t get me wrong, it is intuitive, I just don’t find it as easy to use as the competition’s knob interfaces and I think it takes way more eye-time off the road to use than Lexus’ old touchscreen systems. To counter this problem, the 7-inch LCD is placed higher the the dash where it looks small thanks to a housing that would appear to be designed to accommodate a larger screen. BMW’s wide-screen 8.8-inch display may not be that much bigger, but its up-close-and-personal location make it look large in comparison. In an odd twist if you don’t buy navigation you keep the 7-inch screen but trade the joystick for a rotary knob.

Since the systems we experienced were not production ready and not all the features were available for us to test but we were able to preview a number of features that may help soften the blow if you’re not a joystick fan. First up, the base IS models without navigation now get weather reports and a static traffic map updated via free HD Radio broadcasts so you don’t have to shell out for an XM subscription.You also get smartphone app integration standard with pass-though voice commands to supported phone apps. The optional navigation system sports improved graphics, redesigned menus making it easier to use the jotstick, more frequent live traffic updates and the ability to predict future traffic. The future traffic prediction feature uses historical data to show you what traffic will be like later and allow you to alter your travel plans accordingly. If outdated POI databases raise your hackles, the nav system will not simultaneously search the car’s POI database and an online POI database via your paired smartphone simultaneously and use the more recent search results.

Lexus doesn’t offer any sort of heads-up display ala BMW, but you can gadgets like radar cruise control, Mark Levinson branded audio system, blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning. No pricing on how much the IS or any of its gadgets will cost, but you can bet that Mark Levinson system won’t be cheap. The F-Sport package adds one more standard gizmo that makes it an absolute must-have package: the best LCD disco dash I’ve ever seen. Based on an 8-inch LCD the display uses a physical ring (you can see it in the picture above) to frame the tachometer so it looks more like a real gauge. The F-Sport also has a party trick up its sleeve, the moves. Sliding left in perfect synchronization with the display software it  “reveals” the trip computer, configuration menu, infotainment displays and vehicle info on the right. Based on a similar display in Lexus’ supercar (the LF-A), this has to be the coolest cluster available this side of the Tesla model S. Lexus, I almost forgive you for the joystick.


IS models still use the same smooth V6s as last year with the IS 250 getting (logically) a 2.5L 204HP direct-injection V6 and the IS 350 gets a 3.5L 306HP direct-injection V6. As you would expect from naturally aspirated engines, full power is delivered at 6,400RPM for both engines and torque comes to the boil at 4,800. Compared to the 3.0L turbos in the Audi, BMW and Volvo, the IS 350’s 277lb-ft is a distinct disadvantage. Meanwhile the IS 250’s 185lb-ft pale in comparison to the 255-266lb-ft from the small turbos in the same Euro trio. If that sounds like Lexus is at a disadvantage you may be right, however BMW is chasing Lexus down the power market with the 180HP 320i.

The IS 250 RWD uses the same A960E 6-speed automatic as last year while IS 250 AWD and IS 350 AWD models still use the same beefier A760H 6-speed. The big change is in the RWD IS 350 which gets the 8-speed cog-swapper from the fire-breathing IS-F bringing the IS350 up to gear-parity with BMW and Audi and one cog ahead of the Infiniti Q50 and Mercedes C. The extra gears grant the IS 350 RWD an extra MPG on the highway (28) but the city and combined numbers remain the same (19 and 22.) The IS 250 RWD enjoys a bump of 1 MPG, but only in the combined score bringing it to 21/30/24 (City/Highway/Combined.)

The reason for the slight change is that the 8-speed transmission and final drive ratios have performance in mind with a very low 16.59:1 effective first gear ratio compared to the 14.36:1 in the 2012 IS 350. 8th gear manages to be only a hair taller than 6th in the old unit at 2.47:1 vs 2.38:1. Gears 3-6 are all close ratio gears which help the naturally aspirated V6 stay in its [comparatively] narrow power band. Helping the IS 350 feel a bit more responsive the transmission fully locks the torque converter in gears 2-8 and the whole system is programmed to blip the throttle on manual downshifts.

For reasons known only to themselves, Lexus has decided not to offer the hybrid IS 300h for sale in America. The cagey answer we were given is that Lexus is “continually reviewing their product planning.” Pity, it is the IS I would buy tomorrow if I could.

Track Drive

Most of my time with the IS was spent on an intriguing track with tight corners, little banking and two straights where we hit 110+ in the IS 350 F-Sport RWD, a BMW 335i M-Sport a C350 with the AMG sport package and of course, last year’s IS 350 as well. The lack of an Infiniti G37 was understandable since the new Q50 is replacing it soon. The lack of an ATS 3.6 was interesting considering Caddy’s recent sales success (the ATS ranks fourth in sales YTD, behind the C, 3 and G.)  Out on the track the IS 350 F-Sport RWD proved to be a very responsive sedan with excellent grip and  suspension tuning that is near perfection. The variable gear ratio steering is well weighted but just about as numb as anything you’ve driven. Of course numb steering is nothing new to this segment as both the BMW and Mercedes were devoid of feedback as well. ]

The responsiveness of the IS in tight corners really demonstrated Lexus’ dedication to making every system in the IS work well together. The dynamic suspension, variable gear steering and the intelligent downshifting logic in the transmission made the IS feel incredibly nimble. The Mercedes felt just as I had expected on the track: heavy and soft. Despite this the Merc has a decent amount of grip and is well matched to the IS 350 in terms of power. Hop in the BMW 335 however and the IS 350’s major deficiency is obvious: thrust. Despite the BMW feeling less buttoned down than the IS 350, my laps were faster and the experience was more entertaining because you had to have more skill to handle the heaps of torque put out by the 3.0L turbo. While my overall lap time was faster in the 335, I noticed I wasn’t as fast overall in the sweeping straights in the BMW, and that’s because the IS feels more connected to the road, more stable and a bit more predictable. While there wasn’t an Audi S4 in the pack, I can tell you what it would be been like. The S4 and the Volvo S60 T6 put some incredible power to the ground and I love AWD, but (and this is a big but on the track), they are both fairly nose heavy and that’s really obvious on a track like this. The ATS 3.6 however I suspect would have won “journalists” choice at the event owing to Cadillac’s efforts to replicate the driving dynamics of the old 3-Series, you know, before the 335 became “American-sized.”

While the IS 350 F-Sport felt like one with the track for the most part, high speed braking is a problem area for the IS. Because of a hairpin turn at the end of the straight you have to drop from 110+ to 35 as quickly and smoothly as possible while maintaining control. The Mercedes and the 335 accomplish this maneuver without a problem but the IS 350 felt light under hard braking and on some road surfaces a little squirrely as well. In fact the IS 350 may be slightly lighter in the rear than the Germans but it’s not a huge difference with the IS coming in around 52/48 and the IS 350 51.5/48.5.

Does any of that matter out on the road? Nope. The IS 350 is a perfectly competent luxury sedan in either setting. While the IS 350 gives away something to BMW under high-speed braking, the IS 350 never felt out of control. The feel behind the wheel is excellent, albeit slower than the 335. Without pricing available from Lexus it’s hard to form a final opinion on the 2014 Lexus IS, but since it is unlikely to have changed much it should pose a good value slotting in under the 335 in price. If you can give up thrust for a more connected feel, reliability for a smaller infotainment screen and high-speed-braking feel for something more nimble in the corners, the IS 350 is your car. Until Lexus’ brand image shifts (or they jam some turbos on their smooth V6), the 3-series will continue being hated and secretly loved by the competition.


Hit it

  • Excellent road manners.
  • The F-Sport nose job makes it the most aggressive looking vehicle in the segment.
  • Coolest LCD instrument cluster. Ever.

Quit it

  • Down on power.
  • The infotainment screen is small and the joystick is a pain.
  • Fewer electronic gizmos available than the competition.

Lexus flew me to the IS release event in Austin where they stuffed me full of food and beer.


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65 Comments on “First Drive Review: 2014 Lexus IS (Video)...”

  • avatar

    I’m surprised no one disagreed when the designer decided “I want the headlamps to resemble fetuses floating above checkmarks.” Seems like a rather big thing to slip through the grate.

    • 0 avatar

      Putting aside the whole “Predator grill” thing, the worst offender at the front end is the awful-shaped headlight casing (which really shows up in red) and the separated “Nike swoosh” LEDs.

      And I certainly wouldn’t refer to the new IS as “elegant” (nor would I the 3 Series based on its front fascia), esp. since the greenhouse is a bit stubby and way too reminiscent of the pedestrian HS.

    • 0 avatar

      The front end of this car makes the new Cherokee look like a thing of beauty by comparison.

  • avatar

    “Sadly I find little joy in the mouse-like controller. Don’t get me wrong, it is intuitive, I just don’t find it as easy to use as the competition’s knob interfaces and I think it takes way more eye-time off the road to use than Lexus’ old touchscreen systems. To counter this problem…”

    All they had to do was put in a touchscreen with the redundancy of that stupid mouse joystick. It’s all about REDUNDANCY.

    Steering wheel controls, touchscreen, mouse joystick.

    I drove the 2013 LS460 and the infotainment system for me would have been the deal killer if I was interested.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Agreed. Completely. I believe Nissan/Infiniti uses both a touch screen and a set of hard controls for models equipped with navigation, and I think it’s an excellent way to please both crowds. Plus their system doesn’t require a rocket-scientist in order to operate it…

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Lexus has gone for broke with this car. Why? Because of this gaudy styling.

    Here’s the thing. There’ll always be those “tuner-boys” with a desire for speed and Daddy’s credit card, and they’ll love this kind of look, but a lot of the people–I’d speculate to say *most* of the people–in the sport-sedan segment like their cars to appear demure and sophisticated…and that’s partially where BMW thrives. The Audi A4, Cadillac ATS and Mercedes-Benz C-Class also do an excellent job of looking classy and yet sophisticated. The first Lexus IS could easily have passed for a Toyota, and was treated as such. The second and outgoing model had excellent proportions, but the styling cues themselves were ho-hum and looked like they’d merely been taken from the larger LS and stuffed onto a smaller wheelbase. With this third IS, the folks in Nagoya had a chance to get it right, and instead they chose this, which is just over the top. Who cares about “[making] Germans run for their lives for fear of being devoured” when you’re alienating most of your customer base?

    My point is that anyone can throw a gaping maw and a bunch of creases and curves on something and call it sporty and ferocious. But a large component of the respect that small sports sedans get comes from their sedate but elegant looks. So the driving-dynamics of this new IS had better make up for the ridiculous styling, or else it’ll be a done deal…

    • 0 avatar

      “So the driving-dynamics of this new IS had better make up for the ridiculous styling, or else it’ll be a done deal…”

      Unless they’ve really fixed the driving feel from the previous generation, this car is over.

      Sure, the Lexus IS fanboys will talk on an on about how great this car is, and what their next mod is going to be.. But if this car drives at all like the previous generation not only is it hideous, but will be terrible to drive in as well.

      • 0 avatar
        comrade slow

        IS fanboys… there is such a thing?

        • 0 avatar

          Yeah… Check out Club Lexus. The place is overran with the ultimate douchbaggery behavior known to man.

          • 0 avatar

            The sad reality is that Lexus, Acura and Infinity (to a smaller yet still large degree) have all gone downhill in the past 5 years, give or take.

            There was a time when they built vehicles that were textbook examples of how to engineer & fabricate excellence for a end cost to the consumer that was as justifiable as any product in history, based on the relative goodness of the product.

            Now, their vehicles are less attractive, far less a value proposition, use cheaper materials & fabrication and assembly shortcuts to “cheat,” and most importantly, they haven’t developed or refined the actual mechanical systems utilized in their their vehicles in any way that provide increasing benefits to their customers (and in many cases, actually provide decreasing benefit).

            The new flavors of Acura, Lexus and Infinity are rolling iGadget CNET/Gizomodo exercises in marketing (the Acura commercials aired in North America don’t even try to shade this fact; they exclusively speak to thing such as finding the nearest sushi place using audible commands, and don’t bother mentioning anything related to driving dynamics or mechanical reliability or sophistication).

          • 0 avatar

            Fortunately we have TTAC to set us all straight. Heck I forgot Club Lexus even existed.

  • avatar

    seems like the biggest issue is the drivetrain, then. to get the best one you have to buy the old design. if the base version were a turbo 4, I think this would be a winner. even if it were slightly underpowered and a bit slower, I like the driving experience of a turbo 4.

    i love the interior, although as much as I don’t mind the way the red seats look I’d have to go with tan. still, I think the materials Lexus uses are unique and appealing and I would not mind looking at that dash every day.

    i’m biased though. if it is Japanese and RWD, I love it. i’m having a really hard time with Infinti’s strange styling direction, so that defaults me to liking Lexus and wishing we could have other various RWD Toyotas that aren’t imported here.

    • 0 avatar

      I still can’t believe TMC/ Lexus do not offer a turbo charged engine. When even Jaguar offers a turbo along with everyone else except for Honda/Acura!

      Nice review and the results mirror Autoblog. Yours was more in depth and through.

      • 0 avatar

        You’re supposed to bolt it on yourself, duh.

        I liked the old miniature v6 mill a lot, so I can’t wait to look at the new 2.5L. But I cannot help thinking that it would be at home in a smaller car. Probably not FR-S, because that one needs the low hood. Although perhaps even that.

      • 0 avatar

        Toyota/Lexus are very concerned about protecting their reputation for reliability, and corollarily, “reasonable” cost of ownership; even past the 4 year warranty. It’s a lot cheaper to protect a good reputation in one area, than to acquire one in a different one. Which is largely why BMW “needs” umpteen hypertech newnew technologies and obscenely complex, yet well performing, engines; never mind if they blow up and cost about a Lexus to fix as soon as the warranty is up. While Lexus will stick with what they can be reasonably certain will still run 10 years down the line, even at the cost of a few footpounds of torque.

        As an ex 335i owner, I personally couldn’t wait to dump it for the NA M3 (and in fact did after one year), so the lack of a torque-at-idle boosting turbo is really a benefit as far as I’m concerned, in any car that actually comes with a transmission. But I might be damaged by spending my formative years driving freeways in 3rd or 4th in ITRs, S2000s and and on assorted supersport bikes.

  • avatar

    “Does any of that matter out on the road? Nope. The IS 350 is a perfectly competent luxury sedan..”

    Really?? I recall reading many reviewers write nearly the exact same thing about the previous generation IS, and that car is rode about as well as a luxury dump truck with an empty load in the back.

    Does the new IS still drive and feel like you’re behind the wheel of a 1970s Cadillac, except with artificially heavy steering, but have all the interior room of a 1970s Toyota?

    • 0 avatar

      The problem with this kind of rhetoric is that it does absolutely nothing to damage Lexus, because the prejudice is too clear, while everyone can take one for a test drive and cross-shop it. I certainly did. I suggest to raise the game and put a veneer of presentability on top of fanboi hate.

      • 0 avatar

        Unfortunately, this type of rhetoric can not come from anywhere but not having a long enough test drive. This type of rhetoric comes from owning and driving said machine and being sorely disappointed… in throwing a ton of money away on a car that is hated.

      • 0 avatar

        Oh, C’mon, Pete. You’re not actually claiming that the IS has ANYTHING that could even credibly be argued as smooth and composed ride quality, are you?

  • avatar

    Lost me with the lack of a manual transmission. Despite the purported “death march” of manny trannies, this is one segment where a clutch pedal option is still required to be taken seriously as a “performance car”. And I say this as a 32 year-old professional, i.e. the target market for such a car.

  • avatar
    Alex L. Dykes

    Easton, the problem (not that I am justifying it as I would like a manual as well) is that the take rate is so incredibly low its not worth the cost to design one in. It will be interesting to see what Infiniti does with the Q50.

    • 0 avatar

      I can only assume the situation is much different in the U.S. than it is here in Canada because wherever I go I do tend to see a lot of stick shifts in cars that offer them (i.e. I almost never see Civics coupes or VW’s with autos). Most of my friends and peers seem to prefer them over automatics. Maybe we Canadians are cheaper? More European? Maybe I’m just nuts?

      I totally understand that Canada is far too small of a market to develop unique models for us (Acura CSX, Nissan X-Trail, Pontiac Pursuit, and Chevrolet Orlando excluded) but I would be very interested to see how the numbers break down, Canada vs. U.S., in terms of transmission choice.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Point taken, Alex (although the previous generation IS-250 was available with a manual).

      Nevertheless, the drivetrain decision strikes me as odd. Typically, high-revving naturally aspirated engines which develop peak power and torque pretty high up in their RPM range drive best with a manual transmission. For “relaxed driving” you just shift “short.” But, when it’s time to haul ass, you show the engine the far side of 4,000 RPM and the fun really begins. Nearly every autobox I’ve driven doesn’t seem comfortable in this kind of environment.

      By contrast, a turbocharged engine develops torque early in the rpm range. These engines “feel” different when driven with a manual (and not necessarily better) but they work really well with an autobox.

      So why, then, does Lexus give us a high-revving engine only with an autobox?

      I never found the appearance of the previous generation IS to be a problem. The problems were: (1) a backseat suitable only for kids, (2) undistinguished handling, (3) anemic power in the IS-250 and (4) lack of a manual in the IS 350.

      So, now, Lexus gives buyers a credible backseat. Whoopee! And maybe better handling. But then there’s that front end, which rivals Acura’s beak in mistaken ugliness, IMHO.

      • 0 avatar

        “So why, then, does Lexus give us a high-revving engine only with an autobox?”

        Maybe because only 2 out of every 100 buyers wanted one?

        It makes absolutely no difference what configuration you think works best if it doesn’t sell. People don’t buy Lexuses so they can shift their own gears. They buy them for comfort & detatchment (from the road, from noise, etc.).

        • 0 avatar

          But then what’s the point of the high-revving engine? If the car is intended to only have an automatic, then why not offer a nice torquey engine to match that trans?

          I don’t really care, I would never buy one regardless, but I see the point they are trying to make.

          • 0 avatar

            You can constrain the auto with paddles, or at least it worked that way on the previous generation. This way you can keep the revs where you want them, although of course it’s just a regular auto, not even a double-clutch tranny.

            So, strange as it may seem, the previous gen also had a shift light built into the cluster (a circle around the whole tach), to be used for the paddling. Alex didn’t mention this feature on the new cluster, although he’s taken the car to some good old hooning.

  • avatar

    If Lexus can get the fake leather to smell like crayons, it may do well. But overall the winner is the ATS.

  • avatar

    I love the the fact that Lexus let remain the Honda/Toyota inside door latch release handle with the integrated dayglow lock button, as if to remind the owner that while they’re gradually moving over to a German(read 3-Series) feel, the owner needs still to feel the Japanese hand of quality reassurance somewhere on the car. Made me laugh.

    This report also reminds me that whenever I’d attended a TSX ride and drive, with competitor cars in the mix, that the IS always felt like the car closest to, but not yet there. Now that I spend much more time in BMW’s
    I wonder how the IS ranks. Strictly looking at the text and photos from the report, it looks like the IS has stopped using Corolla switch gear, and is much more serious about replacing that 3-Series or TSX in the driveway. Good for Lexus.

  • avatar

    I am not quite sure that “perfectly competent” is enough for this segment. For around $50K a compact sedan has to deliver more than that. Polarizing styling and last generation’s drive trains are not encouraging signs that Lexus is taking this segment seriously.

    I am also confused by the new Lexus brand values. It used to all be about a luxurious and tranquil transportation but now they are also taking aim at a visceral and engaging driving experience? I’m not so sure that these are not mutually exclusive and that the end result will most likely be confused and compromised.

    • 0 avatar

      I have never seen the value proposition in the IS. I always thought it sold simply because of the Lexus name, and consumers terrified by the “horrors” of BMW maintenance and repair.

      The new styling is not something I want to look at in my driveway everyday.

  • avatar

    Is Nike going to sue for trademark infringement for those swoosh headlamps? I don’t get japanese car styling. no sir don’t like it. kudos for rwd though.

  • avatar

    This car looks like an Acura TSX with a Fast and Furious “ViS” body kit. It isn’t fast, efficient, or tunable, though I suppose it handles decently. I guess it will look nice pulling up to nightclubs in though. I kinda wish they would just bring back the original IS300, but with normal taillights and a Toyota badge.

  • avatar

    What is up with that front end? Nike wants their logo back. And that droopy rear end, and the bulldog teeth reflectors. What were they thinking? plus that Far-to-large lexus emblem on the steering wheel is going to kill someone in an accident.

    I have a feeling this one is going to have a strong following with the “Ricer” crowd in ten years with bodykits and too much negative camber. The only people I know that drive the last gen IS are the rich teenage asian guys that wear snapbacks and paint their grill and rims black with spray paint.

    Why Lexus, why? it could have been something good.

  • avatar

    My biggest complaint with the new crop of Lexus redesigns is the lack of engine development. The ES and GS have the carryover V6, the LS came out swinging with a whopping 6 extra ponies (it’s now down only 50-60 from class leaders), and now the IS returns with the same 3.5 and asthmatic 2.5 that was outclassed five years ago.

    Lexus seems to be directing all its powertrain attention and development dollars into hybrids. That’s fine, except the majority of luxury buyers still aren’t interested.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      genuineleather, part of the reason is found in Lexus’ dedication to reliability (and lower warranty costs for them). If you jam a twin-turbo anything under the hood there’s way more going on. As a result accident repairs are more expensive, long term reliability is certainly going to be a consideration, etc. Its logical from their point of view, but it puts Lexus at a competitive disadvantage for sure.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s a noble goal and I think the average Lexus customer doesn’t care about the highest HP and they expect stellar reliability. Lexus seems to sell cars just fine despite the disdain of enthusiasts.

        They could have done some updates to make the MPG and performance both up to date, not necessarily requiring a turbo. GM has brought the 3.6 up to 321hp.

    • 0 avatar

      Was there DI everywhere five years ago? We need to talk about the defitnion of “outclassed”.

  • avatar

    I will freely admit to being a Euro car snob, but to me the Japanese entry lux entrants always seem a bit half-baked. This car and the Infinity G just scream “budget” – all the pieces are there, but they don’t coalesce into a seamless whole the way that a German car does. And Cadillac seems to be much closer to replicating that feel than the Japanese, the ATS seems to be only lacking that last bit of refinement in the interior.

    And I am in agreement that I don’t care how few you actually sell, a manual transmission option is mandatory to be taken seriously in this class of car. They should just charge extra for it, I for one would pay it.

    • 0 avatar

      Huh? My friend’s 2007 IS250’s interior made the one in the 2012 A6 look like a Checker Marathon’s.

    • 0 avatar

      Any idea what the development cost is on a manual transmission and clutch for a car that might sell 1-2% of them equipped as such?

      I’m asking because I’d be curious to know. I thought those parts might be off the shelf, but perhaps not. Is the IS made available in Europe with a stick? If so, giving the option to special order costs Lexus nuthin’.

  • avatar

    Okay, I get the 2.7 inch wheelbase increase is roughly equivalent to the front and rear legroom increase…that makes sense.

    But how do you stretch total car length by 3.5 inches and wind up with almost 20% less trunk space?

    And naturally-aspirated ~3.5L V6s with 300 hp are so 2008…all of the U.S. Big 3 (Big 2 plus Chrysler – ?) are making ones with the same specific output…and selling them in $28,000 cars. I don’t buy the reliability excuse for not using FI – Lexus has been making luxury cars with every conceivable gadget for years and they are still dead-nuts reliable, so why are we to believe they could not master turbocharging also? A 328i will put up the same performance numbers for less money, and BMW has had no trouble selling more 3-series than its competitors can sell of their models, even for MORE money.

    The Japanese brands are so conservative in powertrain development and their powertrain redesign cycles are so long, in contrast to their platform and general vehicle redesign cycles, which are still a tad more frequent than anyone else’s.

  • avatar

    You lost me at fake leather. Pleather is bad for the environment, it takes energy to produce and will be on the planet for 1000 years. Real leather can just be taken from meat cows and lasts 100 years tops.

  • avatar

    How is it that the IS250 is fine, but the 2.5 Cadillac ATS is deemed underpowered by the press. The IS 250 has a few more hp, and a few less ft-lbs than the ATS. Both have 6 speed autos and the IS is about 100 pounds heavier. Both engines are NA, none of that flat torque curve low down that a turbo provides. Is the deficit real by the numbers??? Totally subjective!!!!! Anti GM bias??

    • 0 avatar

      The Lexus V6 is smooth as silk. The Malibu engine sounds like there are foreign objects in the combustion chambers. Sure, sound quality is subjective. Somebody bought Yoko Ono albums. OTOH, if you don’t want informed opinions, skip to the spec sheets and buy whatever overpriced junk you want.

    • 0 avatar

      The comparison is null and void, because the ATS has been deemed a very stinky automobile, due to the shiny, twinkling, glossy interior accents and surfaces. And that icky logo badge on the steering wheel, my god – the horror!

  • avatar


    Excellent review, as always, although I’ve got a question – what is it about the mouse that makes the system difficult to use? You had said that it requires a bit too much concentration to make it work, but is that something that can be learned, or is it just too much focus needed to get the pointer to go exactly where you want it to go?

    • 0 avatar

      Would you connect a mouse to your iPad or just use the touch screen?

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      It just takes too much hand-eye-brain coordination. Even with practice its not possible to quickly glance at the screen return your eyes to the road and without further looking at the screen choose the option you need. With a touchscreen you just glance and stab.

      • 0 avatar

        Two things. #1 any minute bump in the road makes me stab wrong thing. #2 Lexmous has force feedback. Instead of staring at the screen and following the cursor, rest your forearm comfortably and just press in the desired direction WHILE LOOKING AT THE ROAD. The pings of feedback is what you want, say 3 to the right, 1 down. Frankly I find Lexmouse much safer than touchscreens and I wish my 2009 IS had it. Unfortunately it’s too old for that.

  • avatar

    This would be a grand slam if not for that awful exterior. The first IS was a dud. Dead slow, cramped, cheap, blah. 2nd one hit the sweet spot, but had kind of ugly interiors. This new one has the best interior in class IMO… I love it… but I couldn’t get past the exterior to enjoy it. It’s downright GARISH.

  • avatar

    Sorry Alex, but this review reads like a rough draft. Impressive if it was whipped up quickly, but I think it could have used more time in the oven.

    On to the actual car…

    I think the front grill was designed with a license plate in mind. That maw is ridiculous without one. I plate would help break it up a bit.

    The interior isn’t holding up well so far. Plenty of scuff marks easily visible in the pics. Hopefully you can wipe most of them off. The red interior looks cheap to me. The brown is much better.

    How is the visibility from the driver’s seat? The pictures make me suspect it is pretty bad.

    How is road and wind noise? How does the engine sound? Is it smooth? These are areas I would like to see covered more consistently in reviews. I don’t find repeating drivetrain specs or equipment lists helpful – I can find that information anywhere. I’m more interest in learning things about the car that I can’t find in the specs – NVH in particular.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      Visibility isn’t bad, and NVH are as you would expect from a Lexus: low. Our ability to compare is limited when (as is normal with this kind of event) you only have a very limited amount of time to spend in the vehicle. All the cars we drove were pre-production models so nobody can say with 100% certainty what the final car will be like until we can drive it. Could Lexus make a last minute change to sound deadening materials? Sure. They are certainly working hard on the infotainment software because the cars we were in were running “beta” software for the navigation screen so some options were not available for us to test. Expect a complete review in the coming months when production models hit the road.

  • avatar

    Love the looks and interior, but won’t buy with those dated boring powertrains. How could they go to this much work and not redo what’s under the hood, which was the weakpoint of the prior gen car? Not competitive with 335.

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