By on June 12, 2017

2017 Lexus IS commercial screenshotWe’ve got more than a few years of driving remaining, don’t you think?

It’s 2017. People still grasp steering wheels, still prod throttle pedals, still check blind spots (sometimes), still use their left hand to flick a signal stalk, and still stop for red lights by firmly pressing a right foot against a brake pedal. Last I checked, in my driveway sits a two-seat convertible with a six-speed manual transmission.

But in a 30-second spot that aired repeatedly during the final game of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Hockey Night In Canada, Lexus strikes fear into the soul of drivers everywhere in order to get you into a 2017 Lexus IS today. Today, before they — whoever “they” are — come for your manual transmissions and your steering wheels and your pedals. Before your driver’s car is replaced by an autonomous pod.

“Enjoy the thrill of driving,” Lexus says. “While you still can.”
Call this number now. While supplies last. For a limited time only.

Is it really all that bad, already? Are we just around the corner from mutinous robots overtaking our roadways? Is tomorrow my Miata’s appointment with the Waymo car?

No, of course Lexus is dramatizing. “It was exhilarating,” the Lexus owner says in the past tense, clearly speaking about that one time only a few years prior when his beard wasn’t grey and he steered his 2017 Lexus IS up a mountain pass on the other side of the world.

“That feeling of pure driving… it was amazing,” he says, forgetting that his Lexus IS, just like all the other ISs of the same generation, didn’t even offer a manual transmission. So pure.

Perhaps the issue here is the advertisement’s utilization of the Lexus IS. Lexus didn’t use the RC F or the new LC500, let alone feature the silhouette of an LFA in the background. The Lexus IS — the third-generation Lexus IS with its blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert and intuitive parking assist — is supposed to generate in the viewer’s mind memories of pure driving experiences.

But the Lexus IS? It’s not exactly the car that comes to mind when the professor in Automotive Engineering 101 asks the class to define, “Enemy of the autonomous car.”

Even though Lexus is clearly just presenting an extreme, futuristic vision of a robotic age in which we’re all ferried to and from work in self-driving capsules, there’s admittedly more than an ounce of realism in the commercial’s final plea. Yet the current Lexus IS isn’t your last chance to get into a car you can enjoy driving. The next Lexus IS won’t be, either.

Granted, it’s just advertising, so what’s the big deal? Either Toyota’s marketers are serious, or they’re exaggerating for the purposes of making a joke that’ll benefit the company’s entry-luxury sports sedan. Problem is, if it’s the former, this 2017 Lexus IS commercial is disingenuous at best; a traditional advertising fear tactic at worst. Lexus knows you can enjoy the thrill of driving for many years yet.

And if it isn’t intended to be a serious warning about future of autonomous driving but rather an attempt at humor, well, it’s just not funny.

[Image capture: Lexus Canada/YouTube]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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19 Comments on “Depressing New Lexus IS Commercial Basically Gives up on Behalf of All of Us...”

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    Aged foreign George Clooney recalls past tense driving. Film at 11.

  • avatar

    Shades of the Apple Macintosh 1984 ad?

  • avatar

    A Rorschach test reaction to the ad: which one do you think most people hear?

    1. Buy a “manual” one now before they disappear.


    2. Wait for the future generation that has self-driving capability.

    • 0 avatar

      I vote both.

      I look forward to the day when my garage will contain both an engaging manual transmission roadster AND a bland/soulless/dystopian fully automated transportation pod.

      Just pick the right tool for the job.

      Ice cream run on a nice Summer night = Fun car
      6 hour freeway run home for the holidays = Autopod and book/movie/nap

      • 0 avatar

        Somebody gets it.

        Sorry, for the first decade or so of self-driving, I see the ability limited to Interstates and other forms of limited-access, multilane, high(er) speed highways.

      • 0 avatar

        Sadly, as self driving cars become the norm, non self driving cars will be banned from more and more roads until you won’t be able to drive them anywhere. The justification will be that the self driving cars will be safer for both passengers and pedestrians, and will emit less pollution and use less energy since traffic flow can be controlled better resulting in fewer traffic jams.

        • 0 avatar

          You realize you can still legally drive a Model T with no seatbelts on any road in America, right?

          And legally take a horse and buggy down most non-interstates?

          And that in many places you are even allowed to ride a horse to work if you so choose?

          The history of advances in road transportation in the US is not consistent with the expectation that “autonomous cars will be the end of human-operated cars”. We’re pretty good about keeping old technologies legally viable.

          A large migration from primate-controlled cars probably will occur, but not because they get banned. It will occur because many people who are buying a new car will find significant value in an autonomous function and then choose to pay for and use it.

          If I had the choice of $30k for a car that requires my continual input to operate or $35k for one that can drive itself in most cases I’ll happily pay the extra $5k and not think twice about it. I bet most buyers feel similarly.

  • avatar

    This isn’t Lexus giving us a depressive view of the future. It’s an activist advertising agency teabagging driving enthusiasts, and apathetic car executives, who’ve embraced fatalism with both arms, running the commercial because they are too tired to fight the ad people.

  • avatar

    The future described in this ad won’t happen in our lifetimes.

    Not because there aren’t people who want it. But because 1) it would take an entirely new infrastructure, and we are pretty much terrible at rapidly doing ANYTHING with infrastructure, and 2) it would only work if every vehicle was self driving AND communicating with one another…which again, will take a LONG time. It would mean banning the sale and manufacturing of non-self driving vehicles, and then a plan on what to do with all those vehicles out there that can no longer be driven on public roads.

    I have exactly zero confidence that the multiple layers of local, state, and federal government needed to make this happen will somehow magically all be on the same page and cooperate……ever.

    I actually think you’d see some sort of high speed transit/rail get built at a regional level before you’d see this.

    • 0 avatar

      Why do you think it will require new infrastructure or universal vehicle to vehicle communications?

      People can operate cars right on the roads as they exist right now.

      It is conceivable that in the not-too-distant future autonomous systems will have onboard sensing, processing, and decision making capabilities that will significantly exceed those of the average human driver.

      So why is it impossible that they would be able to deal with traffic and roads exactly as they exist today?

      • 0 avatar

        Because as I said, every state and even some cities will have different, overlapping, sometimes opposing regulations on when they will be allowed on the roads, and where, and how to register them, and how to insure them, and will they be highway access only, or express lanes, or should ‘autonomous’ only lanes or roads be built? If so, how will they be funded?, etc

        And I have seen nothing to suggest that the fractured nature of our various levels of governments (which I realize is by design)are planning on having a kum-ba-ya moment anytime soon.

  • avatar
    Pete Zaitcev

    I liked it more when Jack parsed Audi’s TV spot.

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    Heck, I’m not at all worried about a fully autonomous future….I’m just worried about the impending demise of the manual transmission. I just recently purchased my 10th NEW car with a manual transmission, so I’m still doing my part to help the cause.

  • avatar

    I dont think Lexus are championing the manual… they havent made a manual car for close onto 15yrs?

    But I also find this ad ironic because in reality, Lexus isnt really THE driving machine is it? Not even the LFA gets the recognition it doesnt deserve.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, the last-gen IS250 was available with a stick, I believe right up to the end (at least in Canada it was), so that’s been, what, 3 or 4 years?

      But yes, pay no attention to the NX/RX/ES that represent the bulk of Lexus sales (or for that matter, how the RX was a key player in the crossover revolution), they are the last bastion of driving enthusiasm. Just ignore the steps they’ve made against it.

  • avatar

    There’s a good reason for this future.

    “It’s 2017. People still grasp steering wheels,”

    Occasionally, between grabbing burgers, grooming, and of course typing with both thumbs.

    “still prod throttle pedals,”

    Before looking up from their phones, and regardless of whether a pedestrian, bicycle, pug, semi, bank branch, etc. might be in the way.

    “still check blind spots (sometimes),”

    I think the last time that happened was around 2011, before everyone had smartphones.

    “still use their left hand to flick a signal stalk,”

    See above.

    “and still stop for red lights by firmly pressing a right foot against a brake pedal.”

    Only some of the time. Try walking with me on my foot commute home, in the middle of the city, and see how often you have to pause in crosswalks where you have Mr. White Walking Man to avoid getting squished by an errant car.

  • avatar

    Lordy, those Lexucs ads suck.

  • avatar
    Rick Astley

    1) “People still grasp steering wheels”: While technically true, observe the “average” motorist in a corner as they hunt and plead with even the most pedestrian corner to figure out how to utilize their steering wheel. Steering with the throttle? Drivers skill need not apply.

    2) “Enjoy the thrill of driving”: This cannot be actively achieved in any Lexus product outside of a LFA. My mother has had multiple Lexus and absolutely looooooooooves the “Lexus driving feel”, which is A) Numb, B) Isolated, C) Boring, and D) Vague. A barcalounger would be the most apt description of “Lexus driving feel”, IMHO.

    3) This numb and isolated driving “experience” is incredibly dangerous. Driving that car for more than an hour has caused me to become so drowsy and bored that it must have surely reduced my reaction time and powers of observation.

    • 0 avatar

      3) This numb and isolated driving “experience” is incredibly dangerous.

      Data to support this?

      From the numbers I can find it appears as though cars that are “numb and isolated” are significantly less likely to crash than ones which are thrilling and reward driver skill.

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