What is it? The small Lexus sports sedan went from a hard-edged car in its first generation to a relatively snug and forgettable sedan and convertible in Version 2.0. Now, with the debut of the third-generation car, Lexus aims to bring some sporty mojo back to the IS.
Lexus was clear to let people know that not only is driving performance “a key selling point in the sports sedan segment” but that the car was “painstakingly engineered to have dynamic capabilities to provide an exceptional driving experience.” Sounds like they, too, agree the old car wasn’t quite as exciting as the competition.
The new car is available in both rear- and all-wheel-drive versions, and comes with 2.5- (IS 250) and 3.5-liter (IS 350) V6 engines. An IS 300h hybrid will also be available—but Toyota curiously will only offer it in Europe, Japan, and “select international markets.” No mention of the US? Odd.
A six-speed automatic is standard, with the rear-drive IS 350 offering the eight-speed automatic from the IS-F high-performance version.
Inside the cabin is a redesigned driver’s seat that is supposed to deliver improved comfort and support, with a “driver focused” position sitting lower than in the old car. All models get the Lexus Display Audio or Remote Touch Navigation multimedia systems, and the IS is the first Lexus with steering wheel controls for the different display clusters.
In addition to 10 standard airbags, optional safety features include Lane Departure Alert, Blind Spot Monitor, and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.
What is new or notable? The wheelbase has been stretched by 3 inches, promising more interior room, particularly for the back seat. This has long been a sore spot for the IS. The rear seat now folds in a 60/40 split.
CR's take: This is a crowded segment, and aside from its excellent reliability, the IS didn’t do much to distinguish itself from the other cars. We’re interested to see how sporty Lexus has made the new car.
When will it be available? Mid-2013.