Lexus IS sportier

The compact executive sedan gets a major makeover

By Kap Maceda Aguila

THE TOYOTA Technical Center Shimoyama, situated in a mountainous region between Toyota City and Okazaki, has a central test course 5.3 kilometers long that features a 250-foot elevation change, lots of curves, and terrain types. The track draws inspiration from the Nürburgring Nordschleife, “which is famous throughout the world for its grueling driving conditions.”

It was at this new proving ground where the latest iteration of the Lexus IS compact executive sedan was developed — predicated on the challenges brought forth by the course “for the sake of delivering an experience like no other to drivers around the world. Moving forward, the new IS sets the bar for the dynamic handling of all future Lexus models,” continued the luxury car maker in a release.

The IS nameplate debuted in 1999, and has since sold more than one million units. Lexus attributes its popularity to a “tossable and sharp-handling chassis, low to the ground, and powered by a longitudinally-mounted engine sending drive to the rear wheels.”

The new IS builds on this “fulfilling sensation.”

Said Lexus Philippines Vice-President Carlo Ablaza in an exclusive interview with “Velocity,” “The Lexus IS is built for life’s confident and ambitious — those for whom cars are for driving wired with the thrill of power and precision of cornering.” The target demographic is comprised of executives in their 30s and 40s who give importance to “provocative styling and agile driving dynamics.”

Key visual changes in the new IS include a lower, wider (by 30mm) stance. Its silhouette was conceived to heighten this by creating “deeply sculpted three-dimensional forms.” A new, unified tail lamp stretches across the rear fascia — lending to an overall dynamic look befitting the car’s performance.

Two variants are available: The IS 350 F Sport is fitted with 19-inch multi-spoke wheels in dark premium metallic finish — a nod to the brand’s RC and LC models — onto which 235/40 R19 tires for the front and 265/35 R19 for the rear are affixed; the IS 300h Premier, on the other hand, also gets 19-inch wheels with a multi-spoke design and shiny silver metallic finish. All of its tires measure 235/40 R19.

Meanwhile, the cabin is marked by a horizontal instrument panel design and driver-focused dashboard layout. The shift knob and steering wheel are trimmed in perforated leather, while the first-generation IS is paid homage to via larger circular air vents.

Lexus also gifts the IS with a larger touchscreen for its infotainment system, and has been moved closer to the driver for easier operation and to “minimize driver distraction.”

Buyers of the new IS 300h Premier get a choice of interior color scheme: black, Dark Rose, and ochre with complementing stitch patterns and accent trims. The IS 350 F Sport’s color choices are F Sport White, F Sport Black, and F Sport Flare Red. On both variants, the center console panel is finished in piano black, and has touch-sensitive temperature controls that can be easily adjusted by gliding a finger over them.

Sculpted front seats have eight-way power-adjustable positions with lumbar support, and are ventilated. The IS receives a 10-speaker surround sound system. The F Sport model comes with a 10.3-inch Electro Multi Vision touchscreen, while the IS 300h Premier boasts an eight-inch touchscreen display. Both variants have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Providing grunt to the F Sport is a naturally aspirated V6 good for 310hp and 380Nm, mated to an eight-speed automatic. The IS 300h Premier gets a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder hybrid power plant linked to a Lexus E-CVT intelligent transmission for optimum efficiency. The LSS+2 suite of safety features includes dynamic radar cruise control, lane tracing assist, automatic high beam, and more. A total of 10 air bags can deploy when needed, while a pop-up hood reduces injuries to pedestrians.

Expounding on the significance of Shimoyama (as the IS is the first Lexus to be developed with inputs derived from the track), Mr. Ablaza said it played a role in crafting handling, suspension, chassis rigidity and driving feel. “Put it this way: If your car can blast through the Nürburgring while still maintaining its balance, handling, ride comfort, and feel, I’d say that’s a very good vehicle.”

The IS 350 F Sport is priced at P3.808 million, while the IS 300h Premier costs P3.328 million. The Lexus IS is available in the following exterior colors, including two newly developed chromatic colors (Sonic Iridium and Sonic Chrome): F Sport color choices are White Nova, Radiant Red Contrast Layering, and Heat Blue Contrast Layering while; the Hybrid Premier gets Sonic Quartz and Red Mica Crystal Shine.

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