Quicker Lexus a bal­anc­ing act

More power gives con­fi­dence, writes Paul Pot­tinger

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Onroad -

WELL, it’s about time. Five years since the launch of the sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Lexus IS, it fi­nally gets the en­gine it needed.

For all its vis­ual ap­peal, rear-wheeldrive dy­nam­ics and a 2.5 litre V6 for Ger­man four-cylin­der money, the lardy IS250 is hard put to trou­ble the Mercedes, Audi and BMW.

Now Lexus has the IS350, the vari­ant with a litre greater ca­pac­ity than its un­der­done sib­ling, mas­sively su­pe­rior out­put and the ca­pac­ity to reach 100km/h from stand­ing more than three sec­onds quicker.

More­over, they’ve bought it in at a price that has em­bar­rassed pun­dits such as yours truly, whose pre­dic­tion was out by a good $25,000.

Value

FOR $64,800, the Pres­tige packs sat­nav, heated seats, re­vers­ing cam­era, HID lamps with day­time run­ning lights, 17-inch al­loys and metal­lic paint. At $71,300, the F Sport has ded­i­cated sus­pen­sion, lower pro­file tyres, great front seats and go-fast bits.

The more sup­ple Sports Lux­ury is $ 81,300 and gets ev­ery­thing — 18-inch al­loys, ac­tive cruise con­trol, front and rear park­ing sen­sors, key­less en­try and start, 14-speaker Mark Levin­son au­dio, ven­ti­lated/ heated seats, moon­roof and self-dim­ming and heated side mir­rors.

Technology

THE dual VVTi 3.5-litre en­gine, fa­mil­iar from other Lexus lines, uses di­rect and port in­jec­tion driven via a six-speed se­quen­tial auto that has a grat­i­fy­ing de­gree of man­ual over­ride via shift­ing pad­dlers with the self-shift­ing smooth­ness of a torque con­verter as op­posed to a dual clutch.

Hardly in­no­va­tive, but a quick, seam­less mar­riage with this en­gine.

De­sign

THIS is still where the whole IS pack­age falls down. It’s just a bit cramped in there, es­pe­cially in back, where it’s no more a true five-seater than it is a peo­ple mover. Up front is more cock­pit than cabin and I for one would hap­pily pay ex­tra not to have the head­room-eat­ing sun­roof.

Safety

THE Ve­hi­cle Dy­nam­ics In­te­grated Pack­age houses sta­bil­ity and trac­tion con­trols and hill-start as­sist. Brakes are for­mi­da­ble, 334 x 30 mm front discs, four-chan­nel ABS with brake­force dis­tri­bu­tion and brake as­sist.

The top vari­ant gets ac­tive cruise con­trol and a pre-col­li­sion safety sys­tem that au­to­mat­i­cally tight­ens the seat­belts un­der heavy brak­ing.

Driv­ing

THE Lexus is a lit­tle too po­lite for grat­i­fi­ca­tion. Even in the sports vari­ant, the en­gine is re­fined to an eerie ex­tent.

So too is the elec­tric rack and pin­ion steer­ing — a lit­tle numb around the cen­tre, plen­ti­fully in­for­ma­tive and pro­gres­sive when called upon. It is, es­pe­cially in the sport ver­sion, a con­fi­dence-en­hanc­ing bal­ance/ride/han­dling com­pro­mise.

Ver­dict

How do you say ‘‘Show us where the money is, Fritz’’ in Ger­man?

Value: the Lexus IS 350 is a bet­ter car for a rea­son­able price.

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