The new Lexus could be the one if you want fun as a standard fitting
and cushy with the latest 3 Series and, after driving a line-up of disguised Lexus prototypes in the US, I feel that the new IS is probably now the ultimate driving machine.
A one-day run is not enough for a final verdict but I have rarely pushed a car as hard as I did in the California canyons — or hustled as vigorously as I did on the Santa Anita raceway — without finding something big to complain about.
Yes, the IS could do with more punch as both a 250 and a 350. I’m not a fan of plumbing engine noise into the cabin, and one suspension set- up is significantly better for grip and comfort.
But those are relatively small things.
Also, I can’t comment on the final finish or equipment, because the prototypes were some way from showroom standard and the cabin was vurtually covered with metres of black-out tape.
But the new IS is improved in many areas, finally getting a usable rear seat and a much bigger boot, up to 10 airbags and a standard reversing camera with parking radar. And it’s a great drive. There is nothing to report on prices because the car will not be stripped of its camouflage until the Detroit motor show in January and Australian deliveries do not begin until the second half of next year. Still, based on Toyota’s red-pen work this year on the showroom stickers of the all- new 86 and Corolla, it would be no surprise to see a slight drop from the current base prices of $55,800 for the IS250 and $64,300 for the IS350.
This is my second deep dive with Lexus after a preview drive of the GS last year but, landing in Los Angeles, I’m aware that the new IS is the most important car in the history of Lexus.
The original LS400 was a bigger gamble but this is the car that must bring younger buyers to the brand and finally give Lexus a prestige starter car that’s more than just a nice ride. That’s why chief engineer Junichi Furuyama has only brought F Sport versions to LA and only seems interested in the way the car drives. There is nothing about comfort or quietness in his short, sharp presentation and he only talks about rear-seat space when I raise the obvious question.