SPECS

Winnipeg Free Press - Section E - - FRONT PAGE - By David Un­der­cof­fler

Lexus to build cars that stir driv­ers’ emo­tions, said Mark Tem­plin, the global ex­ec­u­tive vi­cepres­i­dent for Lexus. “He looks to us to be a change agent,” Tem­plin said of his boss.

Toy­oda’s in­flu­ence shook up the sub­dued cor­po­rate cul­ture at Lexus, Tem­plin said. “We’re tak­ing our­selves a lit­tle less se­ri­ously and hav­ing more fun.”

Since early 2012, Lexus has bus­ied it­self giv­ing the en­tire lineup a vis­ual makeover. The hall­mark of the new de­sign lan­guage is what the com­pany calls a spin­dle grille, an hour­glass-shaped fea­ture bolted to the front of ev­ery Lexus since.

To date, how­ever, changes to some mod­els have been largely cos­metic. In 2012, Lexus launched the new mid-size GS sedan, the first car re­designed from the ground up un­der Toy­oda’s watch. The 2014 IS sedan is the sec­ond.

The push for sportier cars in part re­flects a de­sire for younger buy­ers. Last year, 55 per cent of Lexus buy­ers were older than 55. Among its com­peti­tors, only Cadil­lac has an older cus­tomer base.

The 2014 IS is cer­tainly not your fa­ther’s Lexus. It’s one of the more visu­ally com­pelling cars in a seg­ment that of­ten plays it safe in an ef­fort to chase sales vol­umes around the world.

The LED day­time lights on the IS, a nec­es­sary ac­cou­ter­ment in the lux­ury realm th­ese days, sit out­side the shapely head­light clus­ter as a sep­a­rate de­sign el­e­ment.

The body pan­els be­low the tail­lights aren’t mounted flush to the bot­tom of the lens; in­stead, a sharp crease tugs the cor­ner of the lights down the side of the car to­wards the wheel arches.

The IS sits on the road in a ready stance. The lower body of the car seems to swell out from a smaller green­house, giv­ing it broad, con­fi­dent shoul­ders.

Sec­ond only to its looks is how it feels on the road. We tested rear-wheel-drive ver­sions of the IS 250 and 350. Both are lively, en­joy­able cars that have stud­ied at the Ger­man school of dance.

The com­mu­nica­tive steer­ing sys­tem is sourced from the larger GS sedan and is es­pe­cially adept when the car’s sport set­ting is en­abled. The sus­pen­sion is on the firm side, but never harsh.

It’s a multi-link setup in the rear, another com­po­nent bor­rowed from the GS. It works with the real wheels to put plenty of trac­tion down on the road.

But the most re­ward­ing part of tossing this sedan around is the way the seats hold you firmly yet com­fort­ably in place. Memo to Toy­oda: Pay the per­son who de­signed th­ese seats what­ever you have to.

Such com­fort is af­forded through­out the cabin. Six-foot­ers can sit com­fort­ably in the back seat, de­spite the sedan’s rel­a­tive com­pact size. From there, they can take in a quiet, stylishly de­signed cabin.

The only men­tion­able flaw in the car’s per­for­mance is the en­gine in the IS 250. Un­like nearly ev­ery­thing else in its seg­ment, this base model comes with a small V6. Lexus says its cus­tomers like the re­fine­ment of this en­gine over what’s be­come the norm: a tur­bocharged four-cylin­der.

While this 2.5-litre unit is cer­tainly smooth, the car of­ten felt as if it needed more than the 204 horse­power and 185 pound-feet of torque that’s avail­able. A 7.7-sec­ond zero-to-60-m.p.h. (96.6 kph) time is a bit slow for a pricey sport sedan. The six-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion in the 250 didn’t help as it seemed to con­stantly hunt for the most ef­fi­cient gear.

This pow­er­train com­bi­na­tion is rated at 9.8 litres per 100 kilo­me­tres city, 6.5 hwy. Dur­ing our week with the car, we av­er­aged 10.2 L/100 km. in mixed driv­ing. The more pow­er­ful IS 350 is rated at 10.8/7.3 city/high­way; our test­ing re­turned an av­er­age of 13 L/100 km.

What­ever the 350 lacked in ef­fi­ciency, it made up for in per­for­mance. This model pairs a 3.5-litre V6 with an eight-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. Horse­power is 306; torque is 277 pound-feet. Zero to 60 m.p.h. passed in just 5.6 sec­onds.

If you have the ex­tra seven grand or so that the 350 com­mands over the 250, don’t even hes­i­tate. Ei­ther way, you’ll get a strong chas­sis, crowd-part­ing es­thet­ics and seats you’ll miss at the of­fice.

LEXUS HAND­OUT

At left, the 2014 Lexus IS 250 plays the ath­leti­cism of the brand’s small­est four-door sport sedan by grow­ing its over­all length 3 inches

and widen­ing its stance slightly. Inset, the 2014 Lexus IS 350.

The Lexus IS 350’s dash.

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