Class-leading rear legroom and boot space are the obvious improvements to the Lexus IS sedan range that will arrive in Australia in the third quarter of this year.
A four-cylinder petrol-electric hybrid will also join the pair of V6 engines already used in the range and promises fuel consumption of less than 4.3 litres/100km and emissions of less than 100g/km CO2.
The new IS models were officially launched at the Detroit motor show and Lexus Australia spokesman Tyson Bowen says the changes will transform the way people look at the car as a competitor to the likes of BMW’s 3 Series and Audi’s A4.
“The wheelbase is 70mm longer and the front seats are a slimline design, which saves 15mm and all of that has gone into the rear legroom,” he notes. The boot is also 20 per cent bigger and while the space may have risen dramatically, the pricing isn’t expected to follow.
That should mean a starting price for the base V6 IS250 under the $59,133 luxury tax threshold, rising to $80-something thousand for the range-topping IS350 F Sport models.
Visually the cars are easy to identify by the new spindle front grille. Regular models have horizontal slats inside the spindle; the F Sport versions use a dramatically deeper spindle with a mesh design.
The L-shaped daytime running lamps have been separated from the headlamp cluster and the exhaust on the hybrid version is now hidden to differentiate it from its purely petrol-powered siblings. Carsguide previewed a prototype of the IS late last year and reported that the driving dynamics have grown with the car, which is based on the new GS platform.
Providing an improved drive and more space was a major focus for Lexus. IS chief engineer Junichi Furuyama says driving enjoyment was the key theme. “Every aspect of the new IS has been engineered with a renewed focus on the sporting performance, agile handling, accurate response to driver input and highly communicative feedback,” he says.
Features such as adaptive suspension will be available on selected models, along with a variable gear steering ratio. F Sport models have a tauter suspension tune and more aggressive look inside and out. The IS range is rear -wheel drive and uses a variety of transmissions.
The IS250 runs a six-speed auto to handle 154kW/253Nm, the 350 picks up an eight-speed self-shifter to cope with 233kW/378Nm and the IS300 hybrid uses a continuously variable transmission to manage a combined engine-motor output of 162kW/215Nm.