No longer a conservative, unassuming luxury sedan, the Lexus IS is now one of the most striking choices in this segment. In 2016, Lexus introduces an all-new turbocharged engine to the lineup.
“From the moment you touch the throttle in the Lexus IS, you’ll know: This is it,” said Cyril Dimitris, Director, Lexus Canada. “When we introduced the current generation IS in 2014 it established a new benchmark for bold styling and track-proven dynamics that deliver maximum driving. Now, we’re making the IS even better, with more standard features and a fresh lineup of available upgrade packages.”
In the compact luxury sports sedan segment, dominated by the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, the Lexus IS tends to get overlooked.
The BMW 3-Series has been the benchmark in this segment for quite some time now. However, all of its competitors have successfully closed the gap in recent years and Lexus and also saw this as the perfect time mount a challenge.
While the Lexus generally received good reviews, buyers in this segment tended to associate the IS with comfort rather than performance. To grab more attention, the third-generation IS received a bold new style and a revised suspension – not to mention the new F-Sport version.
Lexus welcomes the IS 200t to the lineup. It features a powerful and efficient turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder. This engine debuted on the Lexus NX, however it has been optimized for the RWD IS 200t. Generating 241 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, it is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission with sport-direct shift control and sequential multi-mode shifter.
Replacing the IS 250 AWD is the new IS 300 AWD. With a 3.5-litre V6, it delivers more horsepower and torque producing 255 and 236 respectively. This engine is paired with a 6-speed automatic Super Electronically Controlled Transmission with multi-mode shifter.
Topping the range is the IS 350 AWD built around a tuned 3.5-litre V6 and 6-speed automatic Super ECT. In this configuration, power is rated at 306 hp and 277 lb-ft of torque.
Regardless of the powerplant, the more rigid chassis is certainly noticeable when driving the IS hard. Turn in is quick and feedback through the electric steering is just right.
The suspension soaks up all of the road’s imperfections without filtering out the necessary road feel. The IS communicates very clearly what is happening at the contact patches, yet is unfazed by major disturbances. The IS is a refined luxury car with a bit of sportiness added in.
The most striking change with this new generation IS was the exterior. Lexus’ of the past had at times been criticized for being too conservative. Their current generation, with its L-Finesse design, is anything but.
Lexus has rolled out its new signature “spindle” grill across its entire range now. The one found on the new IS is the most dramatic with its lower portion stretched wider and sharper. F-Sport models receive an even more aggressive “chain-mail” treatment.
The lights look equally as sharp. The LED running lights are separated from the main assemblies and add a real sense of drama to the front. The taillights wrap around the rear fenders and give the IS a sexy look.
Beneath the cosmetics, the IS has grown. Wheelbase is up almost three inches while overall length has increased over three. It is also wider and a bit taller. With its new dimensions, the cabin is set more rearward, accentuating the long hood.
To cope with the added bulk, the chassis was stiffened, with additional braces and revised mountings for the independent suspension. The rear got extra attention and gets an all-new multi-link design that improves cornering ability and increases trunk space.
Lexus has earned the reputation of having some of the best interiors on the market. The IS uses a more cockpit-like approach than others in the line-up. This generation IS was the first Lexus to receive the brand’s new infotainment system, which should please tech-savvy customers.
Cabin materials are top quality. The signature Lexus clock, which illuminates at night, adds to the sophistication.
The seats, front and back, feature perforated leather, fine stitching and supportive contours. Rear passengers benefit the most from the stretched wheelbase. The rear seats are still snug, but they are comfortable thanks to added thigh support and soft front seat backs. The IS is very capable of carrying four people at a time.
All the features are easy to control and manipulate. Lexus’ “remote touch” controller is available to manage the audio and navigation display. The stereo controls are rubberized and a contrasting colour to make them easier locate and operate.
However, the climate controls can be difficult to find while driving. The touch panel does make temperature adjustments easy, though, by giving you the choice to either tap or swipe up or down.
In terms of trunk space, the IS has 0.31 cubic metres, which is more than in the past. In the event you need more, there is the optional 60/40 folding rear seats, which the previous generation couldn’t boast either.
The new IS is one of the most visually appealing in this segment and adds a refined, sporty ride to the Lexus reputation of long-term reliability and value. While the IS works well in everyday driving situations, if pure driving performance is of the utmost importance, you may need to look elsewhere.
What do you think about the 2016 Lexus IS? Does it have the right attributes to be on your short-list?