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2014 Lexus IS 250 and IS 350 Launch Impressions By Steve Purdy

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2014 Lexus IS 350

...look out 3 Series for this new challanger in town

2014 LEXUS IS 250 AND 350

First Impressions
By Steve Purdy
Michigan Bureau

A wise person once said “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” We spent this day getting our first impression of the mostly new, third generation Lexus IS models. IS is the smallish, entry-level sedan from Toyota’s luxury division and has been around since about 2001 with a major redesign in 2006.

Every luxury automaker seems to target the iconic BMW 3-Series when designing their entry model sedans and Lexus is no exception. Interior volume and most other measurements are within a close range of the 3-Series and a plethora of other beautiful and competent sedans like the Audi A4, Mercedes C-Class, Cadillac ATS, Infinity G and Acura TL.

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This new design-intensive IS seeks to court young buyers. The marketing folks reveal it already has the youngest demographic in its class but they would like it to skew down even more. Sleek body design, aerodynamic details and judicious cladding result in a laudable 0.28 coefficient of drag. The car’s rear view reflects more personality than most cars in order to accentuate the rear-wheel drive character of the car. Deep sculpting of the front fascia and more dramatic character lines all around give it much more personality than its rather tepidly designed predecessor. Visually, it makes a substantial leap forward.

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The interior shows fresh design trends with a variety of high quality materials and a more horizontal theme. Leather surfaces define the space with lots of stitching and other complimentary materials that flow nicely together for a luxurious feel. With 3-inches extra wheel base the interior volume increased but much of that went to enhance rear seat dimensions. Most controls and information are nicely laid out and the only problem I had was trying to get the navigation systems map to orient with north at the top. (More on those details when we do a full review of the car later this year.)

An extension of that focus on youngsters includes establishing two new functions at all dealerships - a delivery specialist to go over all aspects of the complex new car and technology specialists who are available to instruct the new owner on the extensive capabilities and deep technology. These specialists will have no sales responsibilities so they can focus entirely on making sure the customer knows all about his/her new automobile.

The IS can be had with either a 2.5-liter V6 making just over 200 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque or a 3.5-liter V6 with about 300 horsepower and a solid 277 pound-feet of torque. The IS 250, IS 350 F-Sport and both all-wheel drive versions come with the carry-over 6-speed automatic transmission. The IS 350 comes with a new 8-speed automatic. Zero-to-60mph times range from 5.6 seconds for the rear-wheel drive 350 to 8.3 seconds for the all-wheel drive 250. Both engines require premium fuel. EPA estimates fuel economy for the ES 250 at 21/30/24 and 19/28/22 for the ES 350. Subtract a couple mpg for all-wheel drive models.

Base price for the IS 250 is $35,950 and for the rear-wheel drive version and $38,485 for all-wheel drive. The IS 350 starts at $39,900. Both of these are very well equipped cars but most customers will be adding some features so actual prices for most of these will range from the mid $30,000 to the mid $40,000. Pricing, they tell us, is slightly below the previous model notwithstanding $1,400 worth of previously optional equipment that is now standard. Standard features include: 17-inch styled wheels, power moonroof, dual exhaust with shinny tips, fog lamps, HID head lamps with LED running lights, LED tail lamps, shark-fin antenna, SiriusXM satellite radio with 90-day subscription and lots more.

While much of the rest of the world will get a hybrid version of the IS we will not see it here in the U.S. They figure the ES and the CT Hybrids will cover that base. We do, however, get an “F-Sport” version of either the IS 250 or IS 350 which adds no extra power but a nice variety of trim and handling extras.

We were able to spend some time driving all the new IS models on both a defined performance course set up at the Michigan International Speedway and along the back roads of south central Michigan. In a nutshell, we can say that the performance and driving dynamics of all iterations of the IS are impressive. We found the handling superb under all the conditions we were able to experience in our half day behind the wheel.

The IS is a small four-door sporty sedan with sleek roofline and I found it a challenge to get into and out of both front and rear seats. I’ll hasten to report, though, I’m bigger, older and less flexible than customers on whom the IS is focused. Otherwise, I found nothing to grouse about. We’ll have more to say once we’ve had the opportunity for a full review.

The fresh new IS models are expected at Lexus dealers this summer.

Look out 3-Series – there’s a new challenger in town.

ęSteve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved