Not so – anymore. With the introduction of a much improved new IS from Lexus, officials deep inside the North American offices of one very prim luxury automaker are surely hitting the whiskey and thinking deep, mean thoughts. Here, where the Eagle Flies, a new Lexus IS sport sedan means more competition from the Relentless One. Whiskey is a good drink when that happens, especially given the sobering fact that we buyers in America will likely respond in droves to the IS, with its invigorating new design, fresh powertrains and the kind of technology that would make a Radio Shack clerk squeal.
As such, the Lexus entry-luxury sedan is designed to attract the eyes of youth – those who are young and those who think they are. This is a car for people who can’t afford a GS, or want a more sporty driving experience. As such, performance and style is at a premium, and the new 2006 Lexus IS 250 and IS 350 should deliver both in spades. Along with its stunning new design, the IS will offer a driving experience centered on feel and fun. All told, the IS will be available in four trims: the IS 250 and IS 350 with either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive. The difference between the IS 250 and the IS 350 is largely power, with a more robust engine – a V6 displacing 3.5-liters – offered in the IS 350.
For that price, you get an IS that is larger all the way around, faster than the preceding model, and one that offers more technology, such as a radar-controlled Pre-Crash Safety system (PCS), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Intelligent Adaptive Front Lighting System (I-AFS). There will be 10 airbags, including a double knee airbag. The IS 350 will also have a “sport tuned” version of the Lexus VDIM, which Lexus claims is the most complete and intuitive stability control technology available today.
Sure, Lexus fans may be a bit put off by the smaller 2.5-liter V6 engine offered up in the IS 250. Lexus officials, however, claim that the smaller engine will be a better performer than the current 3.0-liter inline six, so we’ll see. Those fans – and many more – are sure to love the new design combo of flowing lines and taut pressure points in specific areas. With a 3.5-liter V6 engine in the IS 350, the new sedan should hold its own on the track, and technology such as a retuned stability control system – for greater feel and control – will add to its appeal. It is larger than the outgoing model – 3.5 inches longer and 3 inches wider – an increase that looks like it has significantly improved interior space. The difference between today’s IS and the 2006 IS goes deeper than just the car; Lexus has added four models from which to choose, and has embellished the sedan with a variety of uptown features.
On the inside, the expanded room is handled simply, with clean lines and well-organized controls. Of course, the value of the interior will be spelled out after a thorough drive, but a look from the show floor indicates that Lexus, in typical fashion, has kept things as simple as possible. Interior highlights include Optitron gauges and either metallic or maple trim. All IS models will get Lexus’ Smart Access entry with push button start system. A telescoping steering wheel and a backup camera are also available.
Photos courtesy of Lexus