The exterior of the new IS may have the most radical version of Lexus’ new spindle grill, but there’s a lot more to the redesign than just a styling refresh. This new design adds a major dose of refinement, turning a competent car into a serious player in the sports sedan market.
While most of its competitors have moved to turbocharged four cylinders, the IS 250 still uses a naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter V6 producing 205 horsepower and 185 lb-ft. of torque. This trades some low-end grunt for faster throttle response and better top end performance. The IS 350 gets a 3.5 liter with 306 horsepower and 277 lb-ft. of torque, letting the car go from 0-60 mph in as little as 5.6 seconds. Both cars can be equipped with either rear or all wheel drive.
The manual is gone, leaving buyers with a 6-speed automatic in the IS250, while the IS350 gets the 8-speed auto once used only in the IS F Sport. That heritage shows with rapid shifts from the paddle shifters.
The brakes are much bigger this time around with 11-inch discs on the IS250 and a combination of 13-inch front discs and 12-inch rear discs on the IS350. The result is shorter stopping distances, significantly less fade and better feel.
The revised suspension removes the twitchiness of its predecessor, providing a compliant ride with plenty of grip. The chassis remains composed at high speeds, requiring a significant effort to get the rear end to slide out.
The revised steering rack improves on-center feel and adds some heft when turning the wheel. Turn-in is quick, and the recalibrated electric power steering offers a surprising amount of feel.
Inside, the IS has an interior design unique in Lexus’ lineup with a slim horizontal dash and controls tilted toward the driver for easier access. The new seats are far more comfortable than the outgoing model, and some minor reshaping of the rear windows has improved visibility.
The F Sport
This performance package is available on both the IS250 and IS350 with either rear or all wheel drive. The powertrains remain untouched aside from the addition of a sound tube that channels some extra engine noise into the cabin. The key addition of the package is the Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) that transforms the IS from a sports sedan into a track day-ready car. In Sports+ mode, it’s 20% stiffer than the outgoing F Sport, making the car track straight in the most difficult corners.
Inside, the seats are more heavily bolstered, while the stock gauges are replaced by a digital cluster similar to the LFA’s, letting the driver see just a speedometer and tachometer, or bring up additional information as needed.
Get behind the wheel of the newest Lexus IS at your Park Place dealership.