Making an Entrance
The next-gen Lexus is model shows some of the most superior bodywork, the most intellectual steering and the most powerful driving capabilities ever released in the range
The edgiest, the most daring and arguably the sexiest model in the 20-plus-year history of the Lexus marque, the latest IS is leading the way for the premium brand.
Since the unveiling of Lexus’s LF-CC concept car at the Paris Motor Show last year, the car community’s collective breath has been held for the arrival of its latest model, with many expecting that it would take its leave from the coupe concept.
Those predictions were correct, with the impressive next-gen IS taking many a creative cue from the LF-CC. The 3-D spindle grille and the LED headlight system with integrated heat sink and L-shaped daytime running lights are present on the latest IS. As seen on the concept coupe, the lines originating from the bold-looking grille also offer impressive visuals, while front air-intakes and bulging fender flares constitute a powerful facial expression. It is rare that the overall visual concept of a one-off vehicle has been adopted on a production model to such an extent, but it also indicates how determined Lexus has been to maintain its position as one of the most elite members of the world’s automotive industry.
Marveling solely at the visuals, however, doesn’t do justice to this delightfully beefed-up sports sedan.
“The previous IS had garnered accolades for its overall driving performance,” explains the chief engineer in charge of this IS design, Junichi Furuyama. “So, obviously, we had to aim really high, especially to bring its fun-to-drive features to the next level. We also understood that the next IS must become the one that would transform Lexus into a truly premium automobile brand.”
Firstly, Furuyama and his team made a huge effort to improve the gearbox performance so that the vehicle moves exactly as the driver intends. To achieve that end, the prototypes were built from the wheels up, and tested on circuits both at home and abroad, including the Nürburgring in Germany, known for its demanding course layout. During the later stages of development, the prototypes were also tried out on normal roads around the world, with testing vehicles doing almost one million miles on the road over a total of three years.
All that mileage has paid off. Thanks to Team Furuyama’s effort, the new-gen IS shows incredible improvement over the previous model. The feel of the steering is especially outstanding: the car’s response to the driver’s input is direct and exact, enabling the driver to keep the car’s movements in check, even around tight corners.
As soon as you hit the open road, the eight-speed automatic transmission — available only on the IS 350 FR model — reveals exactly what it’s made of. Capable of reaching horsepower of more than 300, acceleration is as smooth as it is powerful, sending the vehicle into the region of 60 mph within a fraction of time. The IS 350 also features a Drive Mode Select system ranging from ECO and NORMAL to SPORT/SPORT S and SPORT S+. F SPORT models are also available, featuring the Adaptive Variable Suspension system as an exclusive option, while 3.5-liter-engine models are fitted with Variable Gear Ratio Steering.
Although much state-of-the-art technology has been employed to develop the latest IS, what matters most of all is the adhesive joint and laser screw welding, both of which allow body parts to be joined far more solidly than previously possible, contributing to the improvement of the overall body rigidity.
“We tested these two new technologies on a prototype during the development stage and saw their real contribution to body rigidity,” Furuyama recalls with a wry smile. “The benefits of these technologies were far more than expected, which ultimately led us to determine that the new IS must be equipped with them.
Text by Shogo Hagiwara
Photography by Daniel Riera