Lexus has revamped the Lexus IS sport sedan for 2014, and we got to spend some time road testing the new third generation model. The Lexus IS is actually positioned as an introductory into the luxury segment, and is often a first time luxury car experience for drivers. It’s also unique because it’s a luxury hybrid. That said, the new IS brings a lot of new features to the plate.
On the exterior, the design features a new dynamic signature spindle grille option that elegantly screams “I’m the boss”. Lexus has also developed a new body bonding process for increased body rigidity, which in turns helps reduce noise vibration and harshness. This is indeed the case, as the driving experience inside the Lexus IS is a super smooth and quiet experience. The wheel base has also grown in size, to the tune of nearly three inches.
Inside the 2014 Lexus IS is everything you would expect from Lexus. The car’s interior screams luxury with a new quilted driver’s seat that offers greater comfort. Meanwhile, the cockpit design is inspired by Lexus LFA super-car. And for 2014, Lexus has added more leg room for those sitting in the rear, and they also increased the trunk size. They have also added a 60/40 split/folding seat with a lock. This is a first for Lexus.
Tech wise, the IS no slouch. The IS is available with a choice of two multimedia systems – the standard high-resolution Lexus Display Audio (LDA) with controller or the optional Lexus navigation system. The latter is operated via a second-generation Lexus Remote Touch Interface. The multi-information display has grown and is now 4.2″, plus they have also redesigned it to be more colorful. For reference, the multi-information display is used for routing navigation, audio tracks, the climate, and it displays the caller number with a photo. And unlike many other vehicle infotainment system displays, this one can really multitask. That is because its features can be shown split screen in a convenient 1, 2, or 3 panel layout. Some other new features added to the multi-information display include a street view, predictive traffic and a low fuel warning that provides you with nearby gas stations.
On the radio front, the radio cache is able to cache up to 15 minutes of live AM or FM radio, so that you can easily rewind on the fly to hear what you missed. The system also offers HD radio listening, as well as weather and traffic info – which all come subscription free. On the app front, the Lexus Enform App Suite currently has 7 available apps, and there are 3 more on the way, all set to arrive before the end of the year. Voice recognition is also supported in the infotainment system, but we didn’t get to try it out.
All in all we found the Lexus Remote Touch Interface to be a robust system and easy to use. However, our gripe is that it uses a clickable joystick for navigating the system, and we would like to see a touchscreen option.
To compliment the infotainment system, Lexus has several audio options available for the IS. At the top of the line is the Mark Levinson Surround System option which packs in a whopping total of 15 speakers and 835 watts! That’s like driving with a concert inside of the car. Other available options include all-weather drive system, the blind spot monitor system, rear cross-traffic alert, a land departure alert system and pre-collision with dynamic radar cruise control.
Both the IS 250 and 350 are powered by a V6 engine, but the IS 350 packs in an eight-speed, Sport Direct Shift (SPDS) automatic transmission. Plus, new to the 2014 IS is the Drive Mode Select system with up to 5 driving modes. This includes Eco mode which is all about gas mileage, Normal for everyday driving comfort, and Sport for “optimized body control and agility”. Sport unleashes the sports car prowess of the IS, and we put that mode to the test at the Rockingham speedway in North Carolina. The Sport modes also provide an intake sound generator that creates a more sporting engine note while driving which in turn offers a satisfying “vroom” for when you’re in a sports-car type of driving mood.
Lexus says that the Lexus IS is designed to be fun to drive. It’s also been designed to respond to the driver immediately and precisely. We put these claims to the tests with the 350 fsport at the speedway, and on the scenic roads of Pinehurst, North Carolina. The 2014 IS impressed us with a super smooth ride, and amazing handling on the track, especially on tight turns. Overall, the IS is looking to be a luxury car that has the driving chops of a sports car, combined with the looks of a relaxing-to-drive leisure car.
Pricing for the 2014 Lexus IS begins at around $35,950.