New styling and tech, tuned on Toyota’s mini-Nurburgring, Lexus’ answer to the BMW 3 Series is due in Singapore this year
Lexus has announced the fourth-generation model of its executive sport sedan, the IS. Due to go on sale in the USA later this year, Singapore’s Lexus distributor says the IS is on track for a late 2020 launch in Singapore, though no pricing or specific details are available yet.
As the information derived is from the Lexus International USA press release, options and details may change for Singapore’s specific models.
The IS, which has long been the closest challenger to the progenitor of the executive sport sedan segment — the BMW 3 Series — receives a significant reworking to bring it up to speed with the crop of German rivals, including the recently-facelifted Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
Changes include a new exterior and interior design, improved rigidity and driving behaviour, and significant additions to interior technology and safety.
Lexus developed the new IS at the new Toyota Technical Centre Shimoyama, in the Aichi Prefecture of Japan. The luxury brands says the “severe driving environment” there is what allowed it to develop the IS to a higher level of performance.
Completed in April 2019, the Centre recreates the challenging driving conditions of the Nurburgring Nordschleife. While it’s not as long as the latter’s 21km, the 5.3km course incorporates ‘ a wide range of curves and corners and multiple types of road surfaces’ as well as almost 80-metres of elevation changes.
The IS retains the same New N platform as its third-gen predecessor, in contrast to the Lexus ES using TNGA and the Lexus LS using the GA-L luxury platform. As a result the new car hasn’t changed much in terms of dimensions – it’s nominally larger at 4705mm long, 1840mm wide and 1435mm tall, while the wheelbase is the same at 2,800m.
However Lexus says it focused highly on delivering an engaging driving experience with the IS.
“What we had foremost in mind in developing the new IS was to make it a car that excelled in communicating with the driver regardless of the road conditions or driving situation,” said Chief Engineer Naoki Kobayashi of Lexus International. “We aimed to make the new IS a Lexus compact sports sedan that provides high-quality riding comfort while offering a high level of vehicle control.”
Lexus says it improved platform rigidity and has changed the suspension setup entirely. The former includes lightweight wheel hub bolts, while the latter has forged aluminium A-arms (for its double-wishbone setup) and stabilisers, offering a 18 and 17 percent weight reduction respectively.
The shock absorbers are of a new ‘swing-valve’ type, which are claimed to provide excellent responsiveness even at low stroke speed. In English, it means they can deliver good ride quality even over smaller imperfections.
The new IS adopts the latest Lexus design themes – that means cleaner lines and less fuss, and naturally an even bigger spindle grille. Shown here is the IS 350 F Sport model, unless otherwise indicated.
The arrow-shaped daytime running lights are now integrated into the headlight housing as one cohesive unit, while the side air intakes flanking the spindle grille are an example of how the lines are simplified and more elegant now. The rear end still sees the IS signature upward sweep line bisecting the rear wheels, and this now connects to a full-width taillight section.
If you want to get a virtual view of the new IS – fiddle with the colours, walk around, open and close the doors, and see it in motion you can download the Lexus AR Play app on Google Play or Apple’s App Store
The IS has been announced with two engines, the 2.0-litre turbo found in the current IS 300, and the 3.5-litre V6 in the IS 350 (more on this below). There’s no word on whether the IS 300h hybrid model will continue to be offered.
The IS 300 will remain the mainstay model, the engine makes 241hp and 350Nm of torque, which is the same as the current version – see our review of it in IS 200t form before it took on the IS 300 name.
Presumably the performance will be similar to the current model as well, 0-100km/h in 7.7 seconds and a 230km/h top speed. One update here is to the eight-speed automatic transmission. Lexus says the enw gearbox employs ‘advanced G-force Artificial Intelligence (G-AI) system that monitors multiple performance parameters to determine the optimum gear selection.’
Lexus International’s official announcement of the IS brings some interesting news: The F Sport variant will now only be offered with the IS 350.
The IS 350, with a 3.5-litre V6 engine and 311hp, has never been sold in Singapore previously, so presumably we will either miss out on all the sporting fun entirely, or the IS 350 could finally make its way here.
Our test drive of the previous IS 350 on track showed it a wonderfully-capable and enjoyable car to drive, even if it’s not as outright quick (0-100km/h in 5.7 seconds) as the current rivals BMW’s M340i or the Mercedes-AMG C 43.
Plus the new IS 350 gains both cosmetic and performance upgrades too.
Cosmetics include the F Sport body kit itself, 19-inch dark alloy wheels, a cool air intake and sound generator, F Sport exhaust and diffuser. Inside, it’s F Sport front seats, steering wheel, shifter, aluminium pedals, door accents, and unique F Sport combination meter display.
The IS 350 F Sport gains the option of a new Dynamic Handling Package. That includes adaptive suspension, 19-inch forged BBS alloy wheels in matte black (1.8kg lighter per wheel), a Torsen LSD, an additional Sport+ and Custom driving modes, a carbonfibre rear spoiler and side-mirror covers.
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The basic layout of the cockpit is the same as the current model – see the central ‘operating section’ flanked and below that, the gearshifter, drive mode switch, and Lexus Remote Touch control pad.
However above, the infotainment screen is now positioned higher and almost eight centimetres closer to the driver. That’s because it’s also a touchscreen, the IS is the second model after the RX to feature one, and an 8.0-inch display is standard, with an optional 10.3-inch unit.
The infotainment system features Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and interestingly, Amazon Alexa integration – most cars don’t feature the latter just yet.
The IS also boasts the evolution of Lexus Safety System (LSS), now dubbed LSS+ 2.5. As standard are the expected active safety features, including frontal collision warning, autonomous braking, and pedestrian/bicyclist detection, blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alerts. Additions to the system include radar cruise control that can do full stop-n-go, road sign assists (displays speed limits and such in the info display) and intelligent high beams.
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