Lexus has spent nearly 25 years building its reputation for smooth,
silent luxury barges.
Now it's saying, "We can do more than that."
With sporty cars like the IS becoming a bigger part of the Lexus
lineup, this upscale Japanese brand is taking aim at European
stalwarts like Audi and BMW, companies known more for their
exhilaration than their silence.
And exhilaration is exactly what the IS is about.
This is a car that, particularly when fitted with the bigger of its
two V6 engines, feels like it could come from Munich or Stuttgart.
It's firm and engaging, with power sent to the rear wheels like any proper sports sedan, and a steering and suspension system that work together to transmit tiny vibrations to the driver — the kind of vibrations that the rest of the Lexus lineup works so hard to filter out.
It does have some traditional Lexus DNA in all the right places.
The fit and finish of the cabin is spectacular, for one. Pieces of the
dash fit together like a Rolex watch, and the leather upholstery is
the softest I can recall feeling in this price class, starting around
$35,000. The interior quality is top-notch.
I also like how easy it is to use the optional navigation system in the IS. Lexus is fitting a supposedly better system in its bigger, more expensive models that uses a computer-style cursor on a screen. I found the touch-screen interface on my IS 350 test car to be simpler and quicker to use than the cursor, though.
While the base engine in the IS 250 is a 2.5-liter V6 that makes 204
horsepower, you get a whole lot more thrills from a 306-horsepower,
3.5-liter engine in the IS 350.
Both powerplants are fast, modern and efficient. The smaller engine is rated at 30 mpg on the highway and the bigger at 27.