THE new Lexus IS sports sedan has made its global debut, revealing a dramatic exterior design, superb dynamic standards and state-of-the-art driving technology. Arriving in Australia in late 2020, it blends stunning style with focused rear-wheel-drive handling.
Honed at the company’s new technical centre in Shimoyama, Japan, the new IS features a range of safety enhancements, including Lexus-debut technology such as a more advanced lane trace assist, driver emergency stop assist and emergency steering assist.
The IS re-imagines the sports sedan concept with a low and wide stance, the sleek proportions of a four-door coupe, slimmer headlights and a lower, sharper side character line that combine to express a centre of gravity closer to the ground.
Gently sloped rear-quarter pillars, which help form a sleek cabin silhouette that wraps around from the sides, contrast with muscular rear guards and available 19-inch alloy wheels to create a fast and aggressive look.
This is further emphasised by single-blade rear combination lights sporting an “L” motif and a sharper overall contour created by the character line around the boot lid.
The elaborate and dimensional forms unique to Lexus are made possible by the use of drawing die construction, the latest in high-precision stamping technology that adds a mechanism that slides in tandem with the movement of the stamping press.
Body rigidity is enhanced in the new IS by reinforcing radiator side supports, increasing the number of front-side-member weld points and optimising structures from the rear-quarter pillars to the sides of the roof, among other areas.
This contributes to the new IS continuing in the finest handling-led traditions of the nameplate by becoming the first Lexus to debut the “Lexus Driving Signature” that will become the development standard for all future Lexus models.
The “Lexus Driving Signature” is defined by linear vehicle operation that is faithful to a driver’s intentions, providing seamless transition from braking to steering and acceleration through a corner.
These Lexus dynamic values were achieved by utilising the country road test course at the company’s new technical centre in Shimoyama, Japan, which opened in 2019.
The country road test course is based on many years of Lexus experience of driving on the Nürburgring Nordschleife, famous throughout the world for its gruelling driving conditions.
It was designed to take advantage of the local topography, featuring approximately a 75-metre change in elevation, a wide range of curves and a variety of road surfaces.
By repeatedly subjecting both vehicle and engineers to daily tests in this severe driving environment, Lexus was able to devise an ever-higher dimension of vehicle performance.
This approach also enabled maximum driver engagement and the fun of driving to coexist in the new IS with unwavering Lexus virtues of supreme ride comfort and exemplary refinement.
Thorough tuning was conducted for multiple road conditions and driving situations to improve elements such as responsiveness to driver input and the suppression of unnecessary movement in sprung mass.
New swing-valve shock absorbers have been employed and are equipped with ultra-low-velocity valves that respond to even minor road irregularities, generating the most appropriate damping force.
Even when the stroke speed of the shock absorbers is low, appropriate damping force will be exerted to provide excellent responsiveness on all surfaces and result in ride quality that is consistently even.
The availability of new-design 19-inch tyres improves cornering performance. Hub bolts are used to fasten the wheels, resulting in tight handling and braking due to increased fastening strength and reduced mass.
The enhanced body rigidity has further aided in the elimination of unwanted noise and vibration while improving ride comfort, as well as enhancing steering response.
Improvements have been made not only in the greater responsiveness of the steering but also the controllability and smoothness upon “returning to centre”.
With available 18-inch wheels (comparative to the previous IS F Sport) the latest Lexus sports sedan rides on a 45mm-wider front track and 50mm-wider rear track.
Outstanding chassis performance allows the acclaimed Lexus power trains to reach new heights, which offer customers a diverse matrix of low emissions, energetic performance and immediate response.
A focus on imaginative technology continues in the hybrid IS 300h with improved throttle response delivering more immediate acceleration from the 2.5-litre normally aspirated four-cylinder engine and electric motor pairing.
This advanced power train now combines greater driver engagement with incredibly low fuel consumption and emissions.
For customers seeking a fine balance of performance and efficiency, the advanced 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the IS 300 now features enhanced adaptive control for the eight-speed automatic transmission.
The transmission more actively selects the most-appropriate gear for each driving situation, providing increased response to drivers.
An eight-speed automatic transmission also continues to be available in the 3.5-litre normally aspirated V6-powered IS 350, which provides the superb power, immediate throttle response and emotive soundtrack for which the grade is renowned.
The design, dynamic and performance qualities of the new IS are further supported by the application of state-of-the-art multimedia and safety technology.
Inside the 10.3-inch display screen features newly forward-mounted positioning, touch-display functionality and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility for the first time compared with the outgoing IS.
The high-resolution display complements the renewed ambience of the IS cabin, which features key firsts.
This includes a new form of Lexus decorative expression for part of the door trim, which features a graphic pattern of embossed intersecting lines, new accents in surface treatments and decorative ornamentation finished for the first time in Ash – open-pore black, Black Geometric Film, or F Sport-exclusive Satin Chrome.
Available chromatic colours are used on the upper instrument panel and new two-tone colour schemes – Ochre and F Sport-exclusive Flare Red – are available.
Lexus Safety System+ has also been upgraded with newly added functions to create a safer on-road experience, including lane trace assist, driver emergency stop assist, emergency steering assist (as mentioned already), low speed acceleration control and pre-collision safety.
Lexus International chief designer Kenichi Hirai said the aim for the new IS was to achieve an aggressive design that evokes a sense of driving.
“To achieve a high degree of design, Lexus members in product planning, production technology, engineering, and styling combined their various insights and united behind development from an early stage,” Mr Hirai said.
“This enabled us to achieve the proportions of a four-door coupe that has a low centre of gravity, an explicit form, and other elements that express the worldview of the new IS,” he said.
“We also pursued a deep and rich interior by paying close attention to detail, such as in the use of colour in design and as in ornamentation. I think the styling makes it possible to feel the maturation of the fun of driving.”
The IS remains the brand’s highest-selling nameplate in Australia, with a cumulative 46,187 sales (to May 2020) since the nameplate’s launch in 1999. Globally, the IS sales tally stands at 1.09 million.