Monday, June 30, 2008


Lexus’ IS sedan is the Japanese luxury automaker’s entry-level luxury sport-sedan. It received a total redesign in 2006 that included changing the sedan to include two distinct models, the IS 250 and the IS 350. Similar to many other luxury brands, the moniker indicates displacement. For example, the IS 250 is equipped with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, and the IS 350 has a 3.5-liter V6. In addition to minor upgrades to the IS 250 and IS 350, the IS is also now available as a V8 powered hotrod called the IS F, which I recently reviewed as well.


Of the three available models, my tester was the IS 350. Since the 2006 redesign, the 350 has been powered by a far sportier V6 than the last generation. This beefy 3.5-liter makes 306 horsepower, which is more potent than the Cadillac CTS, BMW 3-Series, Mercedes- Benz C-Class, and many others. While certainly not nearly as quick as the uber fast IS F, the 350 is no slouch either. Its V6 is able to catapult the sedan to 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds


It seems that Lexus' philosophy about handling characteristics is certainly a reasonable one, but not terribly exciting. Since the average driver isn't ever likely to drive most luxury sedans to their full potential, their philosophy is that the driver doesn't get as much communication from the car, nor does he or she have the total control that other cars, namely the 3-series BMW provides. So, while the IS 350 is an enjoyable drive with a sophisticated ride, it is less responsive and communicative than the BMW.


Since the switch to a sportier look in 2006, I’ve been big fan of the IS. Taking a stroll around the IS, you should immediately notice an aggressive stance, and sporty 18” wheels. Its lines are clean, and it looks like it’s going 100 mph standing still. Some say that the IS interior feels cramped. While it doesn’t feel as spacious as some of its competitors, I wouldn’t call it cramped. In fact, the IS offers more legroom than most. However, it offers less head and shoulder room than several of its competitors. Other than that, the interior is absolutely up to Lexus’ high standards of fit and finish and available luxury items.


This segment offers so much these days, that there is a car for nearly every taste. The IS isn’t the corner-carver that the 3-Series BMW is. It doesn’t get the fuel economy of the Audi A4. It’s also more expensive than more than a few of its competitors. But, generally speaking, it is better than most within the segment.

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