The all-new Lexus IS launched in Malaysia is the third generation of the compact sport sedan line by Lexus. It is available in four variants – IS 250, IS 250 Luxury, IS 250 F SPORT and IS 300h (hybrid).
Dimensionally, the new generation has increases in overall length (+ 80 mm) and wheelbase (+ 70 mm), with a slight 10 mm increase in overall width. The height of 1430 mm remains unchanged.
In recently introduced Lexus models, the spindle grille has been a dominant feature of the frontal design and with the latest IS generation, the Lexus designers have incorporated a new spindle grille design which gives the car a combination of aggressive elegance, a more powerful road presence while strengthening the model and brand identity.
The unique and agile appearance of the body is the result of powerful character lines which clearly delineate the body from the cabin, emphasizing the wide flare of the wheel arches and increase the visibility of the tyres.
The exterior design also incorporates a new, powerfully articulated headlamp cluster design with L-shaped Daytime Running Lights (a Lexus signature) located independently below. Viewed from the rear, the all new IS has a trapezoidal theme which complements the low-slung stance.
In profile, the strong horizontal beltline shows off the large rear tyres and low centre of gravity. The mass of the cabin itself is concentrated rearwards, visually applying ‘weight’ to the rear tyres to enhance the perception of traction and also subtly emphasizing that the car has rear-wheel drive – a requirement for true sports sedans.
The aerodynamic efficiency (now lowered to 0.25 Cd) has been achieved through intensive tuning in the wind tunnel as well as test-driving. Every exterior section has been shaped for smooth airflow and aero-stabilizing fins have even been added in certain areas to direct the airflow optimally around the body. The narrowing of the body (viewed from above) towards the rear contributes to reducing turbulence as the airflow departs from the rear end, helping to cut down drag.
Close attention has also been paid to underbody airflow management, not only to reduce drag but also to minimize lift forces. Starting from the underside of the front bumper, carefully designed underbody elements help smooth the surfaces or redirect air around projections in order to reduce turbulence under the car. The resulting low-drag body and low lift enhances high-speed stability and suppresses wobble during steering operation.
While many advanced manufacturing processes are used to assemble every Lexus vehicle, two new processes has been used for the first time on the all new IS model; arch hemming and laser brazing. The hemming treatment on the rear wheel arch flange area to enhance its appearance and creates more space for the wheel. The adoption of the laser brazing directly joins the side members of the roof so that a clean and high-class appearance can be achieved while also enhancing the sleek appearance.
The aim of the all new IS interior design has been to achieve a human-oriented space that is driver-focused and ergonomically-efficient. The design philosophy embodies the Lexus identity with incisive simplicity, intriguing elegance, and seamless anticipation. In such an environment, the driver can fully exploit the new Lexus compact sedan’s superb driving dynamics.
The increased body width and longer wheelbase provide significantly improved rear seat comfort. Along with a thinner front seat design, the all new IS offers best-in-class knee room (85 mm more than before) and improved accessibility to the more generously-sized cabin. Also new are the 60:40 split/folding rear backrests, providing extra luggage capacity when needed. The rear headrests are also the ‘saddle’ type which does not obstruct the rear view of the driver.
Being a sports sedan, much effort has gone into creating a feeling of unity between the driver and the car. The thin cross-sectional area of the instrument panel contributes to the feeling of a tight and sporty cockpit and this has also had the effect of changing the field of view of the driver, reducing glare from reflected sunlight.
The steering wheel shares the expertise and design elements developed for the LFA. The circular padding makes it easier to get a sense of the centre of rotation. The newly-designed paddle shifters have a shorter operating stroke to produce quicker response.
A sporty two large-diameter combination meter is adopted, realizing the “fun to drive” theme of the all new IS. The numbers/letters, scales, and indicators are uniformly displayed in white, giving a high quality appearance and higher legibility even in low lighting conditions.
A 4.2-inch colour TFT(Thin Film Transistor) liquid crystal multi-monitor is located between the two meters. This display provides different types of information to keep the driver informed of the car’s operation. It includes a Multimedia linkage function; for the first time, the multimedia linkage enables display of mobilephone caller information, audio titles, etc. on the monitor.
The cabin material, trim and finish refinement is complemented by the latest advances in HMI (Human-Machine Interface) technology. An analogue clock with a design resembles a metallic block is embedded in the centre of the dashboard. Its face is visible from any angle and has a precise and modern appearance.
A neat and strong vertical axis is expressed by Convenience Console with a meticulous layout of switches, controls and storage spaces between the front seats. The designers also took into account the driver’s line of sight, helping to ensure usability and offers the feel of control.
Optimal material layout has been achieved through metal on frames and padding to parts for touch sensation. The 7-inch display, air conditioner, and audio control panel have been laid out in consideration of different usage situations such as glare and reflection. A Lexus-first is the electrostatic switch integrated for the temperature control.
The 7-inch high resolution display is able to utilize two multimedia systems – EMVN (Electro Multi vision Navigation) and LDA (Lexus Display Audio) which is compatible with the award-winning remote touch controller. The controller (already used in other Lexus models) adopts a sliding haptic Touch joystick which acts like a computer mouse and allows intuitive control from the driver’s fingertips. On certain versions, there is also Lexus Display Audio (LDA) with a knurled finish applied on the controller knob to prevent slip and ease operation.
The integrated GPS navigation system is enhanced for the new IS and interacts with the multimedia coordination function so that information can also be displayed on the multi-monitor between the speedometer and tachometer.
A new Drive Mode Selector system (using a circular knob) offers three driving modes – ECO, NORMAL and SPORT.
The IS 250, IS 250 Luxury, and IS 250 F SPORT are powered by a smooth 2.5-litre V6 petrol engine with Dual VVT-i and the D4 direct-injection technology which provides a very high injection pressure. The all-aluminium engine has a die-cast cylinder block and intake manifold, and a resin intake chamber, all of which help to keep its weight low. An intake sound generator creates a more sporty engine note for the IS 250 F SPORT.
The engine’s 153 kW/205 bhp and 252 Nm of torque go to the rear wheels through a 6-speed Electronically-Controlled Transmission (Super ECT) which has a sequential manual-shifting mode with rev-matched downshifts in SPORT mode.
For the IS 300h, the Lexus Hybrid Drive System uses a 2.5-litre 4-cylinder petrol engine (178 bhp) with an electric motor (141 bhp) has been specially designed for use with a rear-wheel drive layout. A 230V, 192-cell nickel-metal hydride battery stores electrical energy for the motor.
New construction techniques include laser screw welding and adhesive body bonding that help provide a substantial increase in overall body rigidity for this new generation of the IS. A new rear subframe and cowl side braces help to further enhance handling control and steering response.
The double wishbone front suspension has an improvement in vehicle stability and together with the new Electric Power Steering System, the driver will have a smoother, more accurate feel with greater feedback. At the rear is a new multilink suspension to help provide increased grip, control and responsiveness.
Passive Safety begins with the highly rigid bodyshell and computer-engineered structure which prevents impact forces from the front, sides and rear from reaching the occupants to cause serious injuries. Eight Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) airbags are also installed around the cabin of the IS to help minimise injuries as well.
To help the driver avoid accidents, Active Safety features include ABS with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Traction Control (TRC) and Vehicle Stability Control (VSC). These are coordinated in the Lexus Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system to assist the driver in extreme challenging situations, especially during cornering. The brake pedal ratio has also been optimised for better braking feel.
Other safety features include a Tyre Pressure Warning System which alerts the driver when a tyre has reduced air pressure. On versions fitted with EMVN, there is also a Park Assist Monitor and Rear View Monitor System which employs a rearview camera. The image displayed on the monitor allows the driver to park easily while also ensuring that any hazard or children are spotted and an accident can be avoided.
With this new generation of the IS, Lexus is installing for the first time a Pop-Up Hood (PUH). This works with a sensor in the front bumper which detects impact with a pedestrian and raises the bonnet height by approximately 70 mm. The additional height provides valuable space to absorb the impact of a human body, reducing potential injuries. The system has been extensively tested so that it will not trigger if the bumper hits a pole.
The headlights of the IS 250, IS 250 Luxury and IS 250 F SPORT are powerful HID (High-Intensity Discharge) units which provide a consistently bright illumination to give the driver a good view of the road ahead at night. An auto-levelling feature ensures that they are always correctly angled so as not to cause inconvenience to other road-users.
For the IS 300h, LEDs (light-emitting diodes) are used for the headlights and these are highly efficient lighting units which have a low electrical consumption – ideal for a hybrid car. Their small size allows them to be used for other lighting units like signal lights and Daytime Running Lights and when clustered together, they also create a large beam that is exceptionally bright
For the latest IS generation, there are three aluminum rim designs available, depending on the variant. The IS 250 and IS 300h are fitted with 5-spoke 17-inch rims while larger 18-inch rims with a multi-spoke design are installed on the IS 250 Luxury. The IS 250 F SPORT, as mentioned earlier, also gets 18-inch rims with a distinctive design.
The IS 300h also uses run-flat tyres which enable the car to continue to be drive (at limited speeds) even when there is no air pressure in the tyres.
For the IS 250 F SPORT and IS300h, a Mark Levinson Premium Surround System is installed. Specially developed for the all new IS cabin, the 835W/12-channel system employs new loudspeaker technology with 15 speakers for life-like sound reproduction. The Greenedge speakers employ wide-dispersion technology to produce high-quality sound with low noise. The system also incorporates a Lexus first – an Auto Volume System which enhances listening pleasure as the volume is automatically adjusted for the song being played.
The IS 250 and IS 250 Luxury have a Lexus Premium Audio System with 8 speakers. Besides the CD/DVD player, portable music devices can also be connected via the USB and AUX jacks. Bluetooth connectivity is also available for hands free mobile phone usage.
The IS 250 F SPORT is differentiated by an exclusive L-mesh grille and front bumper design. The waistline of the grille is higher than on the other variants, increasing the area of the lower grille to allow a larger volume of cooling air to enter the engine compartment. Chrome trim is also more evident, giving the car added distinction.
The IS 250 F SPORT also comes with exclusive 18-inch wheels with tight Y-shaped spokes. The style is influenced by the wheels found on the LFA supercar.
While all IS 250 variants have the same 6-speed transmission with different driving modes to choose from, the IS 250 F SPORT has an extra fourth mode – SPORT S+ – for a more dynamic drive and stronger acceleration.
Exclusive to the IS 250 F SPORT are sporty body-hugging front seats, aluminium foot pedals and scuff plates on each door sill, a dimpled genuine leather-wrapped knob and grip, wedge metal and of course, F SPORT badging. This variant also has an 8-inch TFT LCD meter with a design inherited from the LFA panel.
Available first time on the IS 250 F SPORT is an Adaptive Variable Suspension System (AVS) which controls the damping force of shock absorbers in response to driving operations and road conditions. Ride comfort and handling stability are enhanced with AVS as changes in the car’s attitude do not occur abruptly.
Being a hybrid variant, the IS 300h has special features to highlight its eco-friendliness. For example, the tailpipes are concealed to reinforce the impression of low emissions and cleanliness.
On the dashboard, the Energy Monitor is integrated with the EMVN panel. On this monitor, the driver can observe the energy flows as the car is being driven. The Energy Monitor also provides historical consumption data so that the driver can see if fuel-saving has been achieved. For the IS 300h, the slim hybrid battery pack is located under the floor so no cargo volume is lost.
As the IS300h uses the Lexus Hybrid Drive, an EV mode is also available. With this mode in operation, it is possible to travel on just electrical power for a distance, depending on the amount of energy available in the battery. EV mode also reduces driving noise and exhaust emission.
words & pix: Lexus Malaysia