2014 Lexus IS Review
AUSTIN- The symbolism of the setting was not lost on me. In early March, while the youth and energy of South by Southwest swirled all around us, I joined fellow media members at the more traditionally luxurious Barton Creek Resort and Spa. Our welcome assignment was to push and test the 2014 Lexus IS series on roads and the track. While we were given unfettered access to the entire IS line, my focus was primarily on the IS 350 F-Series.
2014 Lexus IS – The Look
Whether you love it or hate it, you can not help but notice the new spindle grill. It’s not only the clear focal point of the car but it represents a design shift throughout the brand favoring a more modern, aggressive look. People saw this car coming, I counted at least four head turns and two double takes during our road test. The roof line, like much of this car, leaves you with the not so accidental impression of the LFA super car. When still, the car takes on a very strong and dignified air. It waits patiently for you, like some massive exotic pet waiting to be led on a stroll around the grounds. The new look translates well in the flesh, the controversial grill is simultaneously the beginning and the end of each line. This continuity gives it a sense of belonging and purpose that doesn’t translate well in photographs.
2014 Lexus IS – The Feel
The tech and amenity packed cabin continues the intuitive and driver centric theme.The bolstered seats in the IS 350 F series hold you securely in place. The driver’s seat quickly gave me the impression of a cockpit as I adjusted the electronic seat and steering column controls to fit my preferences exactly. At 6′ 4” tall I found the leg room to be more than sufficient and perhaps more surprisingly there to be enough head room for me to keep my neck straight up and down without my head touching the ceiling. The remote touch system allows you to interact with the onboard computer system with far less driver distraction than a traditional touch screen. The analog clock sits proudly in the center of the dash, a nod towards traditional standards in the sea of sleek modern elements. The car was designed around the driver and it shows. All of the minor flaws I found were passenger specific. The back seat had enough leg room to fit me comfortably but the head room was decidedly lacking. It was a non issue amongst my smaller counter-parts, they found the back seat to be a comfortable and pleasant ride. The passenger seat mostly succeeded as well. The comfortable bolstered seats held you tightly while both screaming around the track and coasting through a school zone. I found the cup holder’s placement to be a bit awkward for the passenger’s left arm and interacting with the car’s controls from the passenger side was at times less than ideal. A lack of a designated position for the ever present smart phone was a surprising omission in such a modern and well thought out car. Bluetooth does allow for considerable control over your phone through on board buttons and voice activated commands. The car manages to pack in the technology and amenities expected in a luxury sedan without feeling clunky or crowded.
2014 Lexus IS – The Drive
Our driving experience really went up another notch at the Driveway Track on the edges of Austin.
The “sound optimized” exhaust begins to growl at just over 4,000 r.p.m.’s and the S+ driving mode really shone as I came out of my first turn and put the accelerator to the floor. There was little to any body roll and the car shifted seamlessly through it’s 8 speed automatic transmission. It found and passed 60 MPH in about 5 seconds, quickly climbing into the high 80’s before leveling out a little. The car, when pushed on the straightaway, gathered another burst of momentum as it crossed from the mid 90’s to over 100 MPH. The “G Force Artificial Intelligence” feature helped the automatic transmission down shift quickly and smoothly as I approached the linked turn at 106 MPH. The car decelerated to under 60 MPH as I entered the turn and got down to the safer speed of 46 MPH coming out of the apex. From there it was back on the throttle, testing the body roll at over 80 MPH with some well timed tugs on the steering wheel. Overall the car felt stable at high speeds, though it did jump and bump a bit in the various elevation changes despite it’s 3,700 pound heft. It outperformed the competitor cars provided to us easily. It honestly wasn’t a fair comparison, the IS 350 F Series was raised on tracks around the world, the competitor cars, though in the same class in comfort and price were certainly not born, bred and optimized for such aggressive driving and it showed. At all times behind the wheel of the Lexus I felt in complete control. I came out of my track day feeling like I had ridden a roller coaster a dozen times, surely a good sign for a sportster.
2014 Lexus IS – The Bottom Line
The 2014 Lexus IS may stop just short of a full redesign but it does signify a clear adjustment in the aim and scope of the brand. It represents a successful combination of luxury and track inspired engineering to give you a sportster that is truly fun and exciting to drive. Overall, aside from the lack of available manual transmission, the car left me wanting little. The paddle shifters certainly shift quickly and they do allow you to use your RPM’s to harness the power of the engine. I’m just partial to the more traditional clutch and stick shift available on many other sports cars. Though the automatic is dynamic and responsive it does seem a shame to not even offer one the opportunity to drive such an exciting car with a manual. Maybe next year. Europe’s sales numbers await.
2014 Lexus IS
Est MSRP $35k – $61k
Available June, 2013
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