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Beijing show: Lexus tweaks IS range

Mid-life refresh: The Lexus IS, launched in mid-2013, has been given its first makeover, bringing blink-and-you’ll-miss-them cosmetic changes.

Light makeover, but no changes under the skin for the Lexus IS mid-sizer

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Lexus logo25 Apr 2016

LEXUS has revealed a subtle makeover for its popular IS mid-size sedan at the Beijing motor show this week as the Japanese premium brand keeps its ageing sedan fresh against an influx of newer rivals in the increasingly busy segment.

While the visual changes might be hard to pick, Lexus says that the “entire front fascia of the new model has undergone a transformation”, with new headlights, larger air intakes incorporated into the refreshed bumper and an update to the familiar Lexus spindle grille.

The bonnet has been reshaped and the changes to the front end give the IS a higher level of “aggressiveness”, according to Lexus.

In F Sport guise, the IS grille has a unique three-dimensional F-mesh pattern with jet-black metallic coating that features functional brake ducts for improved aerodynamic performance.

At the rear, the IS has updated tail-lights with a more pronounced L-shape as well as new rectangular chrome exhaust tips.

New wheel designs and a pair of new exterior colours – Deep Blue Mica and Graphite Black Glass Flake – have also been added to the range.

The interior changes are just as subtle as the exterior tweaks, but the IS gains a 10.3-inch multimedia display screen – up from 7.0 inches in the current model – which has a high-definition monitor and offers a clearer image.

The Remote Touch Interface gains ‘enter’ buttons on the sides to make it easier to use, while the audio and ventilation controls have been tweaked.

Further changes inside include the addition of some stitching, new cupholders, new markings on the analogue clock housed in the dash, and a new larger leather-wrapped ‘palm rest’ with stitching for the Remote Touch Interface.

The upgraded IS also gains the Lexus Safety System + which features a pre-collision system, lane-departure warning with ‘steering assist’, automatic high beam and adaptive cruise control.

Nothing has changed under the bonnet, with the IS continuing to be offered with either the newly launched 180kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine in IS200t models, the petrol-electric hybrid-powered IS300h, or the flagship IS350 that uses a 233kW/378Nm 3.5-litre naturally aspirated V6.

Specification levels, depending on the engine choice, include Luxury, F Sport or Sports Luxury and pricing in Australia currently ranges from $57,500 to 82,500 plus on-road costs.

A spokesperson for Lexus Australia confirmed that the IS will arrive in local showrooms in 2017 and that the line-up of IS200t, IS300h and IS350 will remain the same.

Once the car-maker’s top-seller, the IS is now second in terms of overall sales behind its NX crossover that arrived in 2014.

Sales in the over-$60,000 mid-size passenger car category in Australia jumped by nearly 19 per cent last year compared with 2014, largely thanks to the popularity of the segment-leading Mercedes-Benz C-Class that grew by 60.4 per cent last year, and its CLA stablemate that climbed 36 per cent.

The IS dropped by 24.2 per cent in 2015, no doubt impacted by the arrival of the Jaguar XE, as well as steadily increasing interest in the Infiniti Q50, Volvo S60 and the aforementioned Benz models.

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