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Paris show: Lexus up its M3 ante with IS F upgrade

F-trooper: Upgraded IS F scores LED daytime running lights and a host of interior upgrades.

Facelifted Lexus IS F images and details emerge a month ahead of its Oz launch

16 Sep 2010

LEXUS has issued first images of the upgraded IS F compact sports sedan that will go on sale alongside the new IS350 variant within the facelifted MY11 Lexus IS range in Australia in late October.

First details of the MY11 IS facelift, to make its world debut at the Paris motor show on September 30, were announced two weeks ago and now Lexus has confirmed its answer to BMW’s M3 and the top-selling Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG will get a more aggressive version of the new-look front-end to be worn by garden-variety MY11 IS models.

As with the MY11 IS range, the IS F's front-end is headlined by LED daytime running lights beneath its standard Xenon headlights.

Inside, the MY11 IS F scores a redesigned instrument binnacle featuring a new centrally mounted tachometer and gearshift indicator, as well as the addition of new dark silver carbon-fibre-look interior trim details.

For 2011, the IS F also gains a new ‘Starlight Black GF’ exterior finish, a revised front seat design that is said to offer improved support and features with blue (rather than white) contrast stitching for the leather upholstery, and a new steering wheel that Lexus says improves grip and feel.

GoAuto understands all of these new features will be applied to Australia’s IS F following the MY11 IS line-up’s local debut at the Sydney motor show on October 15, along with a number of 2010 model year upgrades seen previously.

31 center imageLeft: Upgraded MY11 IS250 and, below, the MY11 IS F.They include a striking new black and orange interior colour scheme, the fitment of a limited-slip rear differential, revised front and rear coil springs and dampers that aim to improve ride comfort, and uprated rear suspension geometry to enhance high-speed stability. Lexus says the changes make the IS F more stable during accelerating, braking and cornering, while improving damping control and steering response.

Apart from being Euro 5 emissions-compliant, the performance outputs of the range-topping IS F’s 5.0-litre V8 engine, which can propel the sedan to 100km/h in just 4.8 seconds and on to a 270km/h top speed, remain unchanged at 311kW and 505Nm.

Likewise, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions remain the same, as does the IS F’s eight-speed Sport Direct Shift (SPDS) automatic transmission.

As we’ve reported, Europe’s new 110kW/340Nm 2.0-litre diesel-powered IS200d variant will not be part of Australia’s MY11 range, which will be headlined by a new IS350 variant motivated by a high-output version of the 3.5-litre petrol V6 seen here in the Aurion, Kluger, RAV4 and Tarago, developing 233kW and 378Nm.

In terms of performance, that puts the IS350 about mid-way between the 153kW/252Nm 2.5-litre V6 in the standard MY11 IS250 (which comes with a taller final drive ratio and therefore reduced fuel consumption of 8.4L/100km) and the IS F.

The 2.5-litre engine in the MY11 IS250C coupe-convertible is now also Euro 5-compliant (and offers reduced fuel consumption of 9.2L/100km) and will also be matched as standard with an upgraded version of the IS range’s ‘6 Super ECT’ six-speed automatic transmission.

For MY11, a new F-Sport grade should also be available in Australia on both the IS250 and IS350. It includes a range of exclusive exterior and interior styling details and, for the IS250, unique sports suspension tuning.

Highlights include a sportier front bumper with mesh upper and lower grille inserts and aerodynamic lip spoilers, exclusive 18-inch wheels (with 225/40 front and 255/40 rear tyres), an F-Sport rear spoiler and exterior colour choices from the IS F palette.

While the F-Sport cabin also includes leather/fabric sports seats and steel blue metallic trim inserts, all 2011 IS models will come with a more deeply recessed front grille with reshaped vertical bars and revised Lexus L-finesse ‘arrowhead’ motif, and revised ‘dark smoke’ coated headlights, complete with LED daytime running lamps (on models where Xenon headlights are fitted).

There is also a reshaped bumper with integrated foglights, a revised lower grille section, new 17 and 18-inch alloy wheel designs and three new exterior colours (two shades of blue and the ‘Starlight’ black), while the rear-end comprises a revised tail-light cluster with a new pink smoked turn signal lens. The IS250 also picks up a thicker circular exhaust outlet.

Inside, there is a new metal finish to the meter rings, steering wheel switchgear and glovebox door, and the application of a high-gloss black metallic coating to the door trim and centre console switchgear surrounds, while Lexus says the transparency of the Optitron meter surface glass increases from 30 to 50 per cent.

Alongside the MY11 IS range at Paris, Lexus will stage the global production debut of its first hatchback, the all-new Prius-based CT200h hybrid, which goes on sale in Australia in early 2011.

To August this year Lexus Australia has sold 1823 examples of the mainstream IS sedan – up 24 per cent on 2009 figures – as well as 349 IS250C convertibles (up a massive 283 per cent) and 77 versions of the IS F.

While that represents a 5.5 per cent sales increase over last year (and has helped Lexus to a 16 per cent sales increase in 2010 overall), the C63 remains Australia’s favourite mid-sized sports sedan by a big margin.

So far this year Benz has sold no fewer than 374 examples of the C63 sedan, while BMW Australia has found a total of 219 homes for its M3 range – including 103 coupes, 82 sedans and 34 convertibles.

While that means the M3 sedan outsold the IS F by just five cars to August this year, it also makes the C63 more popular than any $70,000 high-performance automatic rear-drive V8 sedan on sale in Australia.

According to Mercedes, the HSV Senator, HSV GTS and FPV’s entire model range have attracted less than half of the C63’s sales volume this year.

Overall, the C-class also remains Australia’s top-selling mid-size sedan priced over $60,000 this year with a segment share of 31.2 per cent – well ahead of BMW’s 3 Series (24.4 per cent), Audi’s A4 (18.5 per cent) and the IS250 (13.4 per cent).

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