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Lexus unveils crucial new IS series

Dramatic redesign, extra tech, better dynamics for fourth-gen Lexus IS due late 2020

16 Jun 2020

LEXUS has torn the covers off its fourth-generation IS mid-sized sedan, a model the Japanese luxury brand says debuts a number of state-of-the-art technologies, improved dynamics and dramatic styling.


The aggressive new design is immediately apparent, with the premium rear-wheel-drive sedan sitting lower and wider than its predecessor and featuring pumped-up and reinterpreted signature styling cues. 


At the front there is a fresh take on Lexus’ familiar gaping grille design, now wider and more curved as it makes it way down toward the front bumper.


Slimmer headlights add a focused, squinting expression to the entire arrangement, which is enhanced by the broader stance courtesy of wider wheel tracks – +45mm and the front and +50mm at the rear. 


From almost every angle the model is recognisably an IS, even with a more steeply curving roofline as Lexus takes its mid-sizer down the four-door coupe-style path.


The designers have made the currently subtle upsweeping side sculpting far more prominent, feeding it neatly into the flared rear wheelarches rather than tracking upwards to meet the redesigned tail-lights.


And it is here, at the rear, where the biggest styling changes have been made.


The rear diffuser/bumper is now much bigger in every aspect and the previously split tail-light arrangement has been replaced by a new “single-blade rear combination” stretching across the boot lid, with the red brake light strip flicking up in an L-shape at either end.


The boot line is now much higher than before and features an integrated lip spoiler for added visual flair.


Not only is the new body stylish and more aggressive than before, but according to Lexus stiffer as well thanks to the wider tracks, increased number of front side-member weld points and “optimising structures from the rear-quarter pillars to the sides of the roof, among other areas”.


The car-maker says the increased track width and extra stiffness also combine with a lower centre of gravity to boost the model’s agility, with a particular emphasis on steering response and feel.


Engineers have given the suspension a rework, too, with the new generation featuring new swing-valve shock absorbers to enhance the ride quality.


Powertrain options include the familiar 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, 2.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid and 3.5-litre V6, all carried over from the current series with a few unique mapping tweaks to increase responsiveness.


The 2.0-litre turbo in the IS300 now features “enhanced adaptive control”, resulting in quicker and more decisive gear selection through the carryover eight-speed automatic transmission.


The hybrid has been treated to increased throttle response, while the V6 appears to be little changed. Lexus says full details will be confirmed closer to launch.


For reference, the current 2.0-litre produces 180kW/350Nm, the hybrid makes 164kW – Lexus does not quote a combined torque figure for the hybrid – while the V6 churns out 233kW/376Nm.


Equipment levels are likewise still to be confirmed, although headline features will include the standard fitment of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – a first for the IS.


Lexus’ Safety System+ suite has also been upgraded, with new functionality including driver emergency stop assist, emergency steering assist and low-speed acceleration control.


The existing lane-trace assist system now has improved lane recognition performance while the pre-collision safety system been expanded to include intersection detection.


According to Lexus Australia chief executive Scott Thompson, the all-new IS represents a key opportunity for the brand.


“Australian customer preferences align perfectly with the focus on sharp design, dynamic performance and cutting-edge technology with the stunning new IS, making it an important addition to Lexus dealerships later this year,” he said.


“Combined with Lexus values of customer care and the experiences delivered by the renowned Encore program, loyal and new luxury customers will be delighted by both the new IS and the Lexus luxury lifestyle.


“The IS also joins the successful ES to reinforce the Lexus commitment to the passenger vehicle segment, providing customers the luxury of choice with sedans that deliver diverse appeal.”


So far this year ending May, Lexus has shifted 208 examples of the IS, down 156 units on the same period last year and accounting for 4.9 per cent of the $60,000+ medium sedan segment.


Last year, Lexus recorded 818 IS sales, down 24.9 per cent on 2018.

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