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Driven: Lexus lobs refreshed IS range

Vents ahoy: The updated IS range scores a pair of huge front bar vents that first featured on the RC coupe.

Sharply styled Lexus IS sedan gains incremental tweaks throughout

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Lexus logo22 Nov 2016

By TIM ROBSON

LEXUS Australia has introduced an updated version of its IS mid-size sedan range three years after the launch of the third-generation version, ushering in subtle changes inside and out.

Extra safety technology is also now standard across the range. Previously, the IS was only available with radar cruise control, but the entire line-up has been updated with Lexus’ Safety System Plus bundle, which adds active lane departure, emergency city braking and automatic high beam to an improved radar/camera cruise control system.

Lexus Australia chief executive officer Peter McGregor said that the update for the IS – which has found more than one million homes since its launch in 1999, and 35,000 locally – is an important one in the face of softening popularity for sedans in Australia, as well as being vital in the battle with its German rivals.

“You can look at it as a normal mid-life upgrade, and I’m happy to admit that I welcome it. But in truth, it’s a lot more than that,” he said at the IS’s launch in Victoria.

“It’s an intelligent and extremely well thought out upgrade. It’s the sum of the parts that make the difference.

“We think it’s come in good time, and will make a bit of an impact in the segment. We’re looking for a better outcome than we are currently achieving.”

Pricing has increased slightly across the board, with the entry-level IS200t adding $690 to start at $59,340 before on-road costs for the Luxury spec. It tops out with the IS350 Sports Luxury at $84,160 before on-roads, a jump of $290.

The IS, which is pitched into the exec tech battle against Audi’s all-new A4, BMW’s 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz’s C-Class, is off the boil in terms of sales, slipping back some 22 per cent year on year for a total of 1408 examples to the end of November compared with 1820 for that same period in 2015.

It is currently sitting fifth in the premium mid-size segment behind the German trio and the Benz CLA and is just over 70 units ahead of Jaguar’s popular XE.

The three F-Sport variants have increased the most, jumping between $890 and $950.

The exterior of the IS is dominated by the prominent air vents on the front bar that mimic those on the front of the RC. Such is the prominence of the vents, they actually lengthen the car by 15mm.

Lexus’ trademark ‘spindle’ grille has been re-profiled as well, while a set of narrower headlights bring the IS into line with the rest of the Lexus range.

New-shape daytime running lamps have also been fitted, along with a lower rear bumper across the range, new LED tail-lights and new exhaust tips on the IS350.

New alloy rims have been specced for Luxury grade ISs as well as for the IS350, and there are two new colours on offer. Deep Blue MC is a new hue, while Graphite Black replaces Starlight Black in the range.

The interior makeover is dominated by the addition of a 10.3-inch infotainment screen across the line, replacing a 7.0-inch unit. Other small changes – 15 in all – include the clock, thicker knee pads, heater control and audio panel, steering-wheel switches, shift lever and inside door handles.

The cupholders, too, have been redesigned to allow for phone stowage and more flexibility for different cup types.

The front suspension of the IS has been lightly tweaked, with a stiffer upper mount and a new alloy lower control arm and revised bushing.

These small changes are the only mechanical ones made to the IS, with the three-engine range remaining unchanged for 2016.

The 8AR-FTS 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that debuted in the compact NX in 2015 produces the same 180kW/350Nm outputs as before. It is backed by an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The IS350 uses a 3.5-litre petrol six – code-named 2GR-FKS – makes 221kW and 370Nm and uses an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The IS300h, meanwhile uses a 2AR-FSE Atkinson-cycle petrol engine rated to 133kW in conjunction with a 105kW electric motor for a combined total of 165kW.

In terms of standard spec, every IS now features active cruise control, automatic high-beam, pre-collision safety system and lane-departure warning with sway warning system.

Previously, only radar-based active cruise control was standard on the IS line.

All IS models also have 10 airbags, reversing and surround sonar, rearview camera with rear guide assist, heated and power-folding mirrors, daytime running lamps, automatic windscreen wipers, paddle shifters, digital radio, LCD multi-information display, a touch controller, satellite navigation, heated and ventilated front seats, voice-controlled infotainment and a tyre pressure monitor.

2017 Lexus IS pricing*
IS200t Luxury (a)$59,340 (+$690)
IS200t F Sport (a)$67,480 (+$950)
IS200t Sports Luxury (a)$78,040 (+$290)
IS300h Luxury (a)$61,890 (+$490)
IS300h F Sport (a)$70,310 (+$950)
IS300h Sports Luxury (a)$81,160 (+$620)
IS350 Luxury (a)$65,390 (+$690)
IS350 F Sport (a)$73,540 (+$890)
IS350 Sports Luxury (a)$84,160 (+$290)
*Excludes on-road costs

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