2014 Lexus IS Road Test Review

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There is much to love about the new Lexus IS sedans. Better looking, more spacious, and bristling with an abundance of tech, the small Lexus four-door now feels more like a Lexus than ever before.

For 2014, Lexus is offering the IS in two models, the IS 250 and the IS 350. Both are powered by V6 engines, are available with either-rear- or all-wheel drive, and have F Sport packages. A Premium Package and a Luxury Package are offered too.

Standard features have already been announced in the U.S. and should be similar when made available here in Canada, including HID headlamps, LED daytime running lights, Drive Mode Select, paddle shifters, a dual zone climate control system, the Lexus Remote Touch Interface, Display Audio, 10 airbags, and subscription-free real-time traffic and weather information.

The 2014 F Sport package consists of a full-mesh grille, LED headlamps, 18-inch five-spoke wheels, sport seats, and a more aggressive suspension. Inside, the attention-grabbing centre-mounted tachometer/speedometer is adopted directly from the LFA. The IS 350 F Sport also adds standard Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) with a Sport S+ drive mode. For the first time, the F Sport package is also available for AWD IS models.

Spend more than five seconds talking with a Lexus representative and they will manage to slip in the fact the 2014 IS cockpit was inspired by the LFA supercar at least twice. And yes, the word cockpit specifically applies, as the driver is literally surrounded by the tools needed to manage the progress of the IS. The ergonomics are beyond reproach. Everything you need to touch can be accessed without leaning forward.

The sport seats offer excellent support, though we do wish the lower seat cushions were either longer or offered retractable thigh support extensions. The positioning of the headrests is also a bit too aggressive. They could be relaxed by about five degrees and still provide whiplash protection.

The softly rounded surfaces, gracefully sweeping centre console, and the premium materials all say Lexus. They also say sporty; particularly that deliciously sculpted sport steering wheel. Sized just right, it's a joy to both hold and behold. Occupying the place of honour in the dash is an evolution of the brilliant integrated tachometer/speedometer from the LFA. We love the way it groups everything you need to know where it can be immediately digested and acted upon.

Carried over from the 2013 IS, the engines are the 204-horsepower 2.5-litre V6 producing 185 ft-lbs of torque for the IS 250, and the 3.5-litre, 306-horsepower, 277 ft-lb V6 for the IS 350. However, both are saddled with 90 kilos more weight so the 2014 models are a bit slower than the '13s. U.S. EPA fuel economy is estimated at the metric equivalent of 12.4-city/11.2-highway for the 350-9.0-city/7.6-highway for the IS 250. Canadian estimates will be available closer to launch.

While the six-speed automatic transmission is also carried over, an eight-speed Sport Direct Shift automatic transmission with paddle shifters and G-Force Artificial Intelligence (originally fitted to the IS F) is standard equipment for rear drive versions of the 2014 IS 350. The Lexus Drive Mode System provides three operating modes for the standard cars (Eco, Normal, and Sport) and four modes for IS 350 F Sport cars (Eco, Normal, Sport, and Sport +). All-wheel drive models get an additional mode-Snow.

While the 2014 Lexus IS 250 and 350 are larger, heavier and a bit slower than the 2013s, they also ride better and are quieter too. They turn in nicely, grip really well, respond to steering inputs nicely, change direction at high speeds quite readily, and their brakes respond obediently to modulation as well. They just don't feel as sharp as the cars they replace, which is what we were referring to earlier when we said the 2014 IS is more "Lexus-like" than any previous version of the car.

Because it is underpowered, this is exacerbated in the IS 250. A six-speed manual transmission would make it more fun, but a clutch pedal is no longer numbered among IS offerings. Frankly, if any car ever needed a pair of turbochargers…

However, the IS 350 F Sport, with its adaptive suspension system, Variable Gear Ratio Steering (which makes the car turn in much more sharply), the Sport + drive mode, and the smart eight-speed automatic transmission is quite the engaging piece. It's the one we'd choose.

Like we said, there really is much to love about the new 2014 Lexus IS model lineup.
Better looking, more capacious, and more luxurious, it's more Lexus-like than either of its two generations of predecessors. Thing is, in a sport sedan that might be cause for concern.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sport Sedan, Lexus, 2014, IS 250, IS 350, IS 350 F Sport, IS 250 F Sport, $40,000 - $49,999, $50,000 - $74,999,

Organizations: Lexus

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