We'll leave the critical details about the 2014 Lexus IS to your imagination largely because Lexus left them to ours. But yesterday we slid still-disguised F-Sport trim levels of the IS 250 and IS 350 around a wet road course. We also blasted them up a canyon road with impunity. Still, the details didn't materialize.
The impressions, however, did.
What We Know So Far When it comes to hard facts about the next-generation Lexus IS sedan, here's what we know right now: The new car's wheelbase is longer and it is marginally heavier. How much isn't clear in either case, but based on the improved rear-seat space we'd say the wheelbase is stretched at least 1.5 inches, maybe more given the 3.1-inch chasm between the current IS and the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series.
Assuming our lip-reading skills are still well tuned, weight will increase about 90 pounds depending on feature content.
Engines from the two styles are carried over into the new car. That means about 200 horsepower from the 2.5-liter V6 in the IS 250 and about 300 hp from the 3.5-liter V6 in the IS 350. One major upgrade for the IS 350 will be the use of the Aisin-built eight-speed automatic from the company's IS F and LS models. IS 250 styles will continue to use the same six-speed auto. Manual transmissions, it seems, will continue to be as rare as zoomie headers at Lexus.
Body and suspension revisions are minor. Their main goal is to bring more chassis stiffness, ride control latitude and trunk space.
It isn't an all-new IS, but it is a subtly different car on the road.
How the Lexus IS Feels Behind the Wheel Pound the new 2014 Lexus IS around a wet autocross course like we did and you'll notice it's simply not as lively as the old car. It's not as eager to change directions in many instances, but the longer wheelbase delivers stability in places the current model doesn't. Whether this matters to you probably depends a lot on how often you plan to hammer your IS around a wet autocross course.
But a wet autocross is a less critical dynamic measure than, say, the Nürburgring, where Toyota proves its performance cars. Junichi Furuyama, IS chief engineer, didn't say the new car is slower there, but he admitted as much by saying its time wasn't measured.
Even if this is the case, it's hard to argue with the results on the road. In that environment the car is predictable, stable and still plenty rapid. And that's exactly what Lexus wanted — a sedan that's simple, safe and still enjoyable to drive.
In the new IS there are modest grip limits combined with excellent balance and solid manners at speed. It's what we'd expect from a Lexus sport sedan — good, sanitary fun.
The Real Goal According to Furuyama, the primary goal with the new car wasn't to make it faster anyway, but rather to produce a machine with immediate response that doesn't compromise comfort.
A stiffer body structure is the primary means to gaining latitude in both arenas, according to Furuyama. Structural improvements include additional spot welds, laser screw welds and about 80 feet of adhesive, which isn't present in the current IS.
The IS's double-wishbone front and multilink rear suspensions are still present. Out back, however, there's a new suspension design borrowed from the larger GS sedan. It separates the previous suspension's concentric spring/damper assembly and places the spring inboard of the damper. This increases the distance between the suspension towers, which produces more trunk space.
A 20 percent increase in front stabilizer bar rigidity aids body control and steering feel, while the addition of active dampers allows more (or less) compliance to compensate in ride quality.
Also high on Furuyama's priority list was a tangible increase in road feel through the steering, as well as improved on-center feedback. What he's achieved isn't quite as clear. Certainly the steering feel is different. It is abundant enough to guide the car sideways between cones, so who are we to complain? There's more weight when Sport Plus mode is engaged, but in Normal mode differences are negligible. There's nothing bad here, but also nothing revolutionary.
The New Eight-Speed Transmission More gears are nice, but the new eight-speed in the Lexus IS 350 isn't as obedient as it should be in many situations. Upshifts, for example, are still automatic when the shifter is moved to the manual gate and aggressive downshifts are often denied. These are early prototypes, so calibration changes are still possible.
We got lost in its many gear ratios more than once, but that's an adjustment that would come with more seat time. Plus, there are genuine benefits to this many gears. Increased fuel economy and plausibly better acceleration both come to mind.
One interface that is certainly improved is the IS's instrument panel, which is a multimode thin-film transistor display similar to that of the 2012 Lexus LFA. Swap the drive mode from Eco to Normal to Sport Plus and the center-mounted tachometer changes attitudes accordingly.
All the Tech That Would Fit Unable to resist the pull of acronym alphabet soup, the 2014 Lexus IS offers Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) and Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS) coupled to Drive Mode Select (DMS).
Eco, Normal and Sport drive modes are chosen via a center-console-mounted knob. The variable-rate dampers change with drive modes, becoming stiffer as more aggressive settings are picked. Steering ratio slows as vehicle speed increases, independent of drive mode. These two features aren't available on the IS 250, where switching to Sport mode changes only the throttle calibration.
New seats are a worthy improvement, providing the ample bolstering that the current car critically lacks. They also place the driver's hip point about 0.75 inch lower in the body, which is sure to be a popular improvement with the long of torso.
More To Come Soon Much like the power, weight and wheelbase specs on the 2014 Lexus IS, pricing for the new sedan remains a mystery. Expect full details when Lexus officially unveils the IS at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show next month.
Until then, know that this latest IS isn't a ground-breaker, but based on this brief drive it's got both the comfort and dynamic ability to solidly compete.
Even without zoomie headers.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
Is the 2014 Lexus IS 350 a good car? Edmunds experts have compiled a robust series of ratings and reviews for the 2014 Lexus IS 350 and all model years in our database. Our rich content includes expert reviews and recommendations for the 2014 IS 350 featuring deep dives into trim levels and features, performance, mpg, safety, interior, and driving. Edmunds also offers expert ratings, road test and performance data, long-term road tests, first-drive reviews, video reviews and more.
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How do people like the 2014 Lexus IS 350? Consumer ratings and reviews are also available for the 2014 Lexus IS 350 and all its trim types. Overall, Edmunds users rate the 2014 IS 350 4.6 on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Edmunds consumer reviews allow users to sift through aggregated consumer reviews to understand what other drivers are saying about any vehicle in our database. Detailed rating breakdowns (including performance, comfort, value, interior, exterior design, build quality, and reliability) are available as well to provide shoppers with a comprehensive understanding of why customers like the 2014 IS 350.
Review Just traded in my 08 cadillac CTS on this new 2014 IS350 AWD. I have been a GM guy all my life and decided to go with my first import car. I looked at BMW, Audi, Ford Fusion and a few others. If you are looking for a true sport sedan, look else were. This is more luxury than sport. It has a very comfortable interior and perfectly laid out. It does handle great and has very impressive performance. I still think BMW does handle a little better. Audi was a little too stiff riding but had a lush interior. But Lexus fit all my requirements this time. I have only owned it for a couple months, so far, so good. I hope it's reliable as they say. Updated Oct.09/16 Reliability has been OK. Something drained the battery one day, and when taken to the dealer, they had no explanation. This happens to my friends GS350 constantly. The voice activation/navigation is a joke and Lexus should be embarrassed. Lots of road noise for a car of this price. I will be trading this car in for another brand once the warranty is due.
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Is the 2014 Lexus Is-350 safe? The 2014 Lexus Is-350 earned a 5-star overall safety rating from NHTSA and "GOOD" ratings from the IIHS in the following caregories: Side Impact Test, Moderate Overlap Front Test Results, and a JD POWER overall quality rating of 3.0 out of 5. Among Edmunds' many tools and resources for finding your perfect car are detailed safety ratings and analysis from NHTSA, IIHS, and JD Power, including overall ratings, frontal barrier crash ratings, side impact tests and crash ratings, rollover test results, roof strength tests, rear crash protection and head restraint ratings, side barrier ratings, combined side barrier and pole ratings, and more.
What options are available on the 2014 Lexus IS 350?
Available Lexus IS 350 2014 Submodel Types: Sedan
Available Trims: Base
Exterior Colors: Nebula Gray Pearl, Obsidian, Ultra White, Matador Red Mica, Atomic Silver, Silver Lining Metallic, Smoky Granite Mica, Caviar, Starfire Pearl, Breakwater Blue Metallic, Crystal White, Black Onyx, Glacier Frost Mica, Redline, Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0
Interior Colors: Black leather, Rioja Red leather, Black leatherette, Flaxen leather, Parchment leather, Stratus Gray leatherette, Black premium leather, Chateau leatherette, Light Gray leatherette, Ecru premium leather, Parchment leatherette
Popular Features: Alarm, Audio and cruise controls on steering wheel, Auto Climate Control, Aux Audio Inputs, Multi-Zone Climate Control, Power Driver Seat, Rear Bench Seats, Stability Control, Sunroof/Moonroof, Tire Pressure Warning, Trip Computer, Bluetooth, Post-collision safety system, USB Inputs, Upgraded Headlights, Fold Flat Rear Seats, Heated seats, AWD/4WD, Keyless Entry/Start, Leather Seats, Back-up camera, Navigation, Blind Spot Monitoring, Cooled Seats, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Pre-collision safety system, Upgraded Stereo, Parking sensors