Welcome to The Evolution
This fall, Lexus’ zippy new CT 200h is enjoying a lot of attention, largely because, (a) it’s a great-looking car, and (b) the first drivable prototypes went on a whirlwind U.S. tour, allowing car bloggers, journalists, YouTube-posting auto enthusiasts, and interested Lexus owners to try out the vehicle and then voice a few opinions.
But—as great as all this is—there’s an entire line of sharp-looking 2011 Lexus vehicles that also hit American shores this fall, notably the Lexus IS, which received a number of new changes for this model year—and one man who definitely doesn’t want you to forget that fact is IS Chief Engineer Junichi Furuyama.
You see, the Lexus IS is Lexus’ original sport sedan. Like the idea of a sporty, zippy Lexus, but looking for a different style than the compact CT 200h? Consider the 2011 IS, says Furuyama.
The latest evolution of the sedan has pushed its sporting genes right to the surface. Furuyama says this is especially evident in the more striking-looking front. “I really like the way it looks,” he says. “The style is sportier and more athletic. To my eyes, it cuts a confident, more dynamic figure. It’s also very aerodynamic, with a low .27 Cd rating.” (That’s lower than even the Lexus LFA's wing-retracted drag coefficient rating of .31 Cd.)
One reason for the superb aerodynamics is Furuyama’s new grille shape, which gives the vehicle an even lower, wider stance—and which also happens to be good for agility. Crisper lines and the interplay of convex and concave surfaces convey balance and composure. Clean-looking sides emphasize the flared wheel arches, and the rear—with its revised light clusters and sportier-looking tailpipes—adds a sense of stability and power.
“There is more emphasis on the car’s individuality than before,” says Furuyama. “Take the headlights. The daytime running lights, where fitted, use L-shaped LEDs that are constantly illuminated when you’re driving so they have a strong identity. They tell you instantly that this is the new IS. It’s clearly a premium car, but also very obviously a sporting one.”
Furuyama says this reflects how Lexus is developing its L-finesse design philosophy. “The new IS expresses the direction Lexus is taking as we evolve L-finesse,” he says. “We’ll continue to make our cars look more distinctive.”
The IS chief engineer likes to cite the IS F Sport variant as a case in point. “It is a continuation of the Lexus F concept, which culminated in the LFA,” explains Furuyama. “The F Sport captures the visual drama of the high-performance IS F, with exclusive front and rear spoilers and bespoke 18-inch wheels. Its suspension has been tuned, too, for an even more captivating feel.”
The Lexus IS 250’s engine, a direct-injection 2.5-liter V6, also received some minor revisions designed to help deliver strong, seamless responses and pleasing fuel efficiency, aided by an advanced six-speed automatic transmission (although there’s an optional manual transmission for the rear-wheel drive IS 250).
Whichever engine is fitted, says Furuyama, the latest IS feels alert and has a seemingly intuitive ability to anticipate its driver’s intentions. “It helps that it has a near-perfect 50:50 fore-aft weight balance,” he says. The suspension has been reworked to hone ride comfort and handling agility, too, and Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) coordinates the smooth integration of electronic aids, such as the traction control (TRC), Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), and anti-lock braking (ABS).
In addition, the IS gains the new brake override system. Furuyama explains: “This system controls engine output if the brake is pressed when the accelerator is already depressed. If there is some obstruction to the pedals that causes the vehicle to accelerate unintentionally, this innovation helps you to stop the car by pressing firmly on the brakes.”
Which brings us to one last thing Mr. Furuyama wants you to know about the newest IS: He spent considerable time thinking about what it’ll look like in your driveway. Even when parked, the new IS is still a compelling car, says the chief engineer.
“I’m inspired by beautiful styling,” he says, “and the latest IS, I hope, expresses this inspiration to the fullest.”
From Lexus magazine (lexus.com/magazine)