New iS out to regain glory
It's only being released to the public at this month's Detroit Auto Show, but we already have some details of Lexus' important new third-generation 3-series BMW chaser: the iS model.
The first official pictures of the all-new Lexus iS show a more powerful if less elegant exterior compared with its predecessor, and a new frontal treatment that uses the company's new signature "Spindle Grille". Our jury's still out on the front end, which may work on the bigger GS and LS models, but makes the new iS look a little down in the mouth. The styling was first trialled at last year's Paris motor show, on the LF- CC concept car.
Lexus says the new car cabin is more spacious and driver-focused, taking advantage of the increased width and longer wheelbase, which allow for significantly more comfort for rear seat passengers and greater luggage capacity. The combination of the extended wheelbase and a slimmer front seat design delivers best-in-class knee-room and access to the rear. The new rear seats also have a 60:40 split-folding function.
A new-design driver's seat is more comfortable and provides better lateral support. The seat hip point and the angle of the new steering wheel - inspired by the LFA supercar - are both lower, and the steering wheel's reach adjustment has been increased, giving for a more sporting driving position.
The refinement of the cabin materials, trims and finishes is complemented, says Lexus, by advances in HMI (human machine interface) technology and the introduction of a high-quality analogue clock. The centre console controls feature a Lexus first: electrostatic switches that need just a finger touch to adjust various minor controls.
The iS range will also feature a new F Sport model which can be recognised by a special grille and front bumper design. The kink of the spindle-shaped grille is set higher than on the standard models, creating a larger lower grille that can draw in the greater volume of cooling air.
The iS F Sport also has an exclusive seat design that provides extra support.
The seats are made using an integrated foaming method that ensures there are no gaps between the upholstery and the filling, giving excellent comfort.
The new iS is aimed at BMW's 3-series, which has just enjoyed a complete model change as well as the C-class Mercedes-Benz and Audi A4, both of which are due for revamps.
In the main Lexus market of the US, the car's polarising styling will be less of a problem than in more conservative markets like Australia and New Zealand, but whether the new iS is going to be popular enough to re-establish the Lexus brand at the top of the American luxury car rankings will be a moot point.
We know it will be beautifully made and totally reliable, but looks can be so important, especially when playing keep-up- with-the-Joneses where your next- door neighbour's opinion can really count.
- Kapiti Observer