Here at Cool Material, any time we’re offered an exclusive preview of a new automobile, we’re intrigued. So when Lexus invited us to spend some time with the re-designed 2014 IS sport sedan, including an afternoon testing its mettle on a racetrack, we couldn’t say no. So after a packed flight, we found ourselves in Austin, Texas smack in the middle of the annual South by Southwest Music & Innovation festival ready to hop behind the wheel.
While the weather was miserable back at home, it was a bright sunny morning in Austin. After having a fantastic southern breakfast of biscuits, sausage gravy, and coffee, it was time to get to, ahem, work. Parked out front of the hotel were a handful of the newly re-designed Lexus IS 250s and 350s including an F-Sport as well as several members of the Lexus design and engineering team.
At first glance, this is a visually stunning automobile. The front of the new IS now incorporates the spindle grill that is found in most other Lexus vehicles as well as stylish L shaped LED daytime running lights. While this new pinched grill has been somewhat controversial in the media, it is actually the start point of aerodynamic improvements designed to improve the performance of the IS. Body sculpting that begins behind the front wheels and continues up through the rear tail lights contribute to aerodynamic efficiency as well as complementing the overall design of the IS.
Opening the door of an IS 350 to a well-designed, modern interior, our attention immediately fell upon the center of the dashboard which played host to the Lexus Enform interface. This technologically advanced system wirelessly connects you to all of your favorite smartphone apps allowing for a truly interactive driving experience. Other slick features included requisite paddle shifters for the 6 or 8 speed transmission, 3-D map displays, and electrostatic touch based temperature controls. While the electrostatic touch controls were cool to look at, we felt they lacked the precision of a normal dial. And since you will conceivably have a passenger or even someone in the backseat every once in awhile, the IS has an additional 3 inches that improve overall legroom. The only other drawback to this otherwise stylish interior is the turn signal – the car lacked a positive stop in the up or down position.
Out on the roads of Austin, the IS was a blast. Triple digit MPH was no problem at all thanks to the 306 hp 3.5 liter V-6. Shamefully, this was accomplished on Rte. 2244 in Austin. We resolved that any further shenanigans could wait for the racetrack.
After lunch and mandatory email, instagram, facebook, and twitter activities, we headed for the Driveway Austin race track. Pulling into the track, we were greeted by several 2014 IS F-Sports as well as a 2013 IS F-Sport and a BMW 335i and Mercedes C350 for the sake of comparison. Track conditions were dry, visibility was good. 72 degrees. Strapped into the performance seats, we took a moment to take in the LFA inspired interior. Front and center, a lone tachometer let us keep track of engine rpm. Fortunately or unfortunately, the MPH indicator was somewhat lost amongst the other indicators in the center of the tachometer. Directly below the gear shifter, we made sure we were in Sport Mode and traction control was on. Or was it off? Who knows. It no longer mattered as we are cleared to go.
Slamming the gas pedal to the floor breaks loose the rear tires, engine rpms and mph racing each other and we are already on to the first turn. Exiting the turn, we were able to hang the rear end out which delighted us with the sounds of screeching tires. This car was made for the racetrack. And we were all fucking smiles! We were able to reach 100 mph on the back straightaway. Grip was tenacious. In sport mode, you had to really try to make the F-Sport lose its composure. The V-6’s throaty growl was music to our ears. Two laps later, we pull into pit row. Moments later, we are back on the track, each successive time pushing the F-Sport harder and harder. The smell of exhaust, burning rubber, and over-taxed brakes fill the interior. It was a comforting realization that the IS has functional air intakes to cool the front brakes. This was an adrenaline rush. Gas pedal on the floor at 7000 plus rpms. Hard on the brakes entering the turns, hard on the gas exiting them. All in air-conditioned comfort listening to satellite radio. The F-Sport never let us down. After nearly 20 laps, we pull into pit row for the last time.
We came to the conclusion that we want to do this all day, every day.
The re-designed Lexus IS sports sedan. Available later this year.