2015 Lexus IS
The 2015 Lexus IS is an upscale daily companion that can be driven much like a sports sedan.
Who says you need an often stiff-riding sports sedan to have driving fun mixed with your need for comfort and practicality?
Certainly not Lexus. Hence, it offers the IS sedan, which provides the comforts of a luxury sedan with much of the sportiness of, say, a BMW sports sedan.
The IS certainly looks sporty, especially with the F Sport option's front bumper, rather controversial large Lexus spindle grille, general "in-motion" styling and nifty chromed dual exhaust outlets.
The IS 250 costs $36,550 with a 2.5-liter 204-horsepower V-6, while the IS 350 is $40,065 with a 3.5-liter 308-horsepower V-6.
Those prices are for models with rear-wheel drive. Those models with the sophisticated electronically controlled all-wheel-drive system cost, respectfully, $39,085 and $42,300.
I recommend the smooth, potent 3.5-liter V6 over the four-cylinder. It works with an eight-speed automatic transmission that integrates an advanced G-force artificial intelligence system to choose gears intuitively. Or that transmission can be easily shifted manually via steering wheel paddles. The 2.5-liter engine is hooked to a six-speed automatic.
The 2015 IS has the same engines as the 2014 model, which got a stretched wheebase that added rear seat room and structural improvements that enhanced its sportiness. However, rear door openings are still rather narrow, and the the big trunk is long but somewhat shallow.
The backlit gauges aren't "washed out" by bright sunlight and, while small, dashboard controls are clearly marked. Storage areas include front door pockets and a console bin. But the glove compartment is almost fully occupied by the car's owner's manual, which seems as thick as a Chicago phone book.
The quilted driver's seat offers more comfort and better lateral support, and the engine is started or stopped by pushing a dashboard button, which eliminates fooling with an ignition key.
New for 2015 are LED fog lamps, Siri Eyes Free technology from Apple, revised interior trim and a backup monitor with dynamic grid lines to aid parking maneuvers. Maybe it's just me, but I somehow didn't fully trust the grid lines and instead looked over my shoulder when backing up and parking.
Not incidentally, buyers of the IS can get a $600 blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert. It's worth its weight in gold.
Also standard in the quiet, upscale interior are a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control with new touch-sensitive electrostatic switches and 60/40 split/folding rear seatbacks that can be locked with trunk controls. Also new: a 4.2-inch full color multi-information display that provides audio, trip, navigation, phone and ambient temperature information.
I tested a rear-drive IS 350 and found it offers a good combination of luxury and sportiness. Its electric power steering system was precise, with the right amount of feedback, and the ride was comfortable over rough roads, even when I put the car in the "sport" mode via a console control. Normally, it did just fine in "comfort" mode.
The strong anti-lock brakes stopped the car quickly and surely. The braking system has electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist features.
My test car had the rather costly $3,740 F Sport package. That option contains such items as a performance adaptive variable suspension, LED headlights, 18-inch (vs. standard 17-inch) spoked sport wheels, wider tires, special instrument cluster with a tachometer, heated and ventilated front seats and a digital (but no regular) speedometer.
I would have preferred a regular speedometer--used in other IS models--placed in front of me alongside the large tachometer.
Another option--sure to be popular-- is the $2,995 navigation system and a Mark Levinson premium 15-speaker audio system and backup camera.
Safety items include traction control, vehicle stability control and an available pre-collision system with adaptive cruise control.
Lexus is pursuing younger buyers with the 2015 IS and seems to be on the right track with this car.