Answering introductions of new models from BMW and Infiniti at the Detroit Auto Show, Lexus unveiled its new IS, a rear- and all-wheel-drive entry-level luxury sedan.
Like other recent models from Toyota Motor Corp., the company is emphasizing fun-to-drive aspects of the new IS250 and IS350, introduced Tuesday after competitors' introductions on Monday. Both models will come with optional F-Sport packages, which include a more aggressive front bumper and grill in addition to sport-tuned suspension and unique 18-inch alloy wheels.
"The IS has always been precise and fun to drive," said Mark Templin, Lexus group vice president and general manager. The all-new IS kicks it up a notch with true sport sedan driving dynamics, state of the art onboard technologies and an all-new design that makes it look fast even when it's standing still."
New IS styling elements include the spindle grille that Lexus has included across its entire product lineup. The headlights feature a two-piece design, with the LED daytime lights located as a separate unit below the main headlight cluster. The F-Sport package gives the IS a more imposing front bumper and grille.
All IS models have a taillight design that slopes dramatically from the rear corner of the car down toward the wheel wells.
Rear- and all-weather-drive versions of the IS 250 are powered by a 2.5 liter V-6. The IS 350 features a 3.5 liter six-cylinder. Lexus also will produce a hybrid version of the car -- but only for international markets, not the U.S.
Following a trend in the industry, the new IS 350 rear-drive model also offers an eight-speed automatic transmission the company calls Sport Direct Shift. In sport mode, the transmission has a "G force artificial intelligence" system that Lexus said automatically selects the optimal gear and downshift pattern to suit G forces while cornering.
The Lexus introduction is another sign of competition heating up in the entry-level luxury sedan segment. Earlier at the Detroit show, BMW introduced a new 320i, a four-cylinder, turbo-charged version of its venerable 3-series that will sell for $33,445, substantially below other models in the line. And Infiniti released a new Q50 sedan that includes a hybrid option that gets an impressive 354 horsepower from a electrically aided V-6.