New Lexus IS Looks to ‘Scream’ Mask for Design Inspiration

(Jan 2013) Detroit, MI North American International Auto Show

After 8 years, Lexus has finally decided to update their entry-level luxury sedan, and at least the design isn’t boring. The LED taillights look really cool and the seats appear to be pretty sporty. Sorry to say, the complements from here on out are going to be pretty sparse.

The current generation IS didn’t exactly win any beauty pageants for its conservative design, but it was well-appointed enough, and with Toyota’s reputation for reliability, nearly 300,000 IS 250, 350, and F sedans and convertibles have been sold since 2005. That easily puts it ahead of the Acura TSX but far behind the Infiniti G, not to mention perennial entry-level luxury kings BMW (3-Series) and Mercedes (C Class). Part of this is due to Lexus’s odd product mix at the low end. The IS and ES are priced roughly $1,000 apart but have completely different target markets; the IS is a RWD sporty compact car competing against the cars I listed earlier, while the ES is a softer, Camry-based midsize sedan.

In any case, dwindling sales numbers led Lexus to update the aging IS, and the result is the car you see before you. The new Lexus grille looks like something you’d find on the back of a poisonous spider, and the effect is more of an awkward, gaping hole than even an Audi A8. The extra air holes surrounding the grille don’t seem to have any sort of cohesive design and are gill-shaped on the inside, squares on the outside. The headlight cluster and lower LED strip are separated by a patch of body panel, making the strip look like haphazardly applied mascara.

The doors are flat, and the character line right underneath the windows and above the handles is arrow straight and visually uninteresting. The lower sills carry an upward-sloping line that neatly extends upward to form the lower section of the taillights, which are visible from this angle. The upper and lower section of the C pillar collide at an extremely sharp point; it’s commendable that Lexus refrained from using a clichéd Hofmeister kink, but the alternative isn’t much better. The wheels, too, are nothing worth lusting after.

The rear end is more of the same. The taillights are cribbed from those found on the LF-CC concept and look great, but they also protrude from the body work in modern Toyota fashion. I personally don’t care much for lights that aren’t integrated with the body work, but having the LEDs arranged in an “L” shape is a nice touch. The rest of the back is a normal sedan shape that isn’t worth getting excited about.

The more expensive IS350 will have roughly 300hp, making it competitive with the rest of the segment. It will also feature an eight-speed automatic, right in line with luxury car standards with respect to transmissions.

All versions of the IS will hit dealership floors in June. A full gallery is up at Autoblog.


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About Cameron Rogers

Cameron Rogers is the founder and lead writer at Downshift Autos, the only automotive blog on the Internet*. Born in the back of an AMC Gremlin, Cameron vowed to never let this extraordinarily embarrassing detail define him, so help him God. He drives a GTI but absolutely will not shut up about it if somebody asks. He will not hesitate to let people know that no, they shouldn't get a Porsche 911 when a Morgan 3 Wheeler is so obviously the superior choice. He is obsessed with the seats of a Carrera GT and the steering wheel of a Fisker Karma. He once sat in the driver's seat of a Tesla Model S, his greatest accomplishment to date. He is just now realizing that writing an autobiography, however miniscule, in the third person is odd and unnerving. *As of this writing, Cameron has been informed that there are, in fact, many websites and blogs centered around cars and car culture. He regrets his grievous error.

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