February 22, 2012
2012 Lexus IS 350 AWD. Click image to enlarge
The instrument cluster uses the Lexus electroluminescent system, with the ring of the speedometer or tachometer illuminated according to the vehicle or engine speed. The speedometer ring turns orange, for instance when you reach 120 km/h, which is actually quite useful as the IS 350 AWD is a deceptively quick car.
What I didn’t like was the low-resolution display for navigation and audio. It contrasts markedly with the sharp, jewel-like precision of the major gauges. I did like the nicely engineered shiftgate that gives fingertip control to gear selection, and the fine level of trim detail throughout the cabin. It looks and feels high-end, as a Lexus should.
Fuel consumption is average for this type of car, with current prices ($1.28 per litre, premium required) equating to a $70 fill-up. Official estimates are 11.5/7.9 L/100km, city/highway. The latest German competitors – the BMW 335i xDrive, for instance – prom,ise similar numbers.
Seats are firm and supportive, and with the luxury package they are also heated and cooled. The latter will be appreciated when entering a hot cabin in the summer as it sends cooled air through the ventilated leather upholstery. Rear seat occupants will find their accommodations cramped (unless they’re quite small). Both legroom and headroom are in short supply back there.
And herein lies the rub with the IS line of cars: they’re on the small side (at least, they are now). Many of the IS competitors have grown over the past few years, with the compact Lexus ending up considerably shorter than the new BMW 3 Series, and even more so in comparison with the Audi A4. Significantly, the Lexus wheelbase is also shorter, and that typically translates to the type of cozy rear cabin experienced in the current IS.
Which suggests, of course, that the new IS — expected as a 2013 model — may well be somewhat larger. Likely it will arrive with a more comprehensive range of standard features, along with maybe 18-inch wheels and the new “spindle” grille that Lexus has introduced on the GS, along with refreshed styling.
So, should you wait for the new IS (which at this point is not yet announced), or go with the existing version?
As l said, I found this model thoroughly agreeable to drive in its current form, and although ours was a somewhat conservative silver (“Tungsten,” actually) with black interior, in black with a tan interior the Lexus IS positively striking. I’d be wrangling for a good deal at this point in this model’s history, however.