In the 1990s, medium-sized premium sedans accounted for sales of approximately 90,000 units per month in Europe. While Lexus had the LS and GS to lead the brand in competing in the premium sedan market, the company lacked a direct competitor to more compact, entry-level models.
That changed in 1999 with the debut of the IS, a new entry-level Lexus charged with attracting a new group of younger customers to the brand through the appeal of its stylish design and sporting driving performance. The IS also served as a showcase for Lexus’ unique brand attributes, serving as a stepping-stone for those eventually upgrading to the GS and LS.
Despite being perceived as an “entry-level” model, the first generation IS combined aggressive styling and agile, engaging handling with the smooth, powerful engines, quiet ride and luxurious quality that defines the Lexus brand. Newly developed 2.0 and 3.0 liter engines and a new 6-speed manual transmission brought a new-found sportiness to the Lexus range, while the IS still offered segment-leading levels of safety performance.
The second generation IS of 2005 introduced the distinctive and sophisticated styling of the L-finesse design philosophy to the model range, and a even higher quality interior offering technical features and advanced equipment not available in rival premium compact sedans.
Driving performance was further improved by the introduction of newly developed 2.5 and 3.5 liter V6 petrol engines and a new automatic transmission with paddle shift override. The range also saw the introduction of Lexus’ first diesel engine, a powerful, technically sophisticated 2.2 liter unit.
Built by enthusiasts for enthusiasts, the IS F was the first Lexus to wear the F badge. It introduced a new breed of Lexus, in which every detail was honed and refined to deliver maximum performance and take the pleasure of driving to a new extreme.
The IS F’s 5.0 liter V8 delivered 416 hp through the world’s first 8-speed transmission, equipping the car with 0-100 km/h acceleration in just 4.6 seconds, and a maximum speed of 275 km/h.
With painstaking testing carried out on racing circuits both in Japan and abroad, including the Fuji Speedway and the North Loop of the Nurburgring, most components related to driving performance were developed exclusively for the IS F, from the engine, transmission and suspension to the aluminium wheels and exclusive tires.
In 2009, Lexus introduced the IS C, which featured the world’s fastest operating 3-piece hardtop convertible roof. In developing the new IS C, Lexus went a step further, building on the traditional company values of unrivalled prestige, quality and high-tech innovation with a specific focus on reinforcing the unique feelings of excitement and freedom inherent in open-topped motoring.
Following the release of the first generation IS, it was marketed in 37 countries with average monthly sales totaling some 2,300 units. After the 2005 model change introduction, the IS was sold in 72 countries and its average monthly sales volume expanded to 6,200 units.
Development Concept – An Engaging Driving Experience
Incorporating no less than 12 Lexus first features and technical innovations, every aspect of the new IS has been engineered with a renewed focus on sporting performance, agile handling, accurate response to driver input and highly communicative feedback.
The all-new IS exterior styling features the sophisticated dynamism of the new Lexus spindle grille frontal design, awarding the compact sedan a combination of aggressive elegance, a more powerful road presence and a stronger brand identity.
An all-new interior combines all the refinement and quality expected of any Lexus, with a more sporting, focused driver’s environment, a significant improvement in rear seat knee and a larger, more convenient luggage compartment.
Segment-leading driving enjoyment is at the heart of the new IS development program, and every aspect of the new Lexus sedan’s driving dynamics has been painstakingly engineered to that end.
New, laser screw welding and adhesive body bonding techniques, along with additional spot welding, have increased overall body rigidity. The double wishbone front suspension system has been revised, offering a 20% increase in roll rigidity. To the rear, a new multi-link suspension system similar to that of the latest generation GS has been adopted.
The structure and rigidity of the steering gear box has been revised to create a lighter, smoother, more accurate steering feel. 3.5 liter, rear-wheel drive IS models are now equipped with the 8-speed, Sport Direct Shift (SPDS) automatic transmission from the acclaimed Lexus IS F.
A new Drive Mode Select system features up to five switchable driving modes- ECO, SNOW, NORMAL, SPORT/SPORT S and SPORT S+ (the latter available on vehicles equipped with AVS), to optimize the driver’s preferred combination of economy, comfort, performance and handling characteristics.
IS F SPORT models not only benefit from exclusive, more sporting and aggressive exterior and interior design features, but also genuine dynamic enhancements in the form of exclusively tuned front and rear suspension systems. An Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) system is available on 3.5 litre, rear and all-wheel-drive F Sport models, and Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS) is standard on rear-wheel drive F Sport version of the 3.5 liter engine models.
The new IS will be available in a choice of both rear- and all-wheel drive versions of the 2.5 liter V6 petrol engined IS 250 and the 3.5 litre V6 IS 350.
Several advanced new available active safety features are fitted on the new IS, including Automatic High Beam, Lane Departure Alert, Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. The new IS is also equipped with Lexus’ sophisticated, pre-emptive Pre-Collision System (PCS), which incorporates Adaptive Cruise Control.