DETROIT--For its 2014 model year, shown at the 2013 North American International Auto Show, Lexus gives its IS model a major update, changing the look to comport with new design language, restructuring the suspension, updating the interior, and adding a new engine option.
This IS 350 shows off the new spindle grille, a recent Lexus design cue that has made its way onto the LS, ES, and GS. Lexus also manages to keep the grille free of a bumper line, or any other intrusion into its shape.
Lexus sculpted the body to mimic the shape of the projector headlights. LED headlights, a popular new feature on other luxury cars, are not being offered on the IS 350. The LED parking-light strip sits separate from the headlight casing.
The IS 350 carries over the same drivetrain components as the previous model, with a 3.5-liter V-6 using an innovative combined port and direct-injection fuel delivery system. This engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.
Lexus eschews the fastback design that has become so popular among current models, going with a traditional roofline to the back. A spokesperson for Lexus said this choice allows for more headroom in the rear seat.
Lexus enticed the crowd of journalists in Detroit with this IS 300h, the first hybrid version of the IS model. However, the hybrid is not slated for sale in North America. Instead, Lexus will offer it in Europe, where the car's low carbon dioxide emissions will help it sell.
A spokesperson for Lexus said the company did not want the IS 300h to cut into sales of the recently available ES 300h in the U.S., fearing buyers would be more inclined toward the ES model due to its better fuel economy and larger rear seat. However, each car should appeal to very different buyers, with the luxury-minded favoring the ES 300h and the driving enthusiast appreciating the rear-wheel-drive IS 300h.
The IS 300h employs a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine using direct injection, coupled with an electric motor. The basic specs are similar to those of the Camry Hybrid, yet the direct-injection fuel system should give the IS 300h a boost over the Camry's 200 horsepower.