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Lexus IS gets refresh, but maintains great sports sedan feel


Still riding upon the hugely successful redesign of 2013, the 2017 Lexus IS managed to get a refresh without damaging anything that was so great about its look and feel.

Excellent Entry-Level  Exterior

The Lexus IS was already a stunner, and it was showing little sign of its age, but Lexus designers have managed to tweak a few exterior style cues that simply elevate the impact of the sedan’s overall appeal. Look for headlights that get stretched a bit, a front fascia that ups the ante with the addition of a distinct spindle grille, new taillights that are a huge upgrade over the previous model’s design, and a couple new colors to round out the most notable tweaks.

Lexus’ entry-level sedan is a huge seller in a competitive segment and it manages to grab market share with a combination of several engine options, a Lexus-level of refinement inside the cabin and a bold exterior attitude. Staying planted on standard 10-spoke, 17-inch wheels, the IS offers several new designs with bright machine finishes that will enhance your personal touch.

The restyle provides a ‘planted’ stance that exudes confidence and speed. The new front grille remains flanked by huge, aggressive air intakes to finish off the look. The back end gets combination lamps and revamped exhaust diffusers. I thought the oblong tailpipe tips looked more natural, rather than the ‘add-on’ feel of the previous model.

Hard Worker

The IS 200t features a tough 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. It produces 241 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,650 rpm – driving the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic that focuses on performance.

The step-up IS 300 AWD comes with a 3.5-L V6 engine delivering 255 hp and a top-end IS 350 AWD offers the same V6 engine and six-speed transmission, but it retuned to deliver an impressive 306 hp. My tester featured the three-level Drive Mode select system (Eco, Normal and Sport) and, while I never downgraded to Eco, Sport was about as fun as it gets for this size sedan.

Worth mentioning is the upgrade P225/40R18 tires that comes with the $4,800 F-Sport Series 1 package. This also brings some needed equipment like a rearview camera, heated and cooled sport bucket seats, blind spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert.

Lexus-Level Comfort

The signature T-shaped Lexus design still defines this cabin space up front.  Driving is a pleasure with easy access to audio/visual accessories and visual perfection attained for critical performance gauges. Fit and finish is the expected high levels with soft touch surfaces and real leather providing exquisite comfort levels.

There’s no doubt that Lexus takes great pride in their seating design and surface applications. My tester’s seating had easy entry and exit design, power settings to make you feel ‘accommodated’ with heat and ventilation.

Safety Upgrades

The 2017 refresh delivers standard equipment such as the Lexus Safety System+, which has a pre-collision system that uses a camera and wave radar to “look” for other vehicles and pedestrians ahead of the IS. The system provides audio and visual alerts and brake assistance when a potential crash is detected. If the driver does not take any action after the warnings, the system automatically brakes the car, and can bring it to a stop before the impact, if needed. The package also includes lane departure warning with steering assist, intelligent high beam assist and high-speed adaptive cruise control.