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by Tim Beissmann

The 2013 Lexus IS has been unveiled at the Detroit auto show, sporting sharp styling, a supercar-inspired cabin, greater practicality and a brand new hybrid option.

All three variants of the third-generation Lexus IS – the IS250, IS350 and the new petrol-electric IS300h – will go on sale in Australia from the third quarter of this year, some eight years after the outgoing second-gen model first arrived in 2005.

Lexus says it has taken a fresh approach in developing the new IS, claiming “every aspect … has been engineered with a renewed focus on engaging performance, agile handling, accurate response to driver input and highly communicative feedback”.

Lexus IS chief engineer Junichi Furuyama said it was his intention to deliver customers in the premium mid-sized sedan segment a vehicle offering an entertaining driving experience.

“The conventional approach involves developing each individual aspect in the hope that they will combine to offer an engaging driving experience,” Furuyama said.

“By contrast, development of the new IS flipped this process on its head, first establishing the pleasurable driving experience owners desire, and then developing the individual performance elements to support it.”

The 2013 Lexus IS inherits its new multi-link rear suspension and electric power steering systems from the larger Lexus GS sedan. The revised front suspension set-up is 20 per cent more rigid than before, while overall body rigidity has been enhanced through the use of new construction techniques.

Like the GS, Lexus is offering F Sport versions of each model variant, which, along with more aggressive exterior styling and racier cabins, also score sports-tuned steering and adaptive variable suspension, while variable gear ratio steering is available in the IS350.

Lexus Australia expects 30 per cent of new IS customers to tick the F Sport option box, and as many as half of all IS350 buyers.

The IS250 and IS350 will continue to be powered by 2.5- and 3.5-litre V6 petrol engines respectively, with the later carrying over the powerplant from the previous-generation car.

The IS300h is equipped with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder Atkinson-cycle petrol engine and an electric motor. The hybrid system is tipped to produce about 162kW, while Lexus is targeting combined cycle fuel consumption below 4.3 litres per 100km and CO2 emissions of less than 100 grams per kilometre.

The IS250 continues with a six-speed automatic transmission, while the IS350 scores the eight-speed auto from the Lexus LS. The IS300h features a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

At 4665mm, the 2013 Lexus IS is 80mm longer than the previous model, while the wheelbase has grown 70mm to 2800mm. Lexus says the full benefit of this growth is evident in the back seats, with the new model offering an extra three inches of knee space for second-rowers.

The boot has also grown more than 20 per cent to 480 litres (450L for the hybrid, which has to accommodate a rear-mounted battery pack), and for the first time the rear seats can be folded forwards in a 60:40 split.

The IS sedan’s cockpit is inspired by the Lexus LFA supercar, with a high-tech TFT display in the instrument cluster. The angle of the steering wheel has been lowered and its reach adjustment increased, both of which team with a newly designed driver’s seat with more lateral support to offer a more driver-focused seating position.

Like the new GS and LS, an analogue clock keeps time in the middle of the centre console, while the IS scores Lexus-first electrostatic switches for the climate control system, which allows occupants to adjust temperature settings with the touch of a finger.

Ten airbags (including rear seat side bags) are standard, while available advanced driver assist systems include auto high beams, lane departure alert, blind spot monitor, and rear cross traffic alert.




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