BMW’s compact luxury sedan has been widely considered the benchmark driver’s car since the segment was created, but Lexus believes the latest-generation model has become more of a “grand tourer” car.
“I believe so, I think so,” said Junichi Furuyama, when CarAdvice asked if he thought the new IS was the better driver’s car.
“The 3 Series has for a very long time had a lot of praise in this category – premium D segment. BMW is always top as a ‘fun to drive’ car… the ultimate driving machine. So they have a very good reputation, so of course 3 is a benchmark.
“[But] I drove the [BMW] … the new 3 changes direction from ultimate driving machine to grand touring car… soft suspension and very much [body] roll compared to the previous one.
“So if side by side with a 3, the new IS is more aggressive… less roll and less body motion in corners and very agile.”
The IS has always been one of the best Lexus models to steer from a keen driver’s perspective since it launched originally in 1998, and Japan’s rear-wheel-drive rival to the 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class took another step forward dynamically with the second generation in 2005.
Furuyama-san, speaking at the Australian launch of the third-generation model, said the handling ability of the new Lexus IS was even more important, however, as the company aimed to change public perceptions by giving the brand a more aggressive, sportier image.
“The IS is a kind of showcase [of this image change],” he said. “In the near future the Lexus brand [image] wants to go in this direction – so we were very focused on fun-to-drive characteristics and aggressive styling.”
The 2013 Lexus IS sits on a shortened version of the platform found beneath the GS large car. The strut front and multilink rear suspension arrangements have been significantly re-engineered to enhance the car’s roadholding.
Lexus continues to offer F Sport grades as the sportiest in the range, gaining a stiffer suspension tune over other models. Pricing for the new IS starts at $55,900.