Lexus takes on the 3 Series… again
by Luke Vandezande
Maybe someone used to chide you while you did your chores. “Keep scrubbing, it builds character,” they might have said. You probably never knew what that meant. Most don’t. But ‘character’ means a lot to Lexus
. So much so, in fact, that it reversed all the character lines on the 2014 IS sport sedan to flow away from the nose rather than in towards it.
Like in so many Lexus products, an available F Sport package adds a more gaping grille, large lower intakes and special wheels. There’s also more on tap with the F Sport package depending on which powertrain you opt for — but that will come into play later.
The rear end also gets the same shapely redesign with taillights that wrap around the car’s flared wheel arches. Even if you don’t pick the F-Sport package, there’s still a lot to love about newest Lexus.
Standard exterior equipment includes HID headlights, although those can be swapped for LEDs to match the accents underneath. You’ll also get 17-inch alloys with the option to trade up to 18- or even 19-inch wheels.
Standard styling for the grille isn’t bad, but sitting beside the F-Sport version it starts to look stodgy.
DRIVETRAIN DISAPPOINTINGLY UNCHANGED
For a car with such radical bodywork, hoping for more under the hood would seem reasonable. But Toyota, Lexus’ parent brand, seems to love letting engines stagnate.
For example, it unveiled the new line of Toyota pickup trucks in Detroit with nary a nick of a change.
Similarly, you’ll get the same 2.5- and 3.5-liter V6 engines as the old cars with unchanged output.
That means 204 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque for the 2.5-liter or 306 hp and 277 lb-ft with the 3.5-liter unit.
Sprinting from 0-60 mph happens a solid 5.6 seconds with the larger engine, though it takes an uninspiring 7.9 seconds with the small V6. That’s a disappointment, especially when you consider that Lexus seemed so intent on unseating the BMW 3 Series.
Those engines are OK, but they can’t compete with the torque from the turbocharged BMW powerplants – or their fuel economy. While the 335i’s thrust makes it noticeably faster, both six-cylinder competitors are so fast it almost doesn’t matter.
The base engines offer the most obvious gap, with the IS250 a downright bore, dropping 75 lb-ft of torque to the 328i.
As for fuel economy, it’s not even close, the BMWs, on average, getting 3 mpg better on the highway and a touch better in the city.