Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Lexus step-child.

Here's the thing.

Lexus is more confused than the customers about the IS. I think they are stuck between making it a true sports sedan like the first generation, and the entry-lux also-ran that was the second generation. While I understand the second-gen sold more units, it also sold its soul to do so.

The first generation IS was a sedan Supra, and made no bones about it. The car was a stealth killer among the general public, and a legend to those of us familiar with Japanese cars. It did not float down the road as did the other models in its line, it pounded the pavement into submission with a 3 liter I6, routing through a 5-speed manual to the rear wheels. It was a car that was all about being driven, and riders need not apply. It was aggressive and announced itself when it entered the room.

Then came the second generation.

With a design doing all it could to copy the German competitors and a ride which was noticeably softer than the first generation, the second generation IS came into the entry-executive field fully flourished. However, it had lost the things that made it special. It was no longer the razor-edge tool it was born as. The company obviously tried to copy BMW, but lost at every turn. The 3.5 305hp V6 couldn't even be ordered with a manual. It remained in the market till this year, and is being replaced by a new model in the coming months.

However, Lexus is missing the point again.

The new car is beautiful and aggressive (save the headlights, which should be all one piece. Fire the designer that split the cluster into two), however, underneath it is virtually unchanged. How bad is it that an 8-speed in the 350 version is a major mechanical change for the new model? Where is the legitimate R&D? Where is the revolutionary turbocharged powerplant we were promised? Without any kind of effort, the model will languish.

I say Toyota pull a Civic. A full mulligan. Take the next year and develop the DI Turbo-4 they've been promising, build a legitimate manual to match it, FIX the headlights, and make a car that is underneath as impressive as that svelte new body they designed for it. Without these things, the Predator grill and fancy F-sport editions will only generate so many sales. I say let's find the guy who made the IS300 and put him back on the project. The IS was always meant to be fast over class.

And that, that's the thing.

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