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Auto April, 11 2013

Test Driving the All-New 2014 Lexus IS Series in Austin, TX

The 2014 Lexus IS 250 and IS 350 are part of a new generation in the IS line. Lexus is looking to refocus the IS series to be the most inspiring, fun and dynamic driving experience in the vehicle’s class. We were invited by Lexus to test drive the all-new IS family of vehicles in Austin, TX right around the opening of the SXSW music conference. The timing of the conference and the driving experience with Lexus made it a difficult offer to refuse.

As mentions, the new generation Lexus IS series for 2014 looks to increase the overall owner experience by bringing what can be described as forwardness to the drive and look of the vehicles.  Various changes in the overall look of the new Lexus IS line are helping to bring more driver-centric sportiness to the line. Design changes including “new dynamic signature spindle grille and for the first time separated LED Daytime Running Lights” giving the IS series a touch of “aggressive elegance.” A more rigid body add stability and body control to the vehicle while increasing the overall responsiveness of the vehicles. For the driver, the changes add to the overall feel of the new IS series. Where older models may have had more play when steering in and out of corners, the new 2014 models handle closer to their European peers.

In addition to the body and rigidity changes in the cars, Lexus adds an all-new Drive Mode Select system featuring various drive modes in the IS 250 and IS 350 models including ECO, NORMAL, and SPORT modes. Each mode is different and tailored for different driver experiences. We recommend testing each mode to find your preferred sweet spot.

Drivers looking for the top end in sport features, the 2014 Lexus IS 250 and IS 350 are now available in F SPORT packages that includes 18-inch wheels, a newly tuned suspension, and subtle changes on the exterior and interior to up the overall look and performance of the F SPORT package. The 2014 Lexus IS 350 F SPORT comes in with ECO, NORMAL, SPORT S, and SPORT S+ drive modes.

To push the new dynamic driving experience of the 2014 IS series, Lexus offered us the opportunity to test drive the new IS 250 and IS 350 at Driveway Austin Motorsports track, located outside of downtown Austin. The Driveway track offers various Grand Prix style course details including elevation changes, and hard corners , allowing for the Lexus vehicles to be pushed more aggressively than they would on normal road ways.

On site to help us test the driving experience of the new Lexus IS series was Lexus Drive Meister, Yoshiaki Ito. Mr. Ito has been at the leading edge of vehicle technology for decades and helped pioneer the research end of car performance testing and driver evaluation. Having helped develop more than eight models in the Lexus family, Mr. Ito is about the best guy to have driving with you when testing the performance of the new Lexus IS series.

We asked Mr. Ito, to share his insight on the Driveway Austin test track as well as his thoughts on the handling of the 2014 Lexus IS series for current and new owners to be aware of:

1. How did the test track in Austin, TX compared to prior test tracks for demoing the new Lexus IS series?

From the development and testing point of view, it is a great track at which we can conduct many tests such as a flat tight cornering, high-speed turn and cornering with braking.

Also the scenery of the track, after the corkscrew towards the end provides the feeling of being at Nurburgring, Germany. The average speeds overall and at each corner are lower than Fuji Speed Way, Japan.

2. When we think about the handling of the new IS series compared to the old one, what is the first word that comes to mind?

Response and Agility

The new Lexus IS further enhances steering response and agility, which are part of the Lexus IS DNA, while improving ride comfort.

3. When driving the new IS, what features in the new handling do you think drivers should be most aware of?

I would like drivers to enjoy driving while being relaxed, which is provided by the sporty suspension, driving position, seat design and so on.

4. Your ability on the test track helps show how well the IS handles. Is there anything about the new IS that still surprises you every time you take it out on the road or track?

The good balance during high levels of handling, and ride comfort when driving on highways, winding roads and public roads still surprises me when I drive the IS.

Mr. Ito was also more than willing to help us personally push the limits of the IS 250 and IS 350 series vehicles on the private test track. Sitting passenger side to Mr. Ito, we experienced the full power and control of the vehicles. His personal connection to the cars allowed for experience in handling to come through. In fact, his driving helped show us just how far we could push the Lexus IS series ourselves.

Driving the 2014 Lexus IS 250 solo, we appreciated how well the new vehicle gripped the road and responded to steering changes. Though we did not drive it as aggressively as most, we did power through the turns and drops offered by Austin’s Driveway track.

What we can say is that those looking for European feel and handling in their sports cars should certainly consider the new 2014 Lexus IS series; they handle better than ever and offer strong value in their class with updated styling and body design.

Find more on the all-new 2014 Lexus IS 250 and IS 350 models at Lexus.com.

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