Answering introductions of new models from BMW and Infiniti at the Detroit Auto Show, Lexus unveiled its new IS, a rear- and all-wheel-drive entry-level luxury sedan.
Like other recent models from Toyota Motor Corp., the company is emphasizing fun-to-drive aspects of the new IS250 and IS350, introduced Tuesday after competitors' introductions on Monday. Both models will come with optional F-Sport packages, which include a more aggressive front bumper and grill in addition to sport-tuned suspension and unique 18-inch alloy wheels.
"The IS has always been precise and fun to drive," said Mark Templin, Lexus group vice president and general manager. The all-new IS kicks it up a notch with true sport sedan driving dynamics, state of the art onboard technologies and an all-new design that makes it look fast even when it's standing still."
FULL COVERAGE: 2013 Detroit Auto Show
New IS styling elements include the spindle grille that Lexus has included across its entire product lineup. The headlights feature a two-piece design, with the LED daytime lights located as a separate unit below the main headlight cluster. The F-Sport package gives the IS a more imposing front bumper and grille.
All IS models have a taillight design that slopes dramatically from the rear corner of the car down toward the wheel wells.
Rear- and all-weather-drive versions of the IS 250 are powered by a 2.5 liter V-6. The IS 350 features a 3.5 liter six-cylinder. Lexus also will produce a hybrid version of the car -- but only for international markets, not the U.S.
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Following a trend in the industry, the new IS 350 rear-drive model also offers an eight-speed automatic transmission the company calls Sport Direct Shift. In sport mode, the transmission has a "G force artificial intelligence" system that Lexus said automatically selects the optimal gear and downshift pattern to suit G forces while cornering.
The Lexus introduction is another sign of competition heating up in the entry-level luxury sedan segment. Earlier at the Detroit show, BMW introduced a new 320i, a four-cylinder, turbo-charged version of its venerable 3-series that will sell for $33,445, substantially below other models in the line. And Infiniti released a new Q50 sedan that includes a hybrid option that gets an impressive 354 horsepower from a electrically aided V-6.
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Full coverage: 2013 Detroit Auto Show
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