Lexus IS350 debuts at New York Auto Show

Lexus unveiled the all-new 2006 IS 350 today at a press conference at the New York Auto Show.

“We’re taking dead aim at the top of the class with the new IS,” said Lexus Marketing Vice President Mark Templin. “We plan to offer a compelling range of models and options with class-leading performance and luxury.”

Four separate models will form the basis of the new IS family in the US market, featuring two completely new V6 engines and both rear and all-wheel drive. The new IS 250 and IS 250 AWD will feature a 2.5-litre engine rated at more than 200 horsepower. The top-line IS 350 will be powered by a potent 3.5-litre V6 engine which will develop more than 300 horsepower.

Two new transmissions will facilitate power delivery to the wheels. Standard in the IS 250, a new 6-speed sequential manual transmission is designed to take full advantage of its free-revving V6 engine. A new sequential-shift 6-speed automatic will also be offered in the IS 250 and will be standard in the IS 350 and IS 250 AWD. Steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters for the automatic are designed to provide maximum involvement and control for driving enthusiasts.

All new front and rear suspension, steering and brake systems will unite with standard Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) in the IS 250 while the IS 350 receives Lexus’ new Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system to provide superior dynamics and control, while continuing the IS legacy of driving fun. The new suspension design optimises dynamic wheel alignment to help provide precise, confident handling and maximum tire grip.

With its styling clearly influenced by Lexus recent LF-series of concept cars, the new IS shows a strong family resemblance with its stable mate, the 2006 GS, while capturing its own distinctively sporty, yet upscale essence. A notably wide stance and long wheelbase coupled with tightly-drawn bodywork lends a muscular and sophisticated style.

The new look continues inside, where a roomy, luxurious yet sporty cabin is complemented by intelligently designed displays and controls designed to make driving both simple and pleasurable. Bright, clear Optitron gauges and smartly integrated metallic and available maple trim help create a luxurious, yet no-nonsense ambience.

A comprehensive list of safety, comfort and luxury features seldom found in its class will be offered in the newest IS family. For example, Smart Access keyless entry with push-button start will be standard, and features such as a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel and navigation system with back-up camera will be available.

These and other features available on the new IS, such as the Adaptive Front headlamp System (AFS), Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and ventilated front seats are normally found only in more expensive luxury cars.

A newly-designed fuel injection system and dual VVT-i will help the new 3.5-litre V6 engine achieve more than 300 horsepower, resulting in zero-to-60 mph acceleration in less than six seconds. With an estimated combined city/highway fuel economy in the high twenties, the IS 350’s fuel efficiency is similar to the EPA average for compact cars with 2.0-litre four-cylinder engines.

The IS 250 will carry a 2.5-litre version of the same advanced V6 engine with over 200 hp and more than 180 lb.-ft. of torque. Coupled with a standard 6-speed sequential manual transmission, acceleration from 0-60 miles per hour will be in the high 7-second range. Estimated combined fuel economy ratings are also expected to be in the high-twenties.

With all the new IS models, low-friction engine design and carefully matched drivetrains also make significant contributions to fuel efficiency. And all of the new IS models are expected to carry the ULEV-II emissions rating.

Recently introduced on the new GS 430 (and the soon-to-be-released RX 400h), Lexus’ Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management system will also augment the inherently excellent dynamics of the new IS 350. In this iteration, VDIM will be programmed to allow drivers to probe deeper into the limits of handling before discreetly, but effectively applying braking, throttle and steering control. This approach is designed to maximise driving fun without giving away control to the elements.

An important contributor to performance, fuel economy and stability lies in the new IS’ aerodynamic package. Low exterior drag is enhanced with careful attention to underbody airflow management designed to minimise and balance front/rear lift. The low drag body makes best use of engine power and the low lift enhances high-speed stability and handling balance.

The new Lexus IS luxury sport sedans will go on sale in North America this fall. Lexus has yet to confirm the IS 350’s availability in the UK.