Traditionally known for inoffensive design and unbreakable reliability, Lexus has undergone a styling revolution over the past few years. Now, the car that kickstarted the change has been given a refresh. The 2017 Lexus IS might not look particularly different to its predecessor, but it's packing plenty of fresh tech under the skin.
Although it looks overwhelmingly similar to the old model, the designers at Lexus HQ haven't been sitting on their hands for the last few years. Slightly edgier headlamps, a reshaped bonnet, and a mildly redesigned spindle grille are some of the elements that do manage to set the front end apart from current cars, while down the back there's revised detailing in the tail lights.
It's a similar story inside, where the devil is in the details. Little things, like the cupholders and steering wheel switches have been worked over, and the LF-A inspired instrument cluster has also been redesigned. The one thing that really needed tweaking in any Lexus –the complex, fiddly infotainment controller – has been given a new enter button on its side. Whether that will bring it up to speed with BMW iDrive or Audi MMI in terms of usability remains to be seen.
The real changes have been wrought on the technology front. All new IS models come as standard with a pre-collision warning system, lane departure warnings, automatic high-beam dipping and adaptive radar cruise control. If that's not enough, blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross traffic alerts are both optional.
Although it doesn't have the same reputation for driver involvement as BMW, Lexus has still put some time and effort into the car's chassis. Laser screw welding and adhesive body bonding have improved overall rigidity, and extra bracing on the rear subframe and cowl side has been fitted for sharper handling.
Power comes from one of three petrol powertrains, which can be hooked up to rear or all-wheel drive. The range kicks off with the with the turbocharged 180 kW (241 hp), 350 Nm (258 lb ft) IS200t, before jumping up to the six-cylinder IS300 with 190 kW (255 hp) and 320 Nm (236 lb ft). If that's not enough grunt, the IS350's 3.5-liter V6 punches out a handy 228 kW (308 hp) of power and 376 Nm (277 lb ft) of torque.
The refreshed Lexus IS will land in showrooms before the end of the year. There's no word on pricing, but expect it to remain largely the same as the current model, which starts at US$37,325.