When it debuted in 2014, the third-generation Lexus IS had either opportunity or hardship ahead. At that time, the IS series was being out-sold by the Infiniti G37 and both were well behind the BMW 3-Series in both sales and rankings on most comparison tests. Would the newly-styled IS 250 and IS 350 continue to live in the shadow of other brands’ more successful models or would Lexus take the lead?
Shortly after it was introduced critics numbed by conservatively styled Audi and BMW sports sedans panned the spindle grill the new IS introduced to the Lexus family. Some compared it to a cartoon. This author (who owned a Gen-2 IS 350C) did not pan the new look, but rather, found it exciting, fresh, and dynamic.
The mechanical bits of the Gen-3 Lexus IS were basically unchanged from the second generation, so the style was the big change. Sales doubled. Apparently the majority of the critics were wrong. Many who should know better continue to criticize the Lexus spindle grill, assuming that their readers don’t have eyes and style opinions of their own.
With sales a huge success and the new styling validated by the Lexus owners who flocked to dealers to buy the new look, the top car magazines, who are expert at one type of review really, sporty cars, lined up the usual suspects to find out how badly they all compared to the BMW 3-Series. Then a funny thing happened. The Lexus IS 350 beat the BMW 335i in a Car and Driver comparison test. Then a separate set of editors ran the same test over at Road and Track and guess what? The IS 350 was the top-ranked compact sports sedan in their opinion too. For maybe the first and last time, Torque News’ opinion and the opinions of the top car magazines were in synch.
It is hard to understate how successful the third-generation Lexus IS sports has been for the company. Insiders tell the media that the 2014 Lexus IS brought in new customers from other brands, reduced the average age of its buyers, and moved the gender and income demographic in the direction the company had hoped the new car would.
We wish Lexus’ continuation of the third-generation IS much luck into model year 2017.