Consumer Reports gets made fun of by the other car magazines for focusing too much on home economics and not enough on things that car enthusiasts find of interest. The one time they decide to drive a Lexus sports sedan they pick the weakest one - and we love it. At a recent automotive group meeting at a racetrack I met one of the group’s testers. He was a nice guy, buy not my kind of car guy. You see, he didn’t own a car. Nonetheless, I love that Consumer Reports didn’t like the new 2014 IS 250AWD for two main reasons.
First of all, Consumer Reports picked the absolute slowest, most pansy IS sedan made, and then they whined that it wasn’t fast like the BMW they remember driving a while back. That is sort of like complaining that the oats you just tasted that had been through a horse didn’t taste like the nice ones you mom used to make you. Cars come different ways and Lexus can hand you the keys to an IS with 200 HP (the one Consumer Reports tested), one with 306 HP (the one I happen to own), or a V8 IS F with 416 HP. Why choose the weakest engine, winter-climate commuter car version, drive it on a race track (where it is not setup to go) and complain that it doesn’t excite you?
In any case, I am glad that Consumer Reports did this because it should be a message to Lexus. The base IS 250 is too weak. 200 HP is not enough, and the torque is lousy as well. However, the great news is that Lexus is about to introduce a new engine to its line-up. It will be a 2.0 liter turbo and we predict about 250 horsepower and gobs of torque, nice and low in the rev band. That new engine will transform the IS 250 into a very capable car, and Lexus will continue to undercut BMW’s price point by about a year of attendance at U Mass. So, thank you Consumer Reports, for pointing out to Lexus what I suspect they already know, but maybe needed to hear from someone like you.
The second reason I like that Consumer Reports panned the Lexus IS 250AWD, and then added the car to its list of cars to avoid, is that I want a real IS sedan. My current convertible IS 350C, 2-door convertible, will be just about worn out in a couple years and I worry that with the huge explosion of sales of the new IS I might not be able to find one with the 3.5 liter V6 I have become accustomed to. Consumer Reports is right that most people do in fact buy the weaker IS 250 over the IS 350. That is partly because Lexus doesn’t build many IS 350s and it slaps on the unnecessary all-wheel-drive system on any car it ships north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Contrary to Audi’s marketing hype AWD does not help sports sedans, it hurts them.
Wake up Lexus. Consumer Reports just called your new sports sedan a wimp – and they’re right. Start putting in a respectable base engine, quit the mandatory AWD nonsense – this is a rear-wheel-drive platform. Be proud of that! Acura, Audi, and Lincoln can’t even afford a rear drive platform anymore. Stop neutering your pitbull and start building and shipping to dealers the IS sports sedans with the engines and set-ups they deserve.