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Don Adair's Seat Time

Lexus throws down the gauntlet with new IS

Lexus throws down the gauntlet today. We’re in San Francisco for the introduction of the third-generation 2014 IS, which is meant to do battle with BMW’s mighty 3 Series. Though it won’t be in showrooms until summer, Lexus hopes to gin up interest early by giving journalists a sneak peak.

It’s an interesting strategy for a company that traditionally plays its cards close to the vest. Even more startling, Lexus will turn us loose on an autocross course this morning, giving us a chance to evaluate the IS under the kinds of conditions enthusiasts care about.
 
Like SUV owners who never drive off-road, sport sedan owners are not likely to put their cars to the test but like knowing they could. 
 
As before, there are two IS iterations, the 204-hp IS 250 and the 306-hp IS 350. Both trims will be available in rear- and all-wheel-drive.
 
Of particular interest today will be the IS 350 F Sport trim. Its uniquely tuned adaptive suspension includes normal, sport and sport-plus modes, allowing the driver to extract maximum performance from a chassis that has been significantly stiffened. 
 
The IS 250, will have a starting MSRP of $35,950 for RWD and $38,485 for AWD. The IS 350 will have a starting MSRP of $39,465 for RWD and $41,700 for AWD.  
 
Lexus says the base price for the 2014 IS 350 is 2.1 percent lower than the model it replaces, and that the differential between the 250 and 350 iterations is reduced by 33 percent.
 
I’ll have more to say about the new IS after today’s ride-and-drive and will post an update in the next day or two.

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