08/31/05 Tarrytown, NY
Since us Southern Californians can't have all the fun, our friend Brad Nelson of Lexus Marketing and Events brought the East Coast a treat. A variety of New IS's were shipped out from California to the historic Castle On The Hudson, just minutes north of Manhattan, adjacent to the Hudson River in New York. A few of our own ClubLexus members joined up with our cohorts from my.IS and had the chance to take a stab at the New IS in their neck of the woods.
|Where the day takes you. My review of the new IS By: TLW
I want to first thank Ryan a.k.a. Flipside909 and Lexus for giving me an
I pulled up to Castle on Hudosn and knew Lexus spared no expense right away. I met up with Johnny Mo and company and headed into the Castle where they had a large screen set with brochures and hats laid out on the table. The presentation was very informative and answered many of the questions that people had about the IS, but to be honest I couldnt wait to get behind the wheel after all the things they told us about this machine.
Once we filled out the forms, we headed outside and BAM there were 9 IS's laid out for the picking. All I wanted was to drive the IS350. We were like kids in candy store when we picked out our rides. At first I thought I didn't have a chance to get the the 350 (I was one of the last ones out), so I walked up to a red one and took a look around back, wouldn't you know, an IS350.
First thing I thought was this is the baby brother to the GS, when I first saw the IS and Lexus confirmed this was the look they were going for. I walked around the car checking it out. I love the front of this car. It looks to me like a meaner more agrressive GS. Going along the sides of the car, I noticed the sideview mirror setup, which I believe helped out with wind noise. To me, the rear of the car is the most lacking part of the whole car. It just didn't do it for me I'm not
Enough of that, lets get inside this 350. The first thing I noticed was the great layout of the interior and there is nothing like the smell of new Lexus. Everything seemed perfect, but the only thing that threw me off was where the clock was mounted. It was low and seemed like you would have to take your eyes off the road to see the time. OK…guess that was two complaints. I loved the fact of the 6 disc changer and where it was placed so easy to operate, and the climate controls were another plus. As usual the controls were very easy to operate. The 350 I test drove didn't have any Navigation or any real options, but this didn't matter to me….. lets start her up.
The key fob is too cool! I wish my GS had this. l put the car into drive and drove up to the guy who was handing out the routes to go on. They gave you two choices, I opted for choice #3….. my way. Sorry Lexus, I had to see what this thing could do. I put in my Nine Inch Nails CD,and cranked it up. My God, what a sound system!! I couldn't keep it maxed for too long, or I would have lost my hearing. I headed out on to the road hit the gas and away I went. The 350 moves. Boy I loved it! It had wonderful accelration. They only gave you an hour and trust me, I used it all on this car.
For stock it handles so well. It took the curves and bumps brilliantly (I had a 05 pathfinder who wanted to play he was quickly swatted away like a mosquito). A huge plus, is the paddle shifting. I loved his feature, going through 1st -6th gear was so smooth. Another cool feature was that the tach lights, to tell you when to switch. Braking was equally as impressive and there were a couple of hard braking sitations; this car has a lot of spirit and should be a huge seller for Lexus.
After all the test driving was done, Lexus supplied us with an incredible dinner .Where I had a nice conversation with Brad Nelson and Charles (he did the presentation ). They told us a lot of stories about Lexus and of their travels to Japan. All in all, I had a great time and a wonderful expierence. I want to thank Ryan again, and a big thank you to Lexus for their hospitality.
The New IS By: Johnny Mo
For many years we heard about "The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection", and now it has evolved into "The Passionate Pursuit of Perfection". What's the difference? Well, once you've had your chance behind the wheel of the 2006 IS, you'll know.
Many of us have been fortunate enough to see the car at the International Auto Shows throughout the world, as well as some LEXUS sponsored events, like the US Open. Some of us have only seen photos, but rest assured, the car is stunning in person and a blast to drive. Soon the waiting will be over and oh so worth it. We were invited to preview this car before the general public gets to see it at the local Lexus dealerships. In order to get a better understanding of the car and its features, we attended a technical seminar (similar to the Lexus college classes that LEXUS employees receive). Then we were allowed to test drive the latest L-Finesse product through some parts of historic Westchester County. Just like the California test drive, this was a collaborative event with our friends at my.IS. Tony (my.IS webmaster and photographer extraordinaire) brought a crew of about 5 up from Florida to represent my.IS and the "locals" from ClubLexus included me (Johnny Mo), Johnny (TLW), my brother Benny, and Joe (the token BMW guy a/k/a Joey Schaps). We were greeted by Brad Nelson of Lexus Motorsports and Event Marketing who was responsible for orchestrating this event on the West Coast and also lent a big helping hand on the LEXFEST 2005 meet at Team Lexus Race Headquarters. Charles Hubbard, one of the Lexus College Instructors, was there to lead the technical product discussion. The setting for the event was Castle on the Hudson in historic Tarrytown, NY (about 30 miles north of Manhattan) on a beautiful August afternoon.
As I drove up the long driveway towards "The Castle", as it is known locally, I started to feel my heart race with excitement. Excitement soon turned to nervousness when I saw 5 my.IS guys standing around photographing only 2 cars. I thought to myself, wow, flipside909 really lucked out they had 3 guys and 2 cars we're going to have 10 guys here and only 2 cars - this is terrible. But then, as the rest of the CL members arrived, so did 7 more shiny new IS's in varying configurations – giddyup, things just got exciting again.
As excited as we were to see the actual vehicle in person, we first were introduced and got a chance to speak and listen to real Lexus experts. Charles Hubbard a product specialists and trainer on the New IS briefed us on the New ISï¿½ options, safety features and other technological advancements. The presentation was extremely informative, and many of you have seen pages from it already, if you've been on ClubLexus recently.
Charles Hubbard gave us a great presentation on the New IS, ranging from the very technical, like discussing the direct fuel injection setup to the non technical like how much fun they had as employees being involved with the product development.
After the presentation we had a brief question and answer period:
Q. Can you get the Heated and Cooled Seats with Smooth Leather?
Q. Why the subdued colors? What happened to the bold colors like the electric blue, solar yellow and absolutely red?
Q. What's up with the green car, are you really going to make a car in that color?
Q. Will there be anything available from TRD or other Lexus Performance division for the IS?
Q. I noticed the IS350 is available with staggered 18's, can I put them on my 250AWD?
Q. What if I took the front 18×8's and got 2 sets of them?
Q. Any info on pricing yet?
Q. There's a fabric seating option, any other colors available?
Q. What about Satellite Radio options?
Q. What happens if you put aftermarket wheels on with no tire pressure sensors?
Now if there are no more questions, there are cars waiting to be driven and there's still some daylight left out there. So we headed to the courtyard to begin our sampling of the latest and greatest from LEXUS in one of the most competitive market segments, the compact sports/luxury sedan. Before we can depart though, Brad informs us that there is a problem, we have 10 drivers and only 9 cars, so a pair of you will have to double up no problem Joe and I say "we'll do it"…we wanted to take some pictures anyway. Brad also tells us we only have 2-IS250 6speed manuals here, the rest are pretty evenly split IS250AWD and IS350's. We had just about every color represented and a mix of NAV/No NAV options. I grab a Black Onyx IS250AWD since that's what I'm most interested in for my next vehicle, my brother grabs an IS350 trimmed out in Smoky Granite Mica (very nice color - pictures do not do it justice). The rest of the crew scatters into their respective cars. We are given some driving directions for various "loops" they've setup (approx 15 miles each) through some very scenic roads including some nice back country twisties, town/city roads and some parkway driving. We are instructed to return in an hour, so that we can switch cars. The Driving Loops were Philipsburg, Washington Irving (past his house), Rockefeller (which is a really scenic country road through the Rockefeller Preserve area) and Valhalla. Unfortunately the 2 best "driving" loops, Valhalla and Rockefeller, were the 2 we were told to avoid due to rush hour traffic. For the first pass we select the Washington Irving loop and drive off.
The 2006 IS250 AWD
My first impression of the IS250 AWD was pleasantly surprising. The car is as luxurious as you'd expect from Lexus. My exact thoughts were "that's it I'm done, this is my next car". Keep in mind, I drive my GS400 in the summer so I'm used to some serious throttle response and my GX is my daily (and foul weather) driver (which is what the IS will be replacing). The 250 AWD did not disappoint. The engine accelerates nicely and the shifts from the 6-speed sequential-shift are smooth. Potholes and uneven pavement bumps are absorbed handily by the suspension. I started weaving aggressively on some deserted road just to see what kind of body roll to expect, there is some, but definitely nothing upsetting or troublesome. You definitely notice the lack of noise in the cabin; at stoplights you will find yourself glancing down at the tach to make sure the car is still running signature Lexus. The IS250 AWD sits about a 0.75" higher and the IS350 Performance package sits about 0.50" lower than the regular IS250/Luxury Package IS350.
So we drive through a few residential side streets and I'm asking Joe to look ahead on the directions to see when we can step up the pace a bit. No sooner than I finish speaking he says okay 0.2 miles get onto the Saw Mill Parkway – it's go time. The Parkway entrance at this particular point is one of the worst on-ramps you could possibly hope for in a relatively unfamiliar vehicle, it's a blind sweeping hairpin with a stop sign at the entrance, and no more than 50ft of entrance "runway". I look for a reasonable size opening since I've got 5 other IS's behind me and nail the throttle. The IS responds nicely and kicks down to 1st, shifting smoothly at redline for each gear change (personally I like the tach indicator, but I think many will opt to turn it off - great thinking on the engineers part for the off button). The others follow suit and we do some rush hour traffic carving, the view out the rearview is one of a multi-colored snake weaving its way through the grass. Cruising at a nice clip, we start looking for the off-ramp, and according to the directions looks like we'll get to test the brakes. Exit coming up and it's got a short slowdown lane and a 90 degree bend with a traffic light 50ft from the parkway. The GS300 brakes in this 250 haul it down from 70mph with ease, and plenty of stopping power to spare – now I REALLY can't wait to get behind the wheel of the 350. We head over towards Marymount College/Fordham University, the road leading there is usually empty, and winds through a very scenic reservoir area. We rip through some of those twisties and I couldn't be happier with the handling characteristics of this New IS, Joe is unimpressed at the power of the 250, but agrees that it is a nicely balanced car, but thinks it is not sporty enough for the BMW (track) crowd. My brother Benny in the IS350 can't seem to get the smile off his face, and wonders how heï¿½s going to manage having to wait until March to get his IS. We stop at the reservoir parking area and take some time for a photo shoot. After the photos, we mount up and head back to The Castle to switch.
The 2006 IS350
Back at The Castle, everybody returns with big smiles and anticipation for the next drive. I compare notes with my brother and then get behind the wheel of the Smoky Granite Mica 350. This time I'm picking a different road, one I know REALLY well. This time Joe and Benny get into the 6sp manual. I inform the group following that we will be doing the Rockefeller Loop. This road is loaded with twists and turns, with some really nice farmland backdrops (FYI- this is a Nature Preserve setup by the Rockefeller family and also includes a restaurant, named "Stone Barn" that touts the freshest food in the county, as all of the items on the menu are grown farm fresh on the preserve). We head out and IMMEDIATELY I can tell the IS350 is a different beast altogether. The throttle response is as "in your face"as you could want in a sports car. I start thinking this is gonna be fun. We get out to the first traffic light and Joe and Benny pull ahead of me. At the light I hear Joe revving up the 250 and wait for him to side-step the clutch – sure enough light goes green and he goes for the hole-shot, screeching tires, car kicks sideways then hooks up and goes, smell of burning rubber, NICE! We pass through some residential areas again, and cruise a bit through the village of Sleepy Hollow (yeah, the whole Headless Horseman/Legend of Sleepy Hollow thing originated here), then we hit the Rockefeller preserveï¿½pick up the pace a bit and lets see if we can get the VDIM to kick on since this is what the folks at Car and Driver seem to label a shortcoming of the IS and GS. We're buzzing along this winding 2-lane country road at nearly 2.5 times the posted speed limit and the IS350 is undaunted by it. At one point, coming out of a corner p
One thing that I noticed about the 350, maybe because I was paying attention to it more, was the transmission in drive mode, if you get on the throttle hard, but back off just prior to the next gear change, where most cars would complete the shift, the IS350 held the gear for a bit longer, before shifting up. I liked this, although it would take some getting used to, compared to other cars. Often times you'll hit the gas hard and then someone/something gets in your path and you need to back off quickly, but may need the lower gear to avoid something and get back on the throttle, the delay in the up-shift adds to the sporty driving feeling in my opinion anyway.
We make our way over to the Saw Mill Parkway again - further north this time, and drive briskly through some slower traffic. The acceleration is awesome and the sound coming from the IS350's exhaust is music, maybe a bit muted for most of our tastes, but for the casual sports car driver it is what you'd expect. We head back to The Castle for dinner. Since we were moving at such a brisk pace the guys helping out with the car assignments and maps - looked puzzled when we returned so quickly. They told us we had another hour or so before dinner. So we switched cars yet again and headed out for another spin - this time we're just driving, no loops, no directionsï¿½just follow me.
The 2006 IS250 6 Speed Manual
This time I jump behind the wheel of the 6sp Manual. I step on the buttery smooth clutch and engage 1st gear, as I ease off the clutch I can barely feel it grabbing and think to myself this car is too smooth for its own good – I'd rather see a bit more feedback from the clutch. As we drive I am finding some difficulty with the gear selector, but I chalk that up to being unfamiliar with the throws and gate. A few times I found myself "looking" for the right gear and I think it affected my impression of the "drive". The car is no better or worse than the 250 AWD, which I loved and can't wait to get, but I don't think the sportiness implied by a manual transmission is quite there. The 6sp manual would really shine in the 350. Don't get me wrong though, if you like "row your own" then this is currently your only option and you will probably enjoy every minute behind the wheel. For me, I'd rather have the performance package, IS350 with the 6sp manual, but then Iï¿½d probably never drive my GS.
Benny, Joe and I all agree the New IS250 and IS350 are to be experienced in person. Joe (BMW guy in case you weren't paying attention) actually loved the IS350, but said to convert any true BMW guys you'd have to make a manual tranny available. If Lexus did that it could spell big trouble for BMW. Benny's hardest decision is going to be which color to get his IS350 in, and for me I'm pretty much set on a Blue Onyx, Charcoal Interior, IS250AWD with NAV/Levinson. There is so much information on these cars that we did not get a chance to cover, or experience, hopefully we can do more of that at the Taste of Lexus - Performance Edition, really soon. If you haven't signed up and are even remotely considering an IS in your future, you should go, your mind will be made up. Lexus really hit the nail on the head this time, the New IS will truly be a Sport Luxury car, the one we've all been waiting for.
On behalf of myself, Joey Schaps, Benny M, and ClubLexus, I would like to thank Brad Nelson of Lexus Motorsports and Marketing for making this whole event possible and Charles Hubbard of Lexus College for sharing his knowledge and expertise on the new IS. To Ethan Kay for doing the legwork to get this event initiated. Special thanks go to Ryan (flipside909) for offering the opportunity to drive the New IS. Last but not least to Chief Engineer Suguya Fukusato and Lexus for their ability to regenerate the excitement we have as Lexus owners & enthusiasts in their "Passionate Pursuit of Perfection".
More information on the New IS:
Article & Photos by: TLW & Johnny Mo
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