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2012 Lexus IS 350 Tested

For 2012, Lexus thought it would be a fine idea to shoehorn a 230-odd Kilowatt, 3.5 litre V6 into their IS body shell. So, how did that work out?

Let me say up front. I’m very glad that Lexus exercised restraint and don’t have brmmm-brmmm noises piped into the cabin through the 87 speakers, like some of the more poseur-ish contenders.
That said, I’d be lying if I said that the sound of the V6 filled me with lust. Or delight. Or anything, really.

In fact, when thinking of glowing terms to describe this engine, about the best I can come up with, is, “sewing machine”.
A really big, well-oiled, quiet sewing machine. Put your foot down, and it doesn’t really get louder. The mechanical whirring just speeds up. Suddenly. Like a sewing machine on Tik, suddenly.

All of which is a bit disconcerting, because if you happen to be looking out of the window when you DO put your foot down (which is a really smart idea, btw…), you’ll notice a strange phenomenon, not unlike that famous Star Wars scene from the cockit of the Millenium Falcon. Street-lights streak into long trails, roadside objects rocket past and recede supernaturally in the rear-view mirror (actually, most road-bound objects do that, as well…) at a mind-altering pace, all the fury, minus the sound. Much too quickly, the very end of the earth is rushing up to meet you, and it’s time to unlight the afterburner. Without much discernable reduction in volume, the sewing-machine simply slows to a more leisurely cadence. And time re-ravels down to it’s normal sixty-seconds-in-a-minute rythmn. It’s downright eeerie. LET’S DO IT AGAIN!

Seriously, you don’t so much step on the go-pedal to go somewhere fast, you step on the go-pedal, and you ARE there.

Controls? What controls? Everything is there. It all works. Quietly. absolutely without effort. As though you have very, very thick gloves on. There’s not much precision and feel, but then you’re driving a Lexus, let the plebs feel all that road feedback nonsense. Your feedback is sanitised, clean, refined. It’s superbly relaxing. The climate control is peerless, the blue-teeth sublime. Yes, that’s an iPhone. Ah yes, you were listening to a podcast. Let’s continue, shall we? Even the voice control works. Perfectly.

In general? Around town? Impeccable manners. Smooth, capable, un-flappable. Road surface? What road surface? We pass close to it, but it never effects us. If however, we shed the mantle of gentlemen, find a narrow-ish, wet-ish mountain pass road, bounded by low stone walls and fear, and we conduct ourselves as… HOONIGANS!!… Well then, this is a big, wallowing super-tanker of a motor-car.

You CAN drive it fast, simply by rending the time-space continuum from corner to corner, and manfully THROWING the car at any change in direction. Understeering you say? More power. Sorted. Oversteering you say? Yes. And how exactly is that a problem, sir?

This is a handsome car. Still. A good couple of years down the road haven’t done it one.bit.of.harm, thank you very much. The only consession to 2012′s fashionistas, are the LED headlight accents. Otherwise, it’s 2005 vintage. Which was a pretty fine year.

This is a curious car, this Lexus IS350. Bipolar, even. It is at once, a refined, luxurious gentleman’s carriage, AND a time-warp-capable missile. An aging Lothario. With genuine pedigree.
When we compared a couple of the contenders at the top of the mid-sized saloons bracket, I came up with this sword analogy:

If the BMW 335i is like a Katana, finely crafted from the purest materials, single-edged and gracefully curved, carrying the soul of the cutler,

And the Audi S4 is a light-saber, perfect, powerful, cuts on any side, made by engineers (what’s a soul?),

Then the Lexus IS 350 can only be a broad-sword. Big, heavy, with a luxuriously padded handle, it cuts both ways, and was made by a big man with a hammer and a fire. It packs the fury of Thor himself, though.

Well played Lexus, well played.


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