Road trip season is upon us, and we suspect there’s some kind of law against taking a Citibike across state lines. Craving superbly designed four-wheeled rides, we sent writer Marc Kristal out to Rockingham Speedway to take the latest from Lexus for a spin.
The 2014 Lexus IS 250 F-Sport. (Courtesy Lexus)
While “Waku-Doki” may sound like a production number that got cut from The Lion King, it is, in fact, a Japanese term that describes the excitement of an adrenalin rush—or, as the Toyota waku-doki website puts it, “the feeling you get when your heart pounds with anticipation.” And if “waku-doki” and “Toyota” seem incompatible, the soon-to-be-in-a-showroom-near-you 2014 Lexus IS may cause you to bid sayonara to your uncharitable assumptions. Partly this derives from chief engineer Junichi Furuyama’s fine-tuning of the IS’s “fun to drive” quotient, defined by Lexus national product marketing manager Owen Peacock as a car that “immediately and precisely responds to the driver.” But it’s also a function of aesthetics. According to Bill Camp, the company’s dealer education administrator, the previous incarnations of Toyota’s luxury brand were (music to our ears) “too beige”: even if a Lexus zoomed up behind you doing 100 MPH, you wouldn’t get out of the way. With the 2014 IS, and the F-Sport version in particular, Lexus has produced a model in which style and performance are cohesive—a design that is beige no more.
It’s also, at just under $36,000 for the IS 250 (and closer to $50,000 for the more powerful, fully bell-and-whistled 350 models), surprisingly well-priced for a high-performance luxury car. As such, the IS fills an open niche in the Lexus line, targeted toward 45-year-old men and women—“active singles and couples,” says Peacock—entering this particular zone of the luxury market, whether stepping up in class, downscaling from automotive McMansions, or making a lateral move from something comparably priced but less exciting.