A few weeks ago, we were in North Carolina to test drive the 2014 Lexus IS 250, IS 350 and their F-Sport model sedans around the famous Rockingham Speedway. To say our driving experience was "fast and furious" would be an understatement.
We could go on and on about how much we love the new aggressive front spindle grille and the 20mm lower seats with ribbing that just hugs your hips and keeps your bum firmly planted, or the boom-tastic Mark Levinson sound system (optional), but you can read that sort of adulation from a professional car blog. At DVICE, we're not only most interested in what the tech inside of the vehicles mean for the future of Lexus, but also the entire car industry.
If you've been paying an inkling of attention to the automotive industry, you'll know that cars are getting smarter, thanks to a slew of cameras, sensors and yes, the Internet. The new car tech in Lexus's 2014 sedans have enough "wow" to them to make you forget the coming wave of Siri-connected cars.
In an ideal world, we'd all be perfect drivers and car insurance companies wouldn't exist. Sadly, that's not the case and we're stuck with being human, and thus prone to distractions while on the road. Here are a list of standout features from the 2014 IS 250, IS 350 and F-Sport models we hope will become a standard in not just all future Lexus cars, but all cars in some capacity.
Voice Recognition: Natural voice recognition is officially a thing, thanks to services such as Apple's Siri and Google Now. Using two mics and software powered by Voice Box and Nuance, the new IS 250 and 350 cars actually understand human speech. Ask for the nearest McDonalad's and it'll use the onboard point of interest database (onboard) or Bing search (off-board, via a connected smartphone) to bring up relevant results. It's not the most precise system, but it works, for the most part.
Lane Departure Alert: As excellent of a driver as you may think you are, distractions happen. Using a camera sensor, the Lane Departure Alert notifies you when you start drifting out of the center of the visible lane. It's a small touch, but it'll give inexperienced (and distracted drivers) more confidence knowing their car is literally watching the road.
Blind Spot Monitor: Every vehicle has a blind spot — Lexus's Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) uses radar to detect when cars are in the unseeable zone. A side mirror indicator lights up when the radar detects a car in the blind spot.
Rear Cross-Traffic Alert: You look back, and the coast is clear, so you start backing your car out of its parking space. Out of nowhere comes a car that almost hits yours. It's not an uncommon scenario. RCTA will illuminate and sound an alert when the car is moving in reverse between 5-18 mph and it detects another approaching car.
Pre-Collision System: Lexus's Pre-Collision System (PCS) uses radar to assess and prepare drivers for possible accidents. For instance, Lexus vehicles equipped with the PCS can detect the speed and distance of cars in front of them. If the PCS thinks you're about to crash front-on, it'll automatically tighten your seatbelt and flip on Brake Assist.
Adaptive Cruise Control: ACC isn't new. Like the PCS, ACC uses radar mounted in the front of the car to track the speed and distance of the car in front of it. Unlike regular cruise control, ACC can automatically change speed based on how far and fast/slow the car in front is going. Whereas the tech usually costs a thousand bucks or more, Lexus has managed to get the price down to $500. That's some serious tech and safety for an additional $500.
And that's just the start. As sensors get smaller and cheaper to produce, the features found in a company's luxury models will trickle down to the base models. We just hope it happens sooner, rather than later.
The 2014 Lexus IS 250 with rear wheel drive starts at $35,950 and the IS 50 starts at $39,465. Both can be kitted out with all-wheel drive or with an F-Sport package for additional costs. You can get caught up on all the car details on Lexus's website.
Lexus' new lineup of sedans were designed and engineered around one single idea: to be the "most fun to drive" car its ever produced. We're not sure if we'd go that far, but the 2014 IS lineup certainly felt like the safest cars to drive, even when doing 90 miles an hour in the IS 350 F-Sport. That's something that's very re-assuring for young drivers who think they're invincible behind the wheel and older drivers who want more peace of mind speeding down the highway.