2014 Lexus IS
In the world of sport sedans, the Lexus IS tends to get overlooked. It’s not like it hasn’t tried with the top IS-F model getting near universal praise. It seems to be more a brand thing; upscale buyers see Lexus as far more for comfort than cornering. But, with dynamic new entries like the Cadillac ATS getting good notices, Lexus had to do something. So the 3rd generation IS had better be something special.
The 2014 Lexus IS is easily recognized as a new-gen Lexus, fully taking on the big mouth, wide stance, and dynamic high-shouldered look of its larger GS and LS kin. The new IS comes in both 250 and 350 models, with both all-wheel-drive and F-Sport versions of both obtainable. We spent most of our test time in a 250 AWD.
The 250 nomenclature is indicative of the 2.5-liter engine under the hood, which is the smaller of the 2 V6’s available. It carries over unchanged from last year outputting the same 204-horsepower and 185 lb-ft. of torque and sending power through a 6-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting and a rev-matching Sport mode.
The 350’s 3.5-liter V6 is also carryover, delivering 306-horsepower and 277 lb-ft. of torque; only now it attaches to a new 8-speed automatic.
So what else is new? Well, the IS has clearly gotten bigger. Wheelbase is up almost 3-inches, while overall length grows more than 3. It’s also wider, a bit taller, and it’s wrapped in some great looking new sheet metal. Shock-and-Awe seems the theme, as the new IS takes an even more aggressive turn, sporting its own unique take on the now familiar Lexus spindle grille.
Fog lights are standard on all but F-sport models which drop them in favor of air intakes for brake cooling ducts. From there, sharp body lines highlight the wheel arches and rise to reaffirm the rear-wheel-drive proportions. There are plenty of aero treatments throughout, helping the IS cut through the air better than Lexus’ LFA supercar. The cabin is set back, further accentuating the long hood. 17-inch wheels are standard, with three takes on 18’s available.
F-sport models don an even more hostile makeover with an extra aggressive chain-mail grille insert, and of course badging to set them apart. There’s a stiffer structure lying underneath all IS’s, with additional bracing and revised platforms for mounting the all independent front and rear suspensions. The rear got extra attention with a new multi-link design that both improves packaging for more trunk space and increases cornering grip. Which should translate into a more rewarding experience where it matters most, on the track.
We got a chance to sample the full line-up of IS’s at Driveway Austin in Texas. Weight is still up there, around 3,700 pounds depending on model, and a good portion of that still seems to rest over the front wheels, but overall, dynamics have greatly improved.
BEN DAVIS: All the work they’ve done to add rigidity to the body really pays off on the track. Turn-ins are lightning crisp, excellent feel through the wheel, just the right amount of flex, back-end follows through beautifully. This car is such a blast to drive on the track; and the faster you go, the better it gets.
JOHN DAVIS: And of course interiors don’t get much better than Lexus either, though the IS brings a more cockpit approach to the line-up with the center console rising high to meet the very horizontal dash. Materials are all first-rate of course; there are selectable driving modes, lane departure warnings, and traffic and weather information that are subscription free. Lexus’s Remote touch controller is available for managing the standard dash-top 7-inch display, and there’s also a 4.2-inch TFT screen in the I.P. for additional information.
F-sport models add their own unique gauge package inspired by the LFA.
Front seats feature perforated leather and good support, while rear seat passenger’s benefit most from the additional wheelbase as leg room is up by over an inch-and-a-half. Trunk space is up as well, with room for 13.8 cubic-ft of cargo. Government Fuel Economy Ratings haven’t been finalized, but expect them to range from 21-City, 30-Highway, and 24-Combined for the 250; 19-City, 28-Highway, and 22-Comined for the 350.
Pricing for the new IS has been set, and there isn’t much of an increase over the current models. The 2014 Lexus IS 250 starts at $36,845 and the IS 350 at $40,360, both including delivery charge.
The battle in the compact sport sedan arena has heated up recently, as new entries are really taking aim at traditional class standouts like the BMW 3-series. So, how does the 2014 Lexus IS fit in and is it indeed special? Well if you’re looking for the ultimate track-weapon, quiet simply the IS falls short; though it has been greatly improved in this area. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a highly capable hauler that will also coddle you in Lexus luxury and technology, then you’ll find the new IS to be very special indeed.
- Engine: 2.5-liter
- Horsepower: 204
- Torque: 185 lb-ft.
- EPA: 21 mpg city/ 30 mpg highway
2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid
Crossed Up Corolla Gets More Efficient
Toyota offers a hybrid powertrain in just about everything they make, so it did seem odd that last year, when they debuted an all-new SUV version of their long-time best-selling Corolla, a hybrid was nowhere to be found. Well, it didn’t take long for Toyota to correct that situation, delivering this Corolla Cross Hybrid for 2023.
With prices for everything seemingly going up daily, we can all use a little more cost efficiency in our lives. That’s a mission that Toyota has been undertaking for some time now and continues to do it with this 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid.
The Alabama-built Corolla Cross arrived just last year as Toyota’s attempt to bring their best-selling nameplate into the SUV era, and give them an additional entry into the most popular automotive segment going right now, small crossovers.
There are some RAV4 styling cues here, but the Corolla Cross is mostly its own deal, and the Hybrid is more than just a fuel efficient option, it has added performance too. So, it’s offered only in Toyota’s S line of trims S, SE, and XSE, where the standard Corolla Cross is available in base L, LE, and XLE.
There are some differences outside, most notably unique front and rear fasicas; the front with a much more aggressive look, with larger grille and blacked-out trim.
Black trim and logos in back too, along with a redesigned bumper; plus, you can optionally go 2-tone by adding black paint to the roof.
Great packaging has it feeling roomier inside than most small 5-seat utes, straddling the line between subcompact and compact. And seats are way more comfortable than your typical urban-minded utility.
In fact, the entire interior feels quite upscale, and the layout will be very familiar to those stepping up from an actual Corolla.
Those who put off buying a Corolla Cross until now will be rewarded with upgraded infotainment, as all Hybrid’s will come with Toyota’s latest 8-inch touchscreen multimedia system standard.
The Hybrid’s small battery is located under the rear seat, so there’s minimal loss of rom, with a good 21.5 cubic-ft. of cargo space available; expanding to 61.8 with rear seatbacks folded.
Getting to the heart of the matter, the Corolla Cross Hybrid’s fuel-sipping ways are courtesy of the 5th generation of Toyota’s Hybrid System which outputs a combined 196-horsepower through its trio of electric motors and naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine. One of those motors operating strictly the rear axle for standard all-wheel-drive.
At our test track, there was a nice little chirp of the tires off the line, but that’s where the excitement ended.
So while a 7.5-second trip to 60 may not raise your blood pressure, it’s a full 3-seconds quicker than the standard Corolla Cross we tested last year. We’ll take that!
CVT automatic means engine revs and engine noise both hang relatively high throughout the whole ¼-mile, which took us 15.6-seconds to complete, finishing at a reasonable 90 miles-per-hour.
The Hybrid also gets a “sport-tuned” suspension, and indeed it felt light and nimble through our cone course, very neutral too, with no noticeable understeer or oversteer. Steering was light but still provided good feedback. With some grippier tires, this would certainly give the best handlers in the segment a run for their money.
But the real reward comes in Government Fuel Economy Ratings which are 45-City, 38-Highway, and 42-Combined. We averaged a great 43.3 miles-per-gallon of Regular; that’s a 40% increase over the 30.9 miles-per-gallon we averaged in the standard Corolla Cross last year.
But, that does come at a cost, though it’s difficult to make direct comparisons with separate trim families, but pricing starts at $29,320 for the Hybrid, about 3-grand over a base all-wheel-drive non-hybrid. Top XSE comes in at $32,400.
As influential as Toyota is in spreading the hybrid doctrine, it was indeed odd that the Corolla Cross arrived last year without a hybrid option. Smartly, it didn’t take them long to right that wrong, as it was always part of the plan, and the Corolla Cross has benefitted from it greatly. The 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid is not just more efficient, it’s more capable, and a much better small utility all around.
- Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder
- Horsepower: 196
- 0-60 mph: 7.5-seconds
- MW Fuel Economy: 43.3 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: e-CVT
- Torque: 139 lb-ft
- 1/4 Mile: 15.6-seconds at 90 mph
- EPA: 45-City, 38-Highway, and 42-Combined