All-new Lexus IS saloon teased before reveal on 9 June

Lexus’s BMW 3-series rival is getting an extensive makeover

Japanese do things a little differently in keeping new models more effectively under wraps before being shown off to the public. One such manufacturer is Lexus, which has just revealed its first teaser of the new IS saloon; a model we still know very little about. It will be revealed in full on 9 June, but until then we only have this released teaser image to draw from in trying to ascertain what the new IS will look like.

Revealing little more than its rear lights and a shadowy silhouette, this first impression is instantly recognisable as a Lexus, with typical L-shaped rear light graphic visible, here forming the now de rigueur light bar across the bootlid.

The Lexus IS was first revealed in 1999 as Toyota’s answer to the BMW 3-series and other European-style sports saloons, combining a compact rear-driven chassis with a small six-cylinder petrol engine. Subsequent performance versions such as the IS-F even targeted the BMW M3 and Audi RS4 with a naturally aspirated 5-litre V8 (that specific 2UE V8 is still found in the RC-F coupe). The European marketplace hasn’t been so kind to the current IS though, with only a single 2.5-litre four-cylinder hybrid model available for a majority of its life cycle, missing out on the 302bhp 3.5-litre V6 that tops the range in other markets.

Unlike the rear-wheel-drive Lexus GS which was replaced by the Camry-based front-wheel-drive ES300h last year, the IS is expected to keep its Lexus-specific rear-wheel-drive chassis, although its continued use of a hybrid powertrain is a given considering the challenges being faced in meeting fleet-average emissions targets in 2021.

What’s less clear is whether this IS is a significant update of the current model, or something brand new. Rumours of a technical partnership between Lexus and Mazda have been swirling, with the design of an all-new rear-wheel-drive chassis and in-line six engine range being thought to be shared between the next Mazda 6 and the Lexus IS. But what doesn’t line up with this arrangement is the timing, with Mazda still in early development of its new platform that is unlikely to be ready until 2022 at the earliest.

That makes this new IS more likely to be based on a version of the current platform, but with new bodywork, fresh tech and a new interior in line with the new LS and LC Coupe. We expect the same L-Finesse design language to be in full force, with Lexus’s spindle grille, compact LED lighting and an aggressive cab-back stance making this one of the more distinctive models in the compact executive class. Despite the dark teaser, we can also see a less rigid shoulder line and more plump LC Coupe-like haunches than on the current saloon, as well as upright reflectors and chamfered lighting ends that in both cases reference the LC coupe.

The good news is that we don’t have long to wait to see the new Lexus IS in full, as a key advantage of being kept out of the loop with a new model’s development means we don’t  generally have months, or even years to wait between seeing it.

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