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2014 Lexus IS: A Design Analysis

February 4, 2013 by Matt

2014 Lexus IS Sedan

The problem here is context.

The details of the next generation Lexus entry-level sports sedan, the IS, are certainly generating a buzz. Next to the C7 Corvette, it’s been arguably the most aesthetically dissected car to emerge from the recent 2013 Detroit Auto Show.

The reviews haven’t been overwhelmingly positive. The consensus seems to be that although observers appreciate the fact that Lexus is taking chances, design-wise, the new IS’s shape leaves them unsatisfied. Personally, I want to like the new “spindle grille” motif the Japanese luxury automaker has cooked up, but somehow it just doesn’t sit right; I respect aesthetic risk-taking, but between the grille and the new taillights (the new IS’s two most prominent features), I’m left feeling…uneasy as I contemplate the new car’s lines.

The nose. Evident in the picture at top, the nose is far and away the most prominent feature of the new car. An attempt to create “visual tension” by giving the impression the bodywork is stretched tightly over some muscular internal structure, the feature falls flat simply because none of the rest of the car matches its design drama. Put your hand over the new Lexus’s fascia and the car becomes another run-of-the-mill sports sedan. It’s the aesthetic equivalent of a stage actor turning in a powerhouse performance…while his castmates phone in their lines. There’s just no visual support from the rest of the car.

2014 Lexus IS Sedan

The tail. Slightly more successful is the 2014 IS’s other “showcase” styling element, its downward-sloping taillights. By visually connecting the taillights and the rocker panels, the rear wheels and thus the car’s RWD configuration are emphasized. So far, so good. But there remain two major problems: The styling effect employed makes it look like the bodywork is tearing or breaking so that the taillights can push through, giving them a sort of half-finished look, and their taper around the side of the car leads the observer’s eye forward back onto the car’s flanks, when the tail should be a smooth resolution and neat conclusion of the car’s look. As it is, our eyes are constantly thrown back toward the IS’s profile, kept in a kind of awkward visual limbo.

2014 Lexus IS Sedan

The proportions. The new Lexus’s context problems are on full display here. There’s nothing in the car’s proportions that even comes close to the impact of the car’s extremities. Really the only update over the previous generation is a lower decklid, reintroducing a traditional bit of “three box” styling into the new IS’s profile, but otherwise… Ho hum.

2014 Lexus IS Interior Inside Cockpit Console Dash Dashboard

The interior. For its part, the interior is serious and tasteful with a strong sense of structure. Taken in isolation, it’s quite well done…but then you remember what the outside, and particularly the nose of the car, looks like, and scratch your head that there could be such a marked difference in feel between the two areas.

I wonder how isolated the design teams working on different parts of the car were from each other? From the looks of it, they must’ve had minimal, if any, contact with each other prior to applying their efforts to the new Lexus’s basic shape. There are lots of good ideas here, just no cohesion. Maybe next time.

Image credits:

Filed under: Aesthetics, Lexus, News

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