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DEFINING MOMENT

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Jan 27, 2007

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

A DEFINING MOMENT By Kurt Fuhrman

Some things just pass by in a blink of an eye. Take for example the lightning fast changes in technology. After all, buy a computer today, and in just a few short months, something newer replaces it. Look at rapid changes in television morphing from simple color flat tube sets to HDTV, plasma, and LCD - not to mention the variety of sizes all the way up to 65 inches or more. Another example is Internet access speed increasing from snail like dial-up to ultra-fast DSL or Roadrunner. Looking over our shoulder at where we have been. The question becomes: Where are we going to be in the next few short years?

One business that's making some of the most significant changes is the automotive industry. At the rate we are moving, we might wake up one day and the Hanna-Barbera animated television series, "the Jetsons" may be our reality. If anyone remembers, George, Jane, Judy, Elroy, their faithful dog Elroy, Rosie the robot maid, and of course, George's crazy boss, Mr. Spacely. The Jetsons live in a utopian future of elaborate robotic contraptions, aliens, holograms, and whimsical inventions. Their house rests in the heavens, they rocket around on a sky freeway, with robots and machines doing all the work, and if they need anything, they just push a button and tada it's done. If you think I have lost my mind, let me introduce the Lexus IS 350. Lexus has come a long way from their 1990 LS 400 four-door sedan, with its four speed automatic, and cassette player. The new IS 350 is a high powered, high tech four-door sedan. Now of course, no matter how high tech the 350 is, this automobile does not soar through the sky. But almost. The IS 350 is a luxury sport sedan and equipped with the sport package, a lower ride height and 18-inch alloys with 225R18 front and 255R18 rear tires - giving the 350 a sharp look and a leopard-like stance, ready to attack the road wherever it may lead. The front of the 350 is reminiscent of a sports car, with a wide aerodynamic presence with projector-beam headlamps and fog lamps, and with large front vents the engine stays cool.

The interior of the IS may give Mr. Spacely a severe panic attack, since his space rockets don't appear to be remotely luxurious in any respect. Whereas the IS 350 is a luxury sedan, with 10-way power front-seats that heat and cool, a nice combination providing comfort throughout my travels to Palm Springs in high winds and 30 degree nights. The leather seats are supple and comfortable, however, the seats may need a larger bottom cushion, especially when being rather tall and having long legs, an extensively long trip may prove to be uncomfortable. The power moonroof and the large screen navigation system are very nice. The moonroof is controlled by a dial, allowing the moonroof to open to a variety of degrees along with a one touch open and close. The moonroof also stays rather quite at freeway speeds and around town. The navigation system is presented well. The main control buttons are on the side, simple and easy to reach, and the screen is also touch control. I enjoy a nice stereo, and the IS provides me with access to a 300-watt, 14-speaker system - and yes, it keeps me smiling while crawling on the over-crowded freeways. The technology in the 350 is state-of-the-art. Sorry Mr. Spacely, the IS 350 has more exceptional goodies still in-store for you. The 350 also has a wireless push button start and stop, which an electronic key controls. In order to just start and stop the motor, the key can be kept in your pocket, purse, etc. In addition, the electronic key locks and unlocks the doors, opens the trunk. While some cars have a push button start, the electronic key is not fully remote, it must be plugged in. The remote system is sophisticated in designed and simple to use. I can hear Mr. Spacely now, " ooh that IS 350!" The 350 will keep you wondering how Lexus put together such a technologically advanced automobile.

Speaking of technology, this Lexus almost flies. We just might pass the Jetson's on the air freeway soon. The IS has under its hood a 3.5L, 24valve V6, with an astonishing 306 horsepower with 277 pound-feet of torque, which allows this strong V6 to grab the road and move. The manufacturer states that the IS 350 will launch itself to 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds. The IS 350 is fast with its three level six-speed automatic transmission - and did I mention steering wheel mounted shift paddles? These work fantastic, and make the IS feel like a racer, especially with the sport pedals and aluminum scuff plates. I have to be careful though, because quite the adrenalin rush hits hard when the IS takes off. I think the adrenalin overload might have caused some dementia, and I'm not sure if Mario Andretti is driving or me. Thank heaven the IS still retains the commonplace horn, as I use it to move a slow poking George Jetson out of the way. To balance all this power, the IS has excellent safety features. There are numerous airbags; front, driver and front passenger knee, front side, and front and rear side curtain airbags, along with seatbelts. There is an ABS system and an electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), this system manages the force between the front and rear brakes to help keep the IS from diving during hard braking. There are also two other systems, the Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and the Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM). These systems help keep the IS on course. In addition, a great feature when using the cruise control, the DynamicRadar Cruise Control (if equipped). This program supplements the standard cruise control with vehicle-to-vehicle distance control. There is also a tire pressure monitoring system, first aid and tool kit. One hopes never having to discover all the safety features the IS has, but it is assuring and a blessing in disguise. True, I might have lost my mind, but given what the Lexus IS packs, there just may be a few others out there with visions of flying cars dancing in their heads.

SIDEBAR COMMENT Do I like this? To paraphrase a former president, "It depends on what your definition of IS is." If aggressive and fast is what floats your boat, the Lexus IS 350 is the ticket. If precision driving is required, then there are some others to consider. Driving the 350, while offering excellent features and great stats, it behaves like its had just a few too many cups pf espresso. The steering, brakes, and handling react, or I should say, over-react to minimal input - resulting in a quirkiness that just isn't as well composed as my expectations. In the plus column, the Lexus functionality of interior features is the envy of the industry. They make it simple, for audio, press audio. For map, press map. This is so intuitive and easy to use while driving I'm surprised other brands haven't been able to mimic this with a greater degree of success.

On the performance side, the acceleration does work harmoniously with the pedal on the right. Depressing the accelerator feels just the way it should, and the momentum that can be attained from a dead stop, or at any speed is inspiring. In a blink or two, this car is easily in excessive of posted speed limits. While the on-road characteristics can make a driver feel a bit nervous, the price really won't. For 300 hp and a long list of features, this IS 350 a definite consideration. Is the 350 a near luxury sedan with go fast ability, or is it a sports car with four doors? Maybe both. One thing's for certain, this is an overachiever. - John Grafman SUMMARY JUDGMENT George Jetson couldn't do better than to have one of these around to fly in.

For more information on Lexus products, go to www.lexus.com. SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2007 Lexus IS 350 Price of vehicle: $35,705 Engine type: 3.5 liter DOHC, all-aluminum V6 Horsepower: 306 hp at 6,400 rpm Torque: 277 lb-ft at 4,800 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine/rear-wheel-drive Transmission type: Six-speed, electronically controlled, automatic Front suspension: Double wishbone, with high mount upper arms, coil springs, gas-filled shock absorbers and stabilizer bar Rear suspension: Multilink, with high mount upper arms, coil springs, gas-filled shock absorbers and stabilizer bar Wheels and tires: 17 x 8-inch front/rear aluminum alloy wheels, 225/45VR17 front, 245/45VR17 rear Optional 18 x 8-inch front/rear aluminum alloy wheels, 225/40YR18 front, 255/40YR18 rear summer tires Brakes: Front: 13.15-inch spiral-vented power-assisted disc Rear: 12.2-inch spiral-vented power-assisted disc Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) and Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) enhanced front and rear Overall length: 180.1 inches Overall width: 70.9 inches Overall height: 56.1 inches Wheelbase: 107.5 inches Curb weight: 3,527 pounds EPA mileage specs: 21 mpg/city, 28 mpg/highway 0-60 mph: 5.6 seconds One-quarter mile elapsed time: 14.2 seconds

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