Saturday, April 08, 2006

Life in the Fast Lane

You know you’re driving a pretty hot car when some sharp, athletic looking stud pulls up next to you at a light, looks over at you with a nod, and gives you the thumbs-up sign.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he’s driving the exact, same model automobile, in a different color.

That’s the new 2006 Lexus IS350, which I have been driving for the past few days, courtesy of the fine folks at Toyota, who picked moi to test the car and tell you about it. Where should I begin?

Do I start with the tale of head-snapping acceleration from the 3.5-litre V-6 engine thrusting 305-hp into a smooth-as-silk 6-speed sequential automatic transmission?

Should I begin with the ease of ingress and egress from the leather-clad cockpit, surrounded by air-bag pods, addressed by a dazzling instrument cluster, and outfitted with the coolest GPS navigation display?

Or perhaps I simply tell you the proof this new Lexus is a fit for you by the way it fits in your garage, around your hips, and in your hands as you grip the leather steering wheel.

I’ll save for you the personal experience of freeway ramps negotiated effortlessly by an electrically-powered rack-and-pinion steering system providing pin-point guidance to 18-inch aluminum wheels. You can create your own head rush with zero-to-60 in 5.6-seconds performance…and when the speed indicator glows red…well, that will be our little secret, won’t it?

Just so you won’t think I’m moonlighting as a brochure editor for Toyota, there are some things you might not like about the IS350. Even though there is trunk room extension access through the rear seat, you cannot haul a load of lumber from Home Depot. Skis to Crested Butte, yes.

The Clanton Women were not overcome by the limited legroom and lack of vanity mirrors in the rear seating area, either. But this is a luxury sport sedan. Dress and primp on your own time. (There are lighted vanity mirrors in both front windshield visors. Please apply make-up responsibly.)

The Clanton Women and Heir-apparent were all pleased with the dual climate controls in the front cockpit, including his and hers settings for the heated/ventilated seats.

You might also not like the fact that you must feed the beast with premium-test fuel. But as I remarked while recently driving a large, all-wheel-drive vehicle modeled conspicuously after a popular military mode of transportation, if you have to worry about filling the tank, you’re probably not in the target market for this vehicle in the first place.

Repeating—a luxury sport sedan: The Lexus IS350 combines four-door utility with drop-dead sex-appeal on four very fast spinning wheels.

There were two litmus tests for me: did I dream about it at night, and did my brother-in-law covet it? Yes on both counts. Well, least for one in-law, who drives a European product in this competitive class.

The other brother-in-law was at least impressed enough to ask, when noticing the rear-view camera display, “what does a car like this need a thing like THAT for?”

Again, for those of you who were distracted during the test drive: Luxury sport sedan.

White Fang is jealous, for the record.
But he’ll get over it.

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