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The Lexus IS facelift has gone on sale in Japan, half a year after the minor change made its debut at the 2016 Beijing Auto Show. The FR sports sedan is available in IS 350, IS 300h hybrid and IS 200t turbo forms.

The third-gen IS, which already has a bolder face than most, gets a more aggressive front end thanks to large air intakes on the new bumper. There’s also an evolution of the Lexus spindle grille and new headlamps. The latter is more pronounced than before and extend inward, resulting in a shape that accentuates the distinctive ‘tick’ DRLs.

The new grille folds back at a higher point, changing its top and bottom proportions. The engine hood has been reshaped to match. The F Sport grille gets a unique ‘3D’ F-mesh pattern, with black metallic coating that incorporates functional brake ducts. These brake ducts provide a sense of continuity with the side garnishes that enhance the vehicle’s aerodynamics.

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At the back, there are more pronounced L-shaped LED lights that are now triple layered (previously double), and new rectangular chrome exhaust tips (was round). Ten-spoke 17-inch wheels with new designs and bright machine finishes are standard, while two new colours – Deep Blue Mica and Graphite Black Glass Flake – have been added to the catalogue.

A range of cabin improvements can be found. The multimedia display screen has grown from seven inches to 10.3 inches, and an ‘Enter’ button has been added to the side of the Remote Touch Interface (RTI) on the centre console, making the system easier to use. The audio and AC-control panel has been refined to fit within the knee bolsters (old ‘winged’ design susceptible to poor fit), with a new hairline-finish surface to boot.

Other changes are stitching on the meter binnacle, revised dials, new cupholders, a new and larger leather-wrapped palm rest with stitching for the RTI and new markings for the dash analogue clock. There are also additions and changes to the interior colour options. The base Lexus Premium Audio sound system now gets 10 speakers (up from eight), while the Mark Levinson option has been retuned for a more accurate and 3D sound.

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Also retuned is the suspension system. Improved shock absorbers are in place, and the front suspension’s lower arm is now in aluminium, which benefits both rigidity and weight. The bushes have been revised, all for better ride comfort and handling stability. There’s also a new “Customize” mode in the driving mode selection, which as its name suggests, allows the driver to customise a powertrain/chassis setting to his liking.

On the safety front, the IS now includes “Lexus Safety System +”, which integrates pedestrian detection function with collision avoidance, Lane Departure Alert (with steering controls), Automatic High Beam and radar cruise control.

No change under the hood for the 3.5 V6, 2.5 hybrid and 2.0 turbo variants. The IS 300h is the only one with an AWD option in Japan, while the others are rear-wheel drive only. Read our review of the IS 200t.


GALLERY: Pre-facelift Lexus IS 200t F Sport