We always keep an eye out for camouflaged test cars, and that habit paid off when we caught this next-generation Lexus IS sedan on a highway in southern California. The car was only miles from the city of Torrance, which is home to Lexus' national headquarters.
We previously spotted a test mule hidden under the skin of a current Lexus IS F, so this is our first real look at the next-generation Lexus IS sedan. Surprisingly, it's not too different from the current car. The basic proportions carry over, as does the shape of the greenhouse. The curved, sloping nose appears to have co-opted the spindle grille seen on other new Lexus products, and the trunklid wears a spoiler and LED taillights.
Lexus previewed the design of the next IS coupe with the LF-CC concept shown in Paris and, aside from the two-door bodystyle, that concept car looks remarkably similar to the mule we spotted in California. The next-generation Lexus IS will probably grow a few inches in all directions so that it can better compete with segment mainstays like the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4/A5.
The new Lexus IS should debut early next year as part of Lexus' broad plan to revamp its model range and, in the process, bump annual sales by at least 21 percent. We don't yet know what engines the new car will use, but the LF-CC concept had a hybrid setup with a 2.5-liter inline-four gas engine. Given that parent company Toyota will soon launch a new 2.5-liter engine for use in hybrids, it's virtually guaranteed that at least one version of the new Lexus IS will have that powertrain. In addition, expect an updated version of the 3.5-liter V-6 engine in the current IS350.
Expect more official information on the next-generation Lexus IS within the next few months.