Spicy Tangy Chicken

July 3, 2013—We were handed the keys to the Deep Sea Mica Lexus IS250, or ‘ni goh shu’ in Japanese and were nervous about the “beige.” The problem, as most enthusiasts know, isn’t that Lexus and Toyota build crap cars. Quite to the contrary they build solid, reliable machines without bad habits. It’s just that they’re so ninety-five percent—they can do everything that ninety-five percent of people need and want. So, the remaining five percent, the passionate car-guys and –girls of the world, the real Drivers, thumb our noses treating Toyotas as a commuter appliance for those who simply don’t get it.

2014 Lexus IS250

We decided to celebrate a bit as this is our first press car and wound up schlepping the girlfriend and Lexus to Santa Barbara. We took canyon roads whenever possible and the IS250 understeered predictably but was otherwise flawless, if uninspiring. Even with the windows down, the V6 could hardly be called loud. Not bad when commuting, but if this car wants to be a contender perhaps the exhaust note could be a bit louder. For what it’s worth there is a discernable difference between ‘eco’ mode and ‘sport’ mode. Sport obviously quickens throttle response and shift speed (which could still be a bit quicker) while suspension and steering changes are harder to detect.

2014 Lexus IS250 interior

The cabin remained cool in spite of record-breaking heat (vented seats never hurt) and the subscription-free real-time traffic was good too, routing us around jams when encountered. It has Bluetooth connectivity and XM satellite radio—very entertaining. But here we were, trying to create an event when this car is the very opposite of drama.

This required a re-calibration. Not of any of the car’s components, rather of Wide Open’s expectations. Besides the Scion FR-S and the now-out-of-production Lexus LF-A, Toyota’s cars do not engender emotional reactions. We’re being generous: they’re boring. Great, but boring.

2014 Lexus IS250 side view

So on the way back from Santa Barbara we stopped for dinner at one of the Valley’s innumerable Chinese restaurants, Joe’s China Café. We’d never heard of it but were tired of trying to pick and just plopped ourselves down, nearly starving. And honestly, who doesn’t like Chinese? The food was good, not too heavy and priced reasonably. I really enjoyed the Spicy Tangy Chicken, delish!

2014 Lexus IS250 at night

Then it dawned on me: Joe’s China Café was the perfect metaphor for the Lexus IS 250. Without expectations, you’ll be pleased. You might even find something you love! In the Lexus’ case the steering, which is very quick. Yes, it could stand to gain a bit of weight, but still very good. And if Lexus’ evolving design language is any indication they’re attempting to set their own mark. Wide Open applauds that.

2014 Lexus IS250 rear

We don’t care how quickly it laps the Nurburgring, the IS250 is the base Lexus sedan. And as a commuter or cross-country vehicle that will run forever, it’s superb. As a track/canyon star, no, it’s not the best, but is entertaining enough. Next time we hit the road, we’ll definitely consider asking for the keys again and load up on some Spicy Tangy Chicken. [kiWO]