Sometimes pretty doesn’t equal usable

Form and function are two concepts often competing for the same space. Form, the beauty and style of an object, can prove hard to retain when adding functionality, the ingrained usability of an object. The 2017 Lexus IS sedan is a perfect example of an automotive battleground where these two concepts duke it out. And in the Lexus’ case, form is winning.

Let’s back up a bit. I’m driving the revised 2017 Lexus IS 200t F Sport sedan this week – the 2.0-liter turbo-four-powered, RWD sports sedan from Toyota’s luxury brand. This compact 3 Series competitor offers a taught suspension with summer performance tires, sexy bodylines, and a beautifully designed interior, all powered by 241 horsepower. There are negatives about the IS, but they relatively few and far between. The biggest complaint, however, is the lack of functionality within its center console.

Lexus designers did an amazing job sketching out the dashboard, steering wheel, and center console. Sadly, they seemed to forget how Americans use their cars. There is simply a lack of handy storage space and usable cup holders.

The two cup holders are placed too far rearward, making it hard to reach for drinks. Even worse, the presence of cups renders the passenger’s left arm an orphan, consuming all the armrest space afforded to the shotgun rider. The cup holders are also too small for larger drink containers. Secondly, there is no space for cell phones, wallets, or other odds and ends people tend to store in a console cubby hole. Yes, there’s the under-armrest storage compartment, but it’s not the handiest place for such items.

The remedy for this form over function layout is simple – though it doesn’t change anything: think of the IS as a driver’s car. Sure, the vast majority of American IS buyers use the car as daily transportation, but the designers apparently thought coin trays, storage bins, and convenient cup holders weren’t necessary to the task of driving. And while they’re right in the purest sense of a sports car, the lack of everyday usability is unwelcomely compromised.

The faux pas doesn’t diminish my appreciation for the IS sedan, but would make ownership a bit more challenging. Let’s hope Lexus finds a way to inject functionality into the cockpit of the next generation.

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