Nobody does hybrids better than Lexus, so it was no surprise that when Lexus launched the third generation IS in 2013, the model range came without a diesel . Even though the company car market is choc-a-bloc with German 2 litre diesels, Lexus to their credit realised that rather than compete they would aim for low emissions another way & that’s exactly what they’ve achieved with their latest IS300h which offers customers 101g/km CO2 emissions.
With some slight upgrades in 2016, the IS range is not complicated with just two models on offer. Our test car & fleet-friendly version, hybrid IS 300h & the IS 200t turbo petrol. Both come with 4-cylinder engines, the hybrid featuring a 2.5-litre unit, while the turbo is a 2.0-litre. They produce 181bhp & 180bhp respectively. Both cars use auto gearboxes, the hybrid featuring a typical Toyota style CVT box, while the petrol turbo features an eight-speed auto.
What Lexus do as well as anybody is luxury & when you climb into the IS drivers seat it is clear to see. For a start the IS shares its hybrid system with the larger GS saloon. Inside you’re be greeted by a cockpit inspired by the £350,000 Lexus LFA supercar which has to be a good thing. The steering wheel looks & feels lovely & the digital dials give the car a really modern feel. There’s an easy to use multimedia and navigation system & this is paired with a well positioned 7″ screen. The mouse located in the centre console allows you to choose the function required & with a little bit of patience, just like the patience required of a computer mouse, it soon becomes second nature to control.
Sound inside the car is excellent with a powerful 6-speaker audio system and my favourite DAB radio is standard. There’s also an aux-in cable input for MP3 players and USB ports for connecting smartphones. The rear-view parking camera which is incredibly clear, makes parking the IS300h a doddle. Dual-zone climate control is managed by a sliding style temperature control, one on each side of the centre dashboard for both front seat passengers. You slide your finger up or down which increases or decreases the temperature, strange but very engaging.
The latest IS is slightly bigger inside thanks to thinner front seats, resulting in more rear legroom, which is certainly better than both the Jaguar XE & Alfa Romeo Gilulia I tested recently. The ISh’s boot also offers 450 litres of space, 30 litres down on the petrol version thanks to the batteries & 30 litres below rivals BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class & Audi A4.
The IS looks best from the front with an electric shaver foil-type front grille which I really liked. The rear is finished with sexy rear sloping lights The look is finished off with LED daytime running lights, LED headlights, 17″ alloys & electric folding heated door mirrors. There are also interesting curves along it’s flanks which do make the IS stand out from the crowd, otherwise it would look not too dissimilar from the 3 Series, which should appease some. Internally the IS comes with superior safety features including driver & passenger front, side & knee airbags, curtain airbags, ABS with EBD & brake assist, vehicle stability control, traction control, hill start assist control & a vehicle dynamics integrated management system, plus tyre pressure warning.
The primary difference in the IS over the diesel led BMW, Audi & Mercedes, is of course it’s hybrid technology. The CVT transmission suited me & I drove the car all week quite happily in a combination of Normal & Sport settings, without trying the Eco mode.There is a twist button adaptive set-up, located in the centre console, which lets you switch between Normal, Eco and Sport modes, but the differences are really quite subtle, the main difference being visual. For example a red light on the rev counter tells you you’re in Sport mode. I did try out all three set ups & across the range managed to average 44.6 mpg in my 7 days driving. The suspension gives a comfortable ride at all speeds, with decent body control around corners. What I really liked about the IS is that it is quiet, not just at low speeds in town when the electric motor is engaged, but on the motorway as well. Set the cruise control at 75 mph & away you go & because it’s not noisy you can listen to your music at a reasonable volume or take a phone call without resorting to shouting. On a mad dash, the IS isn’t quick per se but will still hit 62 mph from a standing start in 8.4 seconds & goes on to reach a top speed of 125 mph. Lexus claims a combined mpg of 65.7 on the IS. I managed just over 45 mpg which is about the same as I averaged in a recent drive in a Golf GTD, Alfa Romeo Giulia & BMW 3 Series.
While the Europeans who chased lower emissions with diesel, are now looking at a way to get similar results from their petrol models, Lexus with their petrol hybrids are well on the way to petrol Xanadu. I also though that the OTR price of £35,375 for the IS was a veritable bargain when compared to some rivals cars I’ve tested recently. The build quality & attention to detail is superior to that found in the C-Class, Audi A4, Alfa Giulietta or Jaguar XE.
If you want to stand out from the crowd, be looked after impeccably by their dealers & want to stick to fingers up to the Treasury, then the Lexus IS300h is for you. It may not be remarkable in any way but it’s certainly a car that I as as sensible person would like to drive every day.
Smart thinking Lexus 3.5/5.
Lexus IS300h Luxury P Navi
Engine. 2.5-litre petrol hybrid
Price. £35,375 (as tested £35,985)
0-62mph. 8.4 seconds
Top speed. 125mph
Fuel economy. 65.7mpg combined.
CO2 emissions. 103g/km