Anyone with an eye for design will be drawn to the new Lexus IS 300h in an instant, its sharp sculpted lines and even proportions result in a truly handsome car. Frankly, it needed to have first-class looks in order to take on its main competitors which include the ubiquitous BMW 3-Series and Audi A4. This new IS goes far beyond its attractive shell, the good news continues inside, all complimented with an engaging driving experience.
Interestingly Lexus no longer offer a diesel variant for this third-generation IS, instead offering this petrol Hybrid model. Power is derived from a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine, combined with a second generation Lexus Hybrid Drive system, resulting in a collective power output of 223hp and 300Nm of torque. One of key advantages to this system is its low fuel consumption, the IS can return a combined average of just 4.3L/100km (65.7 mpg), and boasts emission as low as 99g/km of CO2. Power is transferred to the rear wheels through a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). You can select from five driving modes at the twist of a rotary knob beside the gear selector, Eco, Snow, Normal, Sport/Sport S and Sport S+. Each one changes the characteristics of the driving style in relation to steering and throttle control etc.
The drive itself is refined yet sporty, the IS 300h won’t disappoint keen drivers, the steering is accurately weighed to aid feel. The steering wheel is a joy to hold, perfectly sized and chunky for added grip. Push the car on twisty sections of road it will respond and reward, the CVT transmission takes a bit of time to master, once you find the sweet spot however it works perfectly. On acceleration the cabin is filled with a deep pleasing induction roar. When you select Sport mode, the tactile instrument dials change to display a rev counter with red backlighting for the sporty look.
Our test car was the F-Sport model, one of five variants along with Eco, S-Design, Executive and Premium. The styling on our test car is slightly more sporty and aggressive then the other models. They all feature a new Lexus spindle grille frontal design and have deep front bumpers and flared wheel arches. The battery for the Hybrid system has been relocated to below the boot floor, with a decent 450 litre luggage space now available. This new IS has a longer wheelbase over its predecessor which results in an additional 50mm of legroom for rear seat occupants. The interior itself is a masterpiece, with LFA-inspired elements throughout. It’s very much driver-focused, you sit low with all the key instruments and switch gear within easy reach. The climate controls feature touch sensitive switchgear, making climate changes quick and effortless. All variants are equipped as standard with a Lexus Media Display system, this incorporates USB, AUX and Bluetooth connectivity, along with a premium sound system and 7” multimedia display screen.
This new Lexus IS 300h is armed with stylish looks, a sophisticated interior and decent driving dynamics to challenge its competitors. We would expect to see a good number of conquest sales for the IS as an attractive alternative to the frequently seen Audi’s, BMW’s and Mercedes that make up the vast majority of this segment. If you have not driven a Lexus before, now is the time to take one for a test drive.
The Lexus IS 300h has recently been awarded ‘Best in Class Car of 2013’ by Euro NCAP, which commended the premium saloon for its outstanding safety performance in the ‘Large Family Car’ category. It achieved a maximum five-star safety rating.[table “163” not found /]