The Lexus IS was first introduced to Europe in 1999 and since then it has had somewhat of a cult following. For years it was the bottom step into the Lexus range. It’s up against some very stiff and more-popular competition from Audi with their new A4, Mercedes with the C-Class and BMW with the 3 Series, the latest IS should be a bigger contender than it is. It’s stylish, fun and economical.
When it comes to the engine line-up there is only one choice to the Irish market, the UK has a much wider selection. What we do get is the IS300h, and it’s not what you would call sluggish. Between the petrol engine and the hybrid motor you will receive a brake horse power of 223. The petrol engine is a 2.5 litre V6. Like the NX hybrid that’s available the IS300h comes with a CVT gearbox, which can be a bit slow to change gears. On-paper we’re told that this car will bring drivers from 0-100 km/h in 8.4 seconds.
Our test model was the F Sport and this comes with an adaptive damping system which aids in keeping body roll to a minimum and allows the vehicle to soak up bumps in the road easily. The steering is very accurate and the car grips the road excellently. The ride is smooth but as already mentioned, the CVT automatic gearbox can be slightly frustrating. It’s this gearbox that makes the IS fall behind the very strong 3 Series and the Audi A4, however the C-Class’s gearbox can be frustrating at times too.
This is a brilliantly padded vehicle and the noise levels from the wind, road and engine are kept to a minimal. There is a whirring noise from the electric motor and this will appeal to some, but not to others. Of course the electric motor only kicks in at very low speeds and as soon as you put even the tiniest amount of pressure on the accelerator it flicks to the petrol engine. The car loses some of its refinement if you put the foot down to get to motorway speeds, because you can hear the car wanting to change gears through the CVT gearbox.
Unsurprisingly the Lexus IS is made up of very high quality materials. Our Lexus 300h F Sport came with the sportier grille and LED fog lights. The Nike-looking LEDs to the front are a stunning touch. Inside you will find a beautifully finished dash and the seats are more than comfortable – the only real issue that we had is that there wasn’t many options when it came to moving the steering wheel position. It’s more interesting in here than in an A4 or the 3 Series, especially with the LFA-style instruments in the F Sport model. Like the NX, the infotainment system can be slightly awkward to navigate – it looks great though.
The Lexus IS received a full five stars in the Euro NCAP in 2013. For adult occupancy it received an excellent 91%. For child occupancy they received a glowing 85%, and even pedestrian safety scored well with 80%. The interior is surrounded by 8 airbags and the car is available with Lane Departure Alert, Automatic High Beam and Adaptive Cruise Control.
Four adults will easily fit in here and the back seats are a nice area for two kids. Leg room to the front and rear is competitive within the segment, head room could do with offering more in the rear though. The boot area is good, but it wouldn’t offer the same capacity as its competitors.