Lexus IS 300h Review : Warm n’ fuzzy, smooth n‘ creamy
Singapore - The Junior Executive sedan tells a compelling story of the greatness of a badge, and also sets an upward tone of how well a brand manufactures their cars. The Lexus IS may seem like an all serious business suit, but we quickly learnt that it is right up there when it comes to driving pleasure.
But the Lexus IS also is a left-of-field oxymoron for what is a reliable go-to brand for many, in a segment dominated by the Germans.
While the current IS has been around for almost ten years now, Lexus has put in many good hours going around their Shimoyama proving grounds, to further refine their compact sedan; and if you were to take a leaf from Porsche with their continuous distilling of the 911, you know that you would usually end up with a vastly superior version of the same product.
So, with all that distilling done, the Lexus IS returns with a noticeably stiffer skeleton to carry its functional offal. Part of this added stiffness is a result of some 25 meters of adhesive (same stuff used on supercars and increasingly less-super-ish ones), and laser screw welding. There are also weight savings, with the switching to aluminium for some of its body panels.
With its restyling, Lexus has done away with those fussy split headlamps. Resculpting of the side and rear, adds to the sedan’s road presence.
Lexus IS 300h - inside
There are also some important restyling tweaks to the interior. The most important of this is the repositioning of the 10.3-inch infotainment screen, which now sits proud on the dashboard. Lexus have also replaced the biscuit-shaped controller with a touchpad. While it is an improvement, in contrast, the recently-launched NX SUV gets a super-large touchscreen, accompanied with a more-advanced voice-activated operating system. And if placed beside the one in the IS, it is quite clear that Lexus should have done a little more future-proofing with the IS.
Our test car is the base Executive trim, which makes do with leather-ish Nuluxe, rather than an actual cowhide jacket. The other IS variants are plied with more luxurious Soft Leather, but if you don’t poke it, you wouldn’t know it. But there is one important feature lacking here, which are the memory front seats; so this would be an issue if there is more than one driver. But overall, both the leather and non-memory seats are not deal breakers.
Leg space at the rear is similar to what you would get on the previous 3 Series. This means a tight fit for anyone who is taller than 173.5cm. But for most, this is snuggy-snuggy sufficient. But then again I feel that the IS is a somewhat personal car.
Lexus IS300h - driven
Today, there is a greater emphasis on electrification, and you can find class equivalents like facelifted Audi A4 and new C Class, which both have MHEV tech. The 12V system on the A4 does not help drive the car, but keeps its vitals turned on when you coast, while the C Class on the other hand, gets a “full-on” 48V system.
The Lexus IS 300h on the other hand runs on a full hybrid system, consisting of a (tuned for efficiency) 2.5 litre in-line four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine, which produces 180hp and 221Nm. This is paired with an electric motor, which is also part of the e-CVT transmission. The latter puts out 140hp and 300Nm. Which is an increase of 20hp and 100Nm when compared to the pre-facelifted car.
The electric motor starts the car off with a characteristic whine, and once in-motion, the engine kicks in to do its work. There is a certain fluidity in how the IS 300h drives. The bulk of this is due to the nature of e-CVT, providing what is quite a seamless experience.
On most days, you would appreciate how well the IS 300h delivers its refined ride, while returning something to the tune of 5.5L/100km.
Within the cabin, there is that similar Lexus-like cocooning you would find in the luxury brand’s larger sedans. There is some faint road noise from those Bridgestone Turanza, but none which would annoy you.
The revised suspension, with new swing valve shock absorbers do a fine job balancing between a sporty ride, while they are still pliant enough to provide its occupants with day-to-day comfort; possibly the best balance of both I have experienced.
Lexus has also widened both the front and rear tracks by 45mm and 50mm respectively… and it shows (both physically and in its handling)! As you pitch the sedan into a bend, it sits strangely upright, while it swoops in, and then back out of a turn without drama. It does not egg you on in a way like, maybe a BMW would…
No, it is not that sort of car.
Yet it feels sporty… And, warm, fuzzy, smooth and creamy.
The Lexus IS might be showing its age on the inside. But we feel that the segment’s only car which still has a CD player, is simply a better drive than both the 3 Series and C Class; and it is one of those cars you would never get tired of getting back into.
PHOTOS Clifford Chow
Lexus IS 300h Executive
Engine 2494cc, inline4
Motor Power 105kW
Motor Torque 300Nm
Top Speed 200km/h
Fuel Consumption 5.4l/100km (combined)
CO2 122g/km (combined)