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NEW Lexus IS 300h - 1st Drive

NEW Lexus IS 300h - 1st Drive

In today’s competitive compact executive saloon class we tend to find that it is dominated in the main by the diesel models, this being proven by the UK sales figures for lower capacity Turbo engine variants from such market leaders as Audi, BMW & Mercedes. 

Lexus don’t like diesel engines and still believe that their hybrids lead the way to ever increasingly powerful yet economical engines.

The 3rd generation of the Lexus IS 300h is intended to tie together this modern green technology with a sense of real drivers appeal.

What is it?
Lexus have managed to design and build for our enjoyment an exciting new premium class executive car with technology (borrowed) from their mother company Toyota. Where before customers would have usually had to cough up extra to benefit from the occasional use of the battery drive system thus gaining the payback it brings this version of the IS goes on sale from just £26495, a price that Lexus feel makes it ultra-competitive with such already class leading cars as the Audi 2.0TDie or BMW 320d.

What’s under the bonnet?
The latest IS 300h combines together its electric motor system and a 2.5 litre 4 cylinder petrol engine to push out a joint BHP of 220. Sent to the car’s rear axle via the high efficiency CVT (Continuous Variable Transmission)

This kind of technology is similar to that found on motor scooters, it works without any individual gear ratios, What happens is there are two tapering mounts with a belt system that supply the continuously varying ratios required to give the motors drivetrain the ability to utilise maximum efficiency when delivering the power to the drive system. The benefits to this largely go unnoticed by the driver due to it being mostly used when crawling along in lanes of traffic, what will be noticeable is the fact the CO2 emission levels are just 99g/km which keeps it under the road fund licence FREE threshold level returning to the user an approx. fuel usage of 62mpg combined. 

What’s the spec like?
Lexus’s long standing tradition for specification levels continues with this new IS range with even the entry model SE being equipped with Cruise, Auto headlights, Keyless ignition & entry, Climate Control, Electric folding mirrors and a Media interface system with a 7” screen and DAB radio, all cars come with Bluetooth as standard. The Luxury spec version has in addition 17” Alloy wheels, Auto wipers and Dimming Rear viewing mirror. The more sporty drivers will be intrigued by the F Sport level of trim adding additional interior & exterior detailing; this model has a unique range of alloys, Full electronically adjusted front Sports Seats with heating, and the instrument panel id taken directly for the LFA supercar model. The sports design of this version makes the driver feel like they are in something rather distinct and superior. Top of the line Premier models come with the benefit of increased levels of luxury which includes the Mark Levinson 15 speaker stereo system, High premium navigation with Rear view parking camera. 

Any rivals?
With this all new IS 300h range aimed at challenging the more fuel efficient models already offered up by the Audi, BMW & Mercedes cars and now also being able to compete on the available space offered to the end user it seems the new kid on the block with his reasonable On The Road pricing will make life difficult for the big boys in the coming months.

What’s it like to drive?
As always the sophistication and luxury offered by the Lexus are outstanding and this is even true for the new F Sport Version with its tuned up suspension system which only seems to add a slight amount of additional road noise into the cabin area, this of course translates itself via the car to the driver in the relaxing progress they feel even on the most tiring or dogged length of journey.  Put your foot down and the Lexus still manages to surprise, it feels completely winning and has a natural grace you wouldn’t have expected had you driven its predecessor. I guess the only real point of contention is the CVT gearbox which doesn’t seem to mesh decisively with this new IS given its sportier nature. It has a tendency to emit a droning noise in the higher rev banding and deprives the driver the levels of enjoyment felt previously with the paddle-shift system found on the IS250 

The verdict
With Lexus sticking to their hugely remarkable strengths consisting of refinement and extreme comfort with an added measure of user appeal for the driver this new version of the IS should absolutely be on anyone’s selection should they be on the lookout for a smart saloon with high levels of style and equipment but still offering low running figures. The fact that this all comes minus the sound of a clanking diesel engine is just the cherry on top of the proverbial cream cake. Unfortunately despite the new dynamic progression of the model the hybrid drive-train & the economy biased CVT box means this car still acknowledges its defeat to its German counterparts.

The knowledge
Model: Lexus IS 300h F-Sport
Priced From: £33,495
Engine Model: 2.5-litre, 4 cylinder petrol, electric motor
Power Output: 220bhp
Top speed: 125mph
0-62mph: 8.3 seconds
Combined MPG: 60.1mpg
Emission Level: 109g/km CO2

The comments above do not necessarily reflect Rivervale's views unless clearly stated.

Car related news
8 June 2013
Written by Rob
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