Lexus IS 300h: A dialogue of design

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The time is rapidly approaching midnight and photographer Phil and myself have cracked open a few cans of energy drink during a brief break in our shoot schedule.

We’re at Lexus UK’s storage and press fleet facility in West Sussex in order to generate a selection of punchy images of the stunning IS 300h in this fetching shade of Ultra Blue that is exclusive to F Sport models.

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The painted floors and pristine walls of the unit create a clean, almost clinical space similar to that of a photographic studio. Not that you would know it from these images but it is pitch black outside and almost as dark inside, save for a faint glow emanating from the security guard’s office.

There is just enough visibility for us to carefully position and angle the high-intensity studio lights we’re using to illuminate the car. Rapidly changing patterns of autumn daylight meant that we needed to create an environment that allowed us to take control of the way light falls on our subject; hence the lateness of the hour and the regular need for liquid pick-me-ups.

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In the millisecond that the studio lights discharge their simultaneous burst of energy the whole room is bathed in light and an image of the blue IS is burnt into the back of my eyes like a flash of subliminal advertising. I don’t know if it’s the energy drink taking effect, but these regular jolts of visual stimulation banish my tiredness and create a kind of stop motion animation as I analyse the car from behind the scenes.

Replaying these images helps me evaluate the attractive complexity of this latest exponent of L-finesse design.

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A single glance gives you an appreciation of the car’s outline and harmonious overall proportions. A longer second look reveals the sweeping character lines linking front and rear and its athletic stance, while a closer third examination from different angles communicates the concave and convex surfacing and cues that subtly echo styling details from previous generations of IS. And that’s without even mentioning the distinctive multi-piece headlamps or spindle grille that has become the immediately recognisable ‘face’ of the new wave of Lexus models.

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The brief for this photoshoot was to deliver around 20 stunning images of the car, from heroic overall shots to close-ups of its gorgeous details. But like staring into a fractal pattern, there appeared to be no end to the layering of the design.

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For example, the mesh in the F Sport grille is designed in such a way that it provides an illusion of greater depth and perspective. Then there is the bold shoulder line that appears horizontal from the side but when viewed from above it licks over the top of the wing to create a feminine, hourglass curve. I also now appreciate the subtle twist in the side skirts as well as the upwards flick towards the rear lenses, the boot lid that is pinched at the trailing edge to create an integrated aerodynamic aid, and the kink in the rear window line inspired by that of the first-generation model.

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Moving inside, it’s impossible not to be impressed with the solid thunk of the door closing and ethereal environment of the leather-clad interior. It’s no surprise, really – the IS is built on exactly the same production line as the flagship LS, where its build is overseen by the same Lexus ‘Takumi’ craftspeople.

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An obvious highlight in here is the LFA-inspired radial graphics around the combination meter in the instrument binnacle: the central dial mobilises and changes its graphics to display different modes. But equal mention should also go to the electrostatic controllers that you gently caress to change the climate control temperature, the perfect ergonomics of the Remote Touch Interface mouse, and the way the sophisticated lighting of the central analogue clock gradually increases in intensity.

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Leaving out any of these exterior and interior details just to abbreviate the shoot to a 20-image brief felt like a travesty, so you will have to forgive us for generating a few more shots than was strictly required. The full set of images can now be found and downloaded on Lexus UK’s Flickr page.

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Having spent around six hours in the company of the IS appreciating its visual appeal, I would defy any owner not to walk away from this car without stealing at least one glance back in longing. It looks stunning from every angle and works on multiple levels. Indeed, the only thing that held more appeal to me as I closed the door to the unit at 2:00am was my bed.

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