It’s a chilly night in Manchester, where we’re on location to shoot the Lexus IS 300h Executive Edition. The expansive steel and glass buildings of its Central Business District provide the ideal backdrop for the car, because they perfectly combine form with function. Stunning to look at, but ecologically responsible, spacious, but occupying only a small mass of land, the buildings demand no compromise for the companies that have made them their base.
This got us thinking, when buying a car, why should you have to make a choice between dependability or desirability, sportiness or economy, quality or cost-effectiveness? Why can’t you have it all?
Well, thanks to the arrival of the Lexus IS 300h Executive Edition, those on the hunt for premium quality, luxury features, low running costs, a cosseting ride, focused driving experience and stylish looks, will find that they need compromise no more.
Slotting below the established Luxury grade in the IS 300h model line-up, the Executive Edition costs £29,995* on-the-road – £1,000 less than the Luxury – and adds over £3,000 worth of additional features.
Climb aboard, and you’ll find leather upholstery covering the seats, which up front are heated and six-way adjustable. Lexus Navigation is fitted as standard and includes postcode entry, 3D mapping, junction view, and the option to highlight points of interest. The system is operated via a computer mouse-style remote dial control.
Rounding-off the impressive kit tally is a smart entry and start system, front and rear parking sensors, 17-inch alloy wheels, dusk-sensing HID headlights, cruise control, auto-dimming rear view mirror, dual-zone climate control and rain-sensing wipers.
Under the bonnet lies a proven Lexus Hybrid Drive powertrain. The system incorporates a 2.5-litre Atkinson cycle petrol engine and an electric motor, to give a total power output of 223bhp. The benchmark 0-62mph sprint is dispatched in 8.8 seconds, while the top speed is 125mph.
The hybrid system has been widely praised for its silent low-speed ride and intuitive running style. The IS 300h emerged victorious in a recent Auto Express twin-test against the Mercedes C300 Bluetec Hybrid, with the publication commenting: “(The IS 300h’s) hybrid powertrain feels better resolved than the Mercedes’, as it relies on the electric motor more frequently to save fuel, is more refined and switches between drive modes more smoothly.”
Keen drivers will appreciate the rear-wheel drive layout, choice of three driving modes – eco, normal and sport – plus a Sequential Shiftmatic transmission with paddle shift controls for a manual shift feel. Select ‘Sport’ mode and the dashboard illumination shifts from blue to red, and the driver is rewarded with a sharpened throttle response and weightier steering.
Positive feedback to wheel inputs was paramount to the model’s chief engineer, Junichi Furuyama, who notes: “As the wheels turn, you can feel it through the steering wheel. As a result, the vehicle turns only as much as the driver wants to turn. You can feel this not just during high-speed driving but even as you start off during normal everyday driving. That’s what makes the IS fun to drive.”
In design terms, the IS 300h Executive Edition bears the usual hallmarks of Lexus’ ‘L-finesse’ visual language. The exterior is awash with beautifully intricate details, including L-shaped LED daytime running lights that are independent from the main light cluster, and deeply contoured LED taillights which incorporate aero-stabilising fins to smooth airflow and improve handling characteristics. Such flourishes led CAR magazine to proclaim: “There’s no better looking ‘junior exec’ on the market (than the IS 300h).” Autocar had high praise for the model’s brave looks too, writing: “The styling alone should steal some sales from its more conservative competition. Boomerang LED running lights, the now-familiar spindle grille, and taillights that taper to a fine point all look fantastic, but retain a definite Japanese flavour.”
The model we’ve been shooting is in finished in Sonic Titanium metallic; the hue has been developed using a new advanced coating process developed by Lexus engineers that increases the brilliance of its finish. An additional metallic texture provides strong shading and sharply defined highlights, making the bodylines more noticeable and the surfaces finely polished. Our pictures highlight a chiaroscuro contrast on the bonnet, which is accentuated by creases which run along the sides to form the front ‘Spindle’ grille.
Fortunately, the IS 300h’s impressive performance figures, mechanical dynamism and gorgeous looks do not come at the expense of economy and running costs. The Executive Edition returns up to 64.2mpg on the combined cycle, while supremely low CO2 emissions of 103g/km mean that Vehicle Excise Duty (road tax) is free for the first year of ownership, and only £20 per annum thereafter. Fleet buyers will find the 13% benefit-in-kind rate particularly hard to ignore (15% for 2015/16), especially since the model avoids the 3% surcharge currently added to diesels that sit below the 35% bracket (37% for 2015/16).
Euro NCAP awarded the IS 300h a five-star crash test rating, and the car scored maximum points in the side barrier impact test. Meanwhile, in the child occupant tests, the car scored maximum points for the protection levels for both 18-month and three-year-old infants.
Compromise isn’t a word that we like at Lexus, which is why we’ve developed the IS 300h Executive. It’s a car that seamlessly combines supermodel looks and a rewarding driving experience with levels of luxury usually associated with the class above, and running costs usually associated with the class below. It’s a car that we took so much pleasure in photographing that we carried on through until the small hours, comparing the utopian silence of a deserted Manchester to the car’s low-speed ride. A car this good is worth going the extra mile for, though we did have to snooze our alarms the next day…
All information was correct at the time of publishing.