The Lexus IS is a sporty saloon in the premium Lexus range – a rear-wheel drive, four-door saloon with sharp looks and sharper handling. Performance comes from Lexus’ new 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine in the IS 200t, while the IS 300h delivers even greater power and incredible fuel economy from its petrol-electric full hybrid powertrain.
Both models are offered in a range of six trim levels – SE, Luxury, Executive Edition, Sport, F SPORT and Premier – with high levels of equipment as standard and optional upgrades so you can tailor the IS to your tastes. Striking, agile, responsive and safe, the Lexus IS a driver’s car with a luxury pedigree.
With its rear-wheel drive layout and choice of powerful engines, the Lexus IS is focused on the driving experience. The IS 200t’s 241bhp petrol turbo engine and fast-shifting, close-ratio eight-speed Sport Direct Shift automatic transmission propels the car to 62mph in only seven seconds. The automatic transmission provides smooth, effortless progress for everyday driving, but can be used with paddle shifters in manual ‘M’ mode for greater driver involvement.
For the IS 300h, Lexus fitted its 220bhp Lexus Hybrid Drive powertrain made up of a 2.5-litre petrol engine and high output electric motor. Using the latest full hybrid technology and powering the rear wheels through an E-CVT automatic transmission, the IS 300h achieves almost identical performance to the IS 250 while achieving fuel economy akin to a supermini.
By changing its driving mode according to the situation, the IS 300h can operate in emissions-free, electric-only EV mode up to 40mph, at which point the petrol and electric motors work together. Other driving modes include Eco for minimal fuel usage, Sport/Sport+ mode for maximum performance, and Snow mode for the best possible traction in slippery conditions.
Lexus honed the ride and handling of the IS so the driver gets plenty of feedback, developing the car on track to get the best performance on-road. Revised suspension controls body roll and increases grip and stability, and the steering’s feel and feedback has been improved. Further dynamic improvements are evident on the F SPORT models, with the IS 300h F SPORT optionally available with clever Adaptive Variable Suspension.
The sporting feel of the Lexus IS continues inside, where it’s perfectly combined with the usual levels of Lexus refinement luxury. The driver’s seat has a quilted finish providing better support and greater comfort, and the leather steering wheel has been lowered for a sportier driving position; F SPORT models have a dash display inspired by the Lexus LFA supercar. Soft-touch materials are used throughout the passenger cabin, reinforcing the quality of the interior finish.
Lexus is well known for its highly-equipped cabins, and the IS is no different. All trim levels feature dual-zone air-conditioning, cruise control, electric windows, parking sensors (optional on SE models). Sport models have Lexus Navigation fitted as standard, with the top-of-the-range Premier models receiving the Lexus Premium Navigation system with full navigation and connectivity features (USB/Aux/Bluetooth/WiFi) and a rear-view camera – this system is optionally available on the rest of the range.
The IS 300h Executive Edition is particularly well-equipped, with extra equipment including leather upholstery, Lexus Navigation and more fitted as standard.
An six-speaker audio system is standard equipment on SE, Luxury, Sport and F SPORT models, with the Premier trim level getting an audiophile-quality 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system and DVD player.
Small but significant design changes mean that the new Lexus IS is more spacious and practical than the previous model. A longer wheelbase and revised front seat design give rear-seat passengers an extra 85mm of knee room, and a greater loadspace length increases the IS 250’s boot space to 480 litres.
The IS 300h, with its hybrid battery pack below the boot floor, is close behind with 450 litres. 60/40-split folding rear seats enable larger items to be carried when required.
The Lexus IS scored the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, with the highest scores in its class for pedestrian protection. Its ultra-strong body is designed to absorb frontal, rear, side and offset impacts, and the IS has eight airbags and a raft of active safety technologies to further protect its occupants.
These include stability and traction control, advanced anti-lock braking systems, and on Premier models, blind-spot monitoring and a system to warn of approaching traffic when reversing from a parking space. Premier models can also be ordered with an optional Technology pack that incorporates a radar-controlled pre-crash safety system, speed-sensitive adaptive cruise control and lane departure alert.
Particularly in IS 300h guise, the Lexus IS sets new standards with regard to ownership costs. The full hybrid IS 300h SE model achieves 67.3mpg on the combined test cycle with only 97g/km of carbon dioxide emissions, meaning it is exempt from road tax too. The larger-wheeled Luxury, F SPORT and Premier models are close behind, with road tax free for the first year and just £20 per year after that. Low benefit-in-kind company car tax rates from just 12% make the IS 300h an attractive proposition for business use too.
The 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine powering the IS 200t returns 40.4mpg combined, and costs £205 per year for road tax after the first year.
All IS models have annual/10,000 mile service intervals, with the IS 300h’s maintenance-free hybrid system further reducing the need for brake and tyre wear.
The Lexus IS is built in Japan on the same production line as the flagship Lexus LS saloon under the watchful eye of Lexus’ ‘Takumi’ craftspeople, so ensuring the highest quality finish is equally about the pride of the workers as it is about delivering the best possible ownership experience. That’s why Lexus provides a three-year/60,000 mile warranty and 12-year anti-corrosion warranty. Additionally, the IS 300h’s hybrid components are covered for five years or 60,000 miles (whichever comes sooner).
For the new IS 200t, prices start at £28,995 on the road for the Sport model or £31,495 for the F SPORT model. The range-topping Premier model is priced at £35,750.
The full hybrid IS 300h SE costs from £28,995, rising to £30,995 for the Luxury model with 17″ wheels, parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers and more. Based on the Luxury model but with over £3,000 worth of extra standard equipment, the IS 300h Executive Edition carries an on-the-road price of £29,995, representing a significant saving. For a sportier look at the same price point of £29,995, the IS 300h Sport similarly has extra equipment. Lastly, you can drive away in the IS 300h F SPORT for £32,495, or the fully-loaded Premier model for £36,750.
For further information about the Lexus IS, visit the designated section of the Lexus website. To request a test drive, leave a comment below and we’ll contact you.
*Prices correct as of 17/9/15