This new premium mid-sizer brings the best of both worlds blending a sporty drive with ultra fuel efficiency.
This new premium mid-sizer brings the best of both worlds blending a sporty drive with ultra fuel efficiency.

New standout luxury car has arrived

The Lexus IS300h has a split personality.

For one it is ultra efficient, it is even possible to better the maker's claimed fuel use figure - an extremely rare occurrence. The second is despite its eco-friendly nature it's a truly gripping drive.

Here is everything important you need to know abut the Lexus IS300h.

Despite its giant grille the IS is a handsome machine.
Despite its giant grille the IS is a handsome machine.

The grille grows on you

You'll either love or hate Lexus's bold front grille and sharply creased panels. Initially, the new corporate look felt over-the-top but it suits the low-slung sportiness of the IS sedan. The IS looks handsome in profile, with its raked windscreen and tapered rear end, although the design doesn't leave a lot of room for rear seat passengers. Taller buyers might also want to forgo the sunroof, which eats into headroom. Rear seat legroom isn't overly generous either, but if you want space, buy an SUV. This is a car where the rear seats are rarely used.

The hybrid set-up is a winner, with excellent real world fuel economy.
The hybrid set-up is a winner, with excellent real world fuel economy.

The cabin is conventional but classy

The IS cockpit feels a little dated compared with its German competition. The centre touchscreen is fine but there's no wide-screen digital display in front of the driver. Unlike the similarly priced BMW 3-Series, there's no head-up display. Everything is impeccably finished, though, and all the touch points feel suitably up-market, from the faux-leather padding on the dash and centre console to the plush carpet and frosted metal highlights on the door handles and aircon vents. Our test car had a black and tan colour scheme that looked great.

The hybrid set-up is impressive

You pay an extra $3000 for the hybrid version of the IS and you have to sacrifice some performance and driving satisfaction for the extra efficiency of the petrol-electric set-up. Lexus claims a combined output of 164kW and 221Nm for the 2.5-litre petrol engine and electric motor, compared with 180kW and 350kW from the turbo four-cylinder in the cheaper model. The hybrid also has a continuously variable transmission in lieu of the standard car's conventional eight-speed auto. That means dulled throttle response as the CVT spools up. The payback at the petrol bowser is significant, though, especially in city traffic. The hybrid's claimed fuel consumption in the city is 5.1L/100km compared with 11.5L/100km for the turbo petrol. We managed to match the manufacturer's claim quite comfortably and better it on one long freeway drive, which is very rare.

The interior is old school but luxe.
The interior is old school but luxe.

The equipment list is long

There's not a lot missing from the features list on the IS, although wireless phone charging, rear USB ports and a head-up display are notable exclusions. Standard luxuries include heated front seats, satnav with live traffic updates, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, digital radio, an excellent Pioneer audio system and dual-zone airconditioning with rear vents. An optional sunroof is $2000, while audiophiles might consider the $5500 enhancement pack that includes a 17-speaker Mark Levinson audio unit as well as leather accents, sunroof, ventilated seats and bigger wheels. On the safety front, all bases are covered by 10 airbags, auto emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, blind-spot monitoring and lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert with braking and active cruise control. The car will also dial triple-0 after an accident and has GPS tracking in case of theft. The lane-keeping works well but turns off very quickly if there's no steering input.

The new IS hooks into corners really well.
The new IS hooks into corners really well.

It's capable through the corners

Sedans may be on the nose with most buyers, but driving enthusiasts will enjoy the IS's talents on a winding road. It feels sharp and nimble through the bends, with accurate steering, impressive grip and reassuring composure over mid-corner bumps and corrugations. The only dampener on the driving experience is the CVT, which lacks the responsiveness of the standard car's eight speed auto. It takes a while to wind up out of corners, even if you use the paddles to change gears. The IS has the ability to handle a lot more grunt, so if you want something sporty, it may be worth the higher fuel bills to plump for turbo or V6 power.

Originally published as New standout luxury car has arrived



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