I found a fault in the new Lexus IS 300h.
Neil Lyndon happily drives the Lexus IS 300h but wishes for one more thing.
This was such an astonishing moment, I almost had to stop the car. It reminded me of those H.M. Bateman cartoons of social life between the world wars when an unbelievable outrage occurs that flabbergasts Britain ‘s entire middle class (such as Discovery of a Dandelion on the Centre Court at Wimbledon).
A fault in a Lexus, the world cries out in disbelief: have you taken leave of your senses? Well, I am awfully sorry to say so but, if I may make so bold….
If you reach out your left hand while driving to adjust the volume on the (incredibly sumptuous) Mark Levinson sound system, you might accidentally graze a finger tip against the electronic slider control for air conditioning on the driver’s side of the car. You might then find, as I did, that you have inadvertently dropped the temperature by five or six degrees and have to put it right again.
Well, I mean to say – intolerable. How could they send this car out in such a state?
It just won’t wash for Lexus to reply that there ought to be no need to reach out your hand to the radio knob because you can perfectly well adjust the volume from the buttons on the steering-wheel. That may be true, but it’s not the point.
The point is that this car is meant to be perfect; and discovering that it has a fault is rather like discovering that the woman of your dreams picks her nose. It’s just not how it’s meant to be.
Apart from that unforgiveable blemish, I would have to admit that, in three weeks with this car, I couldn’t find fault with it. Along with the latest generation of Volvos, the Lexus IS 300h is just simply as good as a car can be today.
This IS is the third generation of Lexus’s million-selling compact sports saloon, with interior and driver’s cockpit inspired by the knockout LFA supercar. A turbo-powered petrol version (the IS 200t) is available, but we borrowed IS 300h with a 2494cc petrol engine and 650v electric motor which is Lexus’s first full hybrid IS model. Both versions are available with F Sport styling and handling package. On our test car with Premier spec, the only additional extra was the metallic paint job on the titanium body which too the OTR price of £39875 up to £41485.
That price struck me, genuinely, as a bargain. I didn’t look at the spec sheet for several days after I started driving this car. By then, I was so enamoured that I wouldn’t have been surprised to find the asking price was well above £50000 – that being pretty much the kind of money you’d have to fork out for a Jaguar XE, Audi A4, BMW 3 Series or Mercedes C-Class specced-up to the level of this Lexus. For my money (a purely hypothetical concept), the Lexus puts them all in the shade.
The combination of those motors supplies the IS 300h with a fabulous wealth of creamy torque. Acceleration from 0-60 mph in a fraction over eight seconds may not be rocketing by contemporary standards, but it’s faster than the original Golf GTI. It is delivered, however, with such civilised calm that you might have to turn up the Active Sound Control dial beside the steering wheel to conduct more engine sound into the cabin through a dedicated speaker behind the audio unit.
The hybrid set-up also produces figures for emissions and fuel consumption that add up to massive taxation benefits, especially for company car drivers. Lexus’s claim of an overall average of 60+ mpg was almost 50% higher than the 40+ mpg I was achieving, but perhaps they conducted their test without having the Drive Mode Select switch permanently set to Sport.
In that arrangement, the steering, ride and handling tighten up so markedly that this family saloon comes quite close to being chuckable. Toyota’s electric CVT system may not be the edgiest form of transmission for higher performance driving but, once you have adjusted to the leisurely rate at which it adjusts to inputs, it is possible to hustle on country roads at a respectable rate.
If I were really pushed, I would admit that this IS 300h did have one more shortcoming. It does have to be considered a lamentable lapse on Lexus’s part to send us a car with a roof that wouldn’t retract. If, however, they eventually produce a convertible version of the IS 300h that will certainly be the car I shall most want in the world.
Car reviewed: Lexus IS 300h Premier – Base Price On the road £39,875 price as tested £41,485 0-62mph 8.4 secs Top speed 125mph Fuel Economy combined 61.4mpg CO2 emissions 107g/km Engine 2494cc 4-cylinder / Lexus Hybrid Drive Max Power Engine [email protected] Max Power Motor 141bhp Engine Torque [email protected] Motor Torque 300Nm Transmission Electric CVT
Torque and acceleration
Civilised and calm
Pretty good value
None to mention