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Lexus IS

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Lexus IS
5/10

Overall
verdict

The sound of one hand clapping. Engine's character doesn't agree with the (excellent) rest of the car.

Additional Info

What is it?

The new IS really is all-new on top and mostly new underneath. The hybrid Lexus is a car that demands its buyers are sure exactly what they want from a car, and what drawbacks they are prepared to suffer in pursuit of those aims.

Driving

This stiff body and sophisticated suspension do reap rewards, not just in handling but in ride and refinement, too. To all intents and purposes, the IS steers as precisely and as sharply as any of the opposition. Especially in the F-Sport version, which has a slightly stiffened chassis, the handling's slop-free, and the whole assembly has a happy hunger for bends and roundabouts, with a reassuring, if slightly one-dimensional, mild understeer when it's all out. The ride's good too, without much banging or thumping, even though it is, on the F-Sport, slightly on the taut side of the average.

The 2.5-litre petrol engine and hybrid motor together make 220bhp at peak. Good on paper; more power than the rival 2.0 diesels anyway. But the Lexus/Toyota hybrid system depends for its efficiency on the engine revving up and down in a way that's almost entirely unrelated to road speed. Deprived of auditory hints on the way into a corner, you have spookily little idea how fast you're going. Then as you accelerate away again, its answer to the accelerator sounds squidgy and unsatisfying. Not sporty, then.

On the inside

From the front, the interior's a success. It's an unusual and rather fetching three-dimensional dash shape, clad in either leather or a facsimile thereof that had me fooled. Since it's a Lexus, the quality of materials is pretty fine and the list of equipment goes on and on. The F-Sport version has similar reconfigurable clocks to the ones in the LFA, and excellent sports seats too. Many versions have a plethora of radar eyes and blind-spot systems, and satnav capable of online searches and even Google Street View (which shows you a screen giving you the option of street view of your current position. Why not just look out of the window instead of staring at the screen?)

Owning

Thrash a hybrid like this, and it gets thirsty. These CVT petrol hybrids shine in gentle driving, especially in cities. In that situation, they're probably more economical and definitely far quieter than diesels, especially for the surprisingly frequent times when you dribble along under electric power alone.

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Latest road tests

5/10 Lexus IS 300h F-Sport driven
July 2013
3/10 Lexus IS 200d
April 2011
6/10 Lexus IS SE-L
July 2009

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