In a section of the market where diesel engines are the norm, the petrol-only nature of the IS’s engine range is rather surprising. The entry-level unit is a 2.5-litre V6 that you need to work hard in order to extract maximum performance, but it’s punchy enough for assured overtaking. The V8 engine in the high-performance IS-F model is sensational, churning out 417bhp and hurling the car from 0-62mph in just 4.8 seconds.
The IS turns in swiftly, grips keenly and is unfazed by mid-corner bumps. It’s a shame, then, that the steering doesn’t offer more feedback and that the pay-off for impressive control over rollercoaster roads is a stiff and unsettled feel around town and on the motorway - especially on the F-Sport models with their lower suspension. These limitations also apply to the IS-F.
Usually you can take the quiet and refinement of a Lexus for granted, and certainly the engines are suitably hushed and wind noise well suppressed. The IS and the IS-F suffer from road noise, however – especially over coarse surfaces – which makes them more tiring on a long drive than they should be.
The IS is well priced when you take into account the generous standard equipment and the discounts generally available. However, the absence of a diesel engine makes the IS pricier to run than other compact executive cars, and the V6 petrol engine gives higher CO2 emissions and fuel consumption than six-cylinder rivals from BMW and Mercedes. The IS can’t match its German rivals on residual values, either.
The cabin materials aren’t as appealing as those in a BMW 3 Series, but everything feels well screwed together. You shouldn’t have to make any unscheduled trips to the dealer, either, because the IS - and Lexus as a company, for that matter - consistently performs superbly in the JD Power Customer Satisfaction Survey.
All IS models come equipped with at least eight airbags, while the IS-F has 10, and all variants have a host of electronic systems to look out for you when cornering or braking. Traditionally, Lexus has performed extremely well in our Security Tests, so thieves should definitely beware.
The controls are logically laid out, and you get a touch-screen to keep clutter to a minimum if you specify options like sat-nav. However, the system isn’t the most user-friendly we’ve come across. Taller drivers may feel they’re perched too high, but most people will be able to get comfortable. All but the entry-level model come with an eight-way electrically adjustable driver’s seat.
There’s plenty of space upfront, but anyone travelling in the back seats is less well catered for. A VW Golf costing half as much has more rear legroom, headroom is equally limited and if the front seats are set low there’s little space for rear-seat passengers’ feet. The boot is small and awkwardly shaped, too, with a particularly narrow space between the wheelarches.
Standard kit makes the big German brands look stingy. Even the base SE model gets alloys, climate control, keyless entry and Bluetooth. SE-I brings front and rear parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers and heated leather seats, while Advance models throw in sat-nav. F-Sport models add a 13-speaker stereo and sportier styling, while SE-L cars have wood trim and memory seats.
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