Lexus IS Saloon full 9 point review
Diesel models dominate this class, but Lexus offers the IS only as a 2.5-litre petrol V6 (badged IS250) and a IS300h hybrid, which combines a four-cylinder 2.5-litre engine with an electric motor. Sadly, both lack the strong mid-range torque of turbocharged four-cylinder petrol units and diesels, so they feel weedy unless you floor the accelerator. An automatic gearbox is standard on both models; the 250 gets a six-speeder and the 300h a CVT.
Ride & Handling
All versions of the IS get conventional springs and dampers as standard, but F Sport models have slightly sportier settings and can be specified with an adaptive damping system. This lets you switch between Normal and Sport+ modes, but the differences are subtle; in both, the IS resists body roll well and generally offers a pretty comfortable ride. The steering on F Sport models feels more accurate than in other versions, although it doesn’t offer the precision that you get in a BMW 3 Series.
The IS250 sounds good when you put your foot down, whereas the IS300h responds with an annoying drone. It can also be hard to brake smoothly in both cars, due to a shortage of feel through the pedal. You hear some road noise over coarse surfaces, but wind noise is always well contained, and the hybrid can run near silently on electric-only power at town speeds.
Buying & Owning
The IS250 is best avoided, because it’s far thirstier and less efficient than the similarly priced BMW 320i automatic. However, the IS300h is easier to make a case for; it sits several company car tax bands below the 320d Efficient Dynamics. True, the BMW uses slightly less fuel, and we’d expect it to get closer to its official economy in real-world driving, but the Lexus should still be cheaper to run as both a private and company car.
Quality & Reliability
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 previous IS – and Lexus as a company, for that matter – has consistently performed superbly in the JD Power customer satisfaction survey.
Safety & Security
Every IS has stability control, eight airbags and a bonnet that pops up if you collide with a pedestrian to help cushion the impact. Range-topping Premier models also warn you if there’s a vehicle in your blind spot or if something is approaching when you’re reversing out of a space. Traditionally, Lexus has performed extremely well in our security tests.
Behind The Wheel
In high-spec models, a mouse-like Remote Touch interface controls most infotainment functions. Unfortunately, this system is both fiddly and distracting to use on the move. Cheaper versions of the IS get a simpler version of the system, but we haven’t tried this yet. There’s a good range of adjustment to help the driver get comfortable, and F Sport and Premier cars have electrically adjustable seats.
Space & Practicality
The IS offers as much rear legroom as a BMW 3 Series – and more than an Audi A4 or Mercedes C-Class. However, six-footers may still wish they had a bit more headroom, and a tall transmission tunnel makes life uncomfortable for a central rear passenger. All three German rivals offer more boot space than the hybrid IS, but most versions of the Lexus have rear seatbacks that split and fold 60/40 to boost practicality.
Even entry-level SE cars come with dual-zone climate control, cruise control, Bluetooth and a digital radio, plus it has lower CO2 emissions than more expensive models, thanks to its smaller alloy wheels. Luxury spec compensates with front and rear parking sensors and automatic wipers, while F Sport models look and feel sportier, and Premier models come loaded with luxuries.