2013 Lexus IS review
* New Lexus IS driven in UK * Available with petrol and hybrid power * On sale now, priced from 26,495...
Diesel models dominate the executive car class, but the stylish new Lexus IS is designed to change that.
It isn't available with any diesel engines. Instead, buyers can choose between a 2.5-litre petrol V6 (badged IS250) and a IS300h petrol hybrid, which combines a four-cylinder 2.5-litre unit with an electric motor.
Standard equipment on both versions includes an automatic gearbox, climate and cruise controls, a digital DAB radio and keyless entry, plus the hybrid emits just 99g/km of CO2 less than any Audi A4, BMW 3 Series or Mercedes C-Class.
What's the 2013 Lexus IS like to drive?
All versions of the new IS get conventional springs and dampers as standard, but F Sport models have slightly sportier settings and can be specified with an optional adaptive damping system.
This adaptive set-up lets you switch between Normal and Sport+ modes, but the differences are subtle; in both, the suspension gives a pretty comfortable ride at all speeds, with relatively decent body control through corners.
In addition to the F Sport model, we tried cars with the softer, standard set-up, but these aren't that different. The steering is the only thing that's significantly worse, feeling numb around the straight-ahead, although in both cars the wheel weights up to provide some reassurance in corners, without ever offering the precision that you get in a 3 Series.
The IS's engines are a bigger concern, because they miss out on the strong mid-range torque of turbocharged four-cylinder petrol units and modern diesels. This makes them feel weedy unless you floor the accelerator, and while the V6 does at least sound good when you do this, the hybrid 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. However, wind noise is always well contained, and the hybrid can run near-silently on electric-only power at town speeds.
What's the 2013 Lexus IS like inside?
Rear space was pretty limited in the old IS, but this new model has a longer wheelbase and slimmer front seatbacks. The result is you now get as much rear legroom as you do in a 3 Series and more than in an Audi A4 or Mercedes C-Class. Six-footers may still wish they had a bit more headroom, though.
Like its German rivals, the IS has a high transmission tunnel that makes life uncomfortable for a central rear passenger. However, there's lots of space and adjustment upfront, so drivers of most sizes should be comfortable.
The mouse-like Remote Touch interface in the high-spec cars we drove is more of a problem, because this controls all infotainment functions and is both fiddly and distracting to use on the move. Cheaper IS models get a simpler version of the system, but we weren't able to try this.
Perceived quality leaves a little to be desired; while everything seems to be solidly built, some of the plastics in the cabin don't feel especially premium.
Meanwhile, the IS's boot remains one of the smallest in the class, even though it's much bigger than its predecessor's and the rear seat backs now split and fold 60/40 to boost practicality on all but entry-level SE versions.
Should I buy one?
The 250 model is best avoided, because its engine is as inefficient as it is weak; even in its most frugal form, it averages 14.3mpg less than the 2.0-litre unit in the similarly priced BMW 320i automatic.
It's much easier to make a case for the IS300h, which sits between three and five company car tax bands lower than a 320d Efficient Dynamics, depending on the spec you choose.
If you're looking for the best all-rounder, the 3 Series remains the car to choose; it has a stronger engine, superior driving manners and a classier, more practical cabin. However, the IS's tiny running costs mean it is worth considering as a cheaper company alternative.
What Car? says
Engine size 2.5-litre V6 petrol
Torque 184lb ft
0-62mph 8.1 seconds
Top speed 140mph
Fuel economy 30.7-32.8mpg
CO2 emissions 199-213g/km
Engine size 2.5-litre petrol hybrid
0-62mph 8.3 seconds
Top speed 124mph
Fuel economy 60.1-65.7mpg
CO2 emissions 99-109g/km