I’m going to nail my colours to the mast right away here: I’ve never understood the buzz around Lexus. Yes, they have built up a top-drawer reputation over the past few years. And as a producer of hybrids, there are fewer better.
The trouble is that Alan Partridge used to drive one – and I just can’t get that out of my head. I appreciate that is many years ago now, and, of course, that Partridge is a work of fiction. But we all see Alans all over the place – we maybe even know a few. And they are always in a Lexus.
However, after getting a glimpse and a ride in the latest Lexus IS, I’m starting to change my mind. It’s the IS 300h F Sport that has done it – a mid-range version of the new Lexus. But, I also hear even the basic SE model is packed to the brim with goodies and enough engine power to satisfy the harshest Top Gear audience. There’s a Premier version, too, which come with a few engine and chassis tweaks. Let’s take a closer look.
Make no mistake about it; the Lexus IS 300h F Sport is a stunning motor. It’s an executive super saloon at heart, with a long and narrow body and sharp, angular design. It oozes class and is super comfortable once you get inside, too.
There is an enormous array of onboard gadgets and gizmos to enjoy. The dipped dashboard has a classy touchscreen, and everything looks top drawer. You’ll also get built-in satnav, a media display, and a loud, clear six-speaker sound system. It’s a touch small on boot space – but this can be solved by folding down the back seats.
Start your engines
Lexus are rolling out the IS range with two engine choices. You can go for the hybrid version which can get you up to 67 mpg according to the blurb. There is a petrol-only version, too, but no diesel. I can’t comment on the petrol engine, as my ride was in the hybrid, and this is where we find our first – minor – issues.
Enjoy the ride
Now, according to Inchcape Lexus, the IS 300h F Sport is available for around the £30K mark. Looking at it, though, it has shades of a Mercedes-Benz worth a six-figure sum. But does it drive like one? In short, no – but that’s not to say it’s a poor experience at all.
It’s quiet, zippy and efficient – but it just lacks that oomph that the likes of Mercedes and BMW always seem to produce. That said, this is an entirely different price point we are talking. So, if you are looking for value, I’m not sure such issues will be a concern
The IS 300h F Sport is a car that might just change my mind about Lexus. It’s not cheap – by any means – but you get an awful lot for your money. And I won’t lie: I’ve been in cars worth three times the value that doesn’t deliver as much of an all-around experience.
In short, I’ve got to say that it doesn’t quite beat the Germans. But, make no bones about it: I’m with Partridge on this one.