Until now aspiring Lexus buyers anxious to get the benefits of the company’s latest hybrid system – that’s a combination of petrol engine and electric motor – would have needed to look to the marque’s larger and more expensive models.
But now the twin-power system which promises to deliver more than 60 miles per gallon is available on the luxury car maker’s smaller IS range, with the IS 300h.
And that’s good news for business buyers as the super smooth, super clean newcomer has a benefit in kind rating of just 12 per cent.
The exterior design of the latest, third generation IS saloon range bears some resemblance to its predecessor but is now far more dramatic, far more powerful and certainly more eye catching.
The distinguished lines of the bonnet, the muscular wings and the swept up tail section with clever sculptured metalwork at the sides all set the new model apart.
And while this might be the smallest of the Lexus range it is no small car, offering good passenger comfort space in both the front and rear. In fact the newcomer is some 75mm longer than the car it replaces and 10mm wider.
The interior exudes a very business-like, executive design with the all important main dials in direct line of sight and a large display screen, which features all the secondary applications and is operated by the equivalent of a computer mouse, in the centre of the dashboard. But for all this state-of-the art technology it’s nice to see a classic analogue clock retained at the centre of it all.
Press the start button on the dashboard, take off the parking brake – which on this car is foot operated – and you move off in silence and as the electric motor provides the initial power.
It’s not long, however, before the engine comes into operation and after that you can be running on electric power, petrol or a combination of both at any given time. Not that you have to worry about any of that, as the on-board brain works it all out for you.
If you really do want to know which system is in operation at any time you can bring up a constantly changing display screen in between the speedometer and rev counter to see exactly where the power is coming from.
The IS 300h allows you to drive the car in normal, sport or snow modes and you can even switch to totally electric power for limited periods. Ideal if you are returning home late at night and don’t want to wake the neighbours.
A CVT gearbox gives exceptionally smooth motoring and when combined with electric power only, really cocoons you from the hustle and bustle of the traffic outside.
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly for a hybrid you can also change gear manually via the paddles behind the steering wheel.
The top-of-the-range Premier edition car features eight-way electrically adjustable front sports seats in leather – which are heated and ventilated – as well as 60/40 split-folding rear seats. Touch the starter button and the driver’s seat moves you to your pre-set optimum position while the steering wheel is lowered to suit your needs. The reverse happens when you stop the engine.
With a potential 319bhp on tap the IS 300h certainly has enough power for exciting performance motoring but it delivers it in such a quiet, refined manner that it ensures relaxed, almost stress-free motoring.
And it’s always nice to know that at least some of it doesn’t cost you anything in fuel.
Model: Lexus IS 300h Premier
Mechanical: 2,494cc, 4 cyl, 178bhp petrol engine plus 105kW, 141bhp electric motor driving rear wheels via CVT automatic gearbox.
Max speed: 125 mph
0-62 mp h: 8.3 secs
Combined mpg: 60.1
CO2 emissions: 109 g/km
Warranty: Three years/ 60,000 miles