Built for bud­ding Bonds

Warwickshire Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - By Peter Keenan

THE re­cently re­vamped Lexus IS 300h is a sleek cruiser that is a plea­sure to drive. Up against some se­ri­ous Ger­man com­pe­ti­tion from BMW, Mercedes and Audi, it is equipped with enough giz­mos and gad­gets to please any bud­ding James Bond, while be­ing se­ri­ously stylish both in­side and out.

When it comes to 007 though this com­pact ex­ec­u­tive sa­loon is more a Roger Moore than a Daniel Craig – with a smooth charm and suave so­phis­ti­ca­tion. When you need a bit of get up and go the hy­brid sys­tem de­liv­ers power with aplomb, rais­ing a Moore-style mock­ing eye­brow at any boy racer who wants to take it on.

The rear wheel drive beauty eats up the miles on the mo­tor­way and is se­ri­ously eco­nom­i­cal around town with an of­fi­cial fuel econ­omy fig­ure in ex­cess of 60mph.

The 2.5-litre power unit is linked to an elec­tric mo­tor which pro­vides ini­tial propul­sion be­fore the main mo­tor kicks in.

It can be set in Eco, Nor­mal or Sport modes, but even in its hair-on­fire guise re­fuses to use petrol ex­trav­a­gantly. Car­bon diox­ide emis­sions are also low mak­ing the IS 300h a cost-ef­fec­tive com­pany car. There’s also an EV-only mode along with a Snow set­ting.

The au­to­matic CVT gear­box – which can be changed man­u­ally via pad­dles be­hind the steer­ing wheel – is smooth through the gears.

The IS 300h is driver friendly with a heated, elec­tri­cally ad­justable and sup­port­ive seat, plus a leather-cov­ered steer­ing wheel with multi-func­tion con­trols in­clud­ing a handy but­ton for flick­ing up and down the list of ra­dio sta­tions ex­hib­ited on the colour dis­play re­cessed into the cen­tre of the dash­board.

The ride is bump free as it seems to glide over the many pot­holes mas­querad­ing as roads. Thanks to a more rigid chas­sis and firmer sus­pen­sion the han­dling is slick with plenty of grip giv­ing con­fi­dence in cor­ners.

The bold ex­te­rior fea­tures a dis­tinc­tive de­sign with many nice touches in­clud­ing the ‘Hy­brid’ badg­ing be­neath both the rear doors. The face is hand­some giv­ing a no-non­sense vibe with its strik­ing fea­tures in­clud­ing full LED light­ing and a pro­nounced grille flanked by large scooped out air in­takes.

The in­te­rior shouts qual­ity with top-notch ma­te­ri­als al­lied to a fit and fin­ish nor­mally as­so­ci­ated with cars cost­ing dou­ble the £35,000-plus price-tag of the Lux­ury model.

There is plenty of room up front, while two adults can be seated com­fort­ably in the back. A third can be ac­com­mo­dated at a push, but only re­ally for short jour­neys as a raised trans­mis­sion tun­nel com­pro­mises legroom.

Stor­age space up front boasts door bins, lock­able glove­box, two cup hold­ers and a cov­ered cubby hole be­tween the front seats with con­nec­tions for mo­bile mu­sic play­ers.

In the back there are door pock­ets, a drop down arm­rest and air con vents which can be ad­justed to suit. Cup hold­ers though are con­spic­u­ous by their ab­sence.

Boot space is good, with a push­but­ton open­ing off to the right rather than in a usual cen­tre slot which took a lit­tle time to suss out – that said the bootlid can be opened off the key fob.

A fam­ily’s weekly su­per­mar­ket shop is eas­ily ac­com­mo­dated while rear fold­ing seats of­fer ex­tra space when re­quired.

The dual-zone air con­di­tion­ing fea­tures an un­usual tem­per­a­ture con­trol with red and blue ar­rows at the top and bot­tom of a nar­row strip. You can find your­self turn­ing the heat­ing the op­po­site way to your in­ten­tion, es­pe­cially when on the move.

The in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem is ac­cessed via con­trols to the left of the gear­stick with all 10 IS ver­sions boast­ing a se­ri­ous amount of good­ies. In­deed only the en­try-level SE model omits sat-nav which is op­er­ated via a joy­stick to guide the cur­sor around the screen.

All cars come with ‘Lexus me­dia dis­play’ and a six-speaker stereo sys­tem as well as cruise con­trol and key­less en­try, while a rearview cam­era and sen­sors make park­ing a cinch.

TEST DRIVE LEXUS IS 300H LUX­URY

MODEL: Lexus IS 300h Lux­ury PRICE: £35,375 ME­CHAN­I­CAL: 223bhp, 2,494cc, 4cyl petrol en­gine with elec­tric mo­tor driv­ing rear wheels via au­to­matic gear­box MAX SPEED: 125mph 0-62MPH: 8.4 sec­onds COM­BINED MPG: 65.7 IN­SUR­ANCE GROUP: 28 CO2 EMIS­SIONS: 101g/km BIK RAT­ING: 17% WAR­RANTY: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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