Lexus hy­brid de­riv­a­tive of­fers plush ride, but is no sip­per

LO­CAL LAUNCH

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS - Pric­ing:

Hy­brid cars are about as pop­u­lar as spinach­flavoured ice cream in SA, where diesel still rules supreme as the fuel-sip­ping choice for mo­torists want­ing to save money on travel costs.

The back­lash against diesels over­seas in the wake of the Diesel­gate scan­dal hasn’t trick­led down to SA where diesel sales are still very strong. Nev­er­the­less, Lexus is push­ing the hy­brid agenda with petrol-elec­tric ver­sions of its ES sedan and NX and RX sports util­ity ve­hi­cles in the lo­cal line-up.

Now Toy­ota’s premium cousin has in­tro­duced a hy­brid de­riv­a­tive of the six-year old Lexus IS sedan, which is due for re­place­ment in 2020.

Wear­ing the trade­mark blue badge de­not­ing a Lexus hy­brid, it’s called the IS 300h and com­bines a 2.5l petrol four-cylin­der en­gine with a 105kW elec­tric mo­tor, di­rect­ing drive to the rear wheels via a con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion (CVT).

The petrol en­gine runs on an Atkin­son cy­cle which is said to use less fuel than the more com­monly-used Otto cy­cle and, in con­cert with an elec­tric mo­tor which takes on some of the power du­ties, the car’s sell­ing point is that it re­put­edly runs on the smell of a fuel rag. Its claimed fuel con­sump­tion is just 5l/100km on a com­bined ur­ban/free­way cy­cle. I didn’t get any­where close to that kind of thrifti­ness at the car’s me­dia launch drive in Joburg last week how­ever, with the trip com­puter show­ing 10.2l/100km. That’ sa lot thirstier than a sim­i­lar­ly­pow­ered diesel ve­hi­cle.

The driv­ing route was ad­mit­tedly all in stop-start ur­ban traf­fic, but it’s still hard to imag­ine be­ing able to cut that fuel con­sump­tion by half, down to what the fac­tory claims.

The short drive re­vealed the IS 300h to be ad­e­quately pow­ered, with the petrol en­gine pack­ing out­puts of 133kW and 221Nm, while there’s a max­i­mum 164kW on call with the petrol and elec­tric units work­ing in ca­hoots. Lexus quotes a de­cent 0-100 km/h sprint of 8.5sec, with a 200km/h gov­erned top speed.

As with all Lexus self-charg­ing hy­brids, the IS 300h can be driven in petrol-elec­tric, or pure elec­tric modes at slower traf­fic speeds. Dur­ing re­gen­er­a­tive brak­ing, the elec­tric mo­tor serves as a high-out­put gen­er­a­tor, re­cov­er­ing ki­netic en­ergy as elec­tric­ity to charge the hy­brid sys­tem bat­tery.

It’s a very re­fined drive, with al­most im­per­cep­ti­ble shifts be­tween the petrol and elec­tric modes. Along with an EV mode that can run the car for short dis­tances on elec­tric power alone, there are Eco and Power set­tings to vary the drive de­liv­ery from lazy to more alive. None of these modes fix the un­pleas­ant slip­ping-clutch ef­fect of the CVT, but the driver can use the steer­ing wheel gear pad­dles for a man­ual shift feel.

The best thing about the car is its cushy ride qual­ity. It’s a class act in the calm and un­flus­tered way it glides over rip­ples and speed humps.

The plush ride is de­spite the ve­hi­cle be­ing fit­ted with stiff­ened-side­wall run­flat tyres to com­pen­sate for there be­ing no spare wheel; the boot is the same size as a reg­u­lar IS but its un­der­floor is oc­cu­pied by the recharge­able nickel-metal hy­dride bat­ter­ies that feed the elec­tric mo­tor.

The re­freshed three-de­riv­a­tive IS line-up now com­prises the IS 300 EX with a 2l turbo mo­tor, the IS 350 F Sport wield­ing a 3.5l V6, and the new IS 300h SE.

A spec up­grade sees the 200h and F Sport gain­ing the Lexus Safety Sys­tem+ which in­tro­duces driv­ing safety aids such as a blind spot mon­i­tor. IS 300 EX R715,400 IS 300h SE R753,800 IS 350 F Sport R806,400

All Lexus mod­els carry a seven-year/105,000km war­ranty and main­te­nance plan, and hy­brid mod­els have an eightyear bat­tery war­ranty.

Above: A petrol­elec­tric ver­sion is added late in the life of the Lexus IS range. Left: A 10.3-inch mul­ti­me­dia sys­tem is on of­fer.

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