Built for budding Bonds
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