Lexus may be Cal­i­for­nia dream but diesel’s still smarter choice

Hy­brids may be all the rage in in the US but Fred­eric Manby is less im­pressed by the fuel claims back in Blighty.

Yorkshire Post - Motoring - - ROAD TEST - LEXUS IS300H

TAKE a 2.5 petrol en­gine, an elec­tric mo­tor and com­bine in the small­est Lexus sa­loon. Re­sult: The Lexus IS300h – where h stands for hy­brid.

Toy­ota was a pi­o­neer of hy­brid power and I dare say you can’t go half a block in many a Cal­i­for­nian town with­out see­ing a Prius. That’s a guess. They are pop­u­lar over there but I haven’t been over there since last cen­tury.

So, I haven’t seen Toy­ota and Lexus and Honda hy­brids mov­ing al­most silently through the land which made gas guz­zlers a house­hold shame.

Hy­brids make some amends by giv­ing lower fuel con­sump­tion, in brochures at least, and lower emis­sions, so in coun­tries where ve­hi­cles are taxed on, say, carbon diox­ide emis­sions there is less to pay.

Mostly, they do not get too near the brochure fig­ures, but then, mostly, nor do reg­u­lar petrol and diesel cars. Also, hy­brids cost more money to buy be­cause they are com­pli­cated things with two en­gines joined to­gether by a fancy au­to­matic gear­box and trans­mis­sion sys­tem. If you are a bit skint, stop read­ing now and go and buy a diesel model.

How­ever, we can no longer buy a diesel-pow­ered Lexus IS. The choice is ei­ther a 2.5 petrol V6 model (from £26,495 for the 250 SE au­to­matic) or from £29,495 for a four cylin­der 2.5 petrol elec­tric hy­brid in the 300h SE. Fast­think­ing read­ers will see that at face value the hy­bridi­s­a­tion adds £3,000 to the score.

To get the com­par­isons over and done with then, the re­spec­tive com­bined mpg av­er­ages are 32.8mpg ver­sus 65.7mpg; CO2 rat­ings are 199g/km vs 99g/km. Top speeds are 140mph vs 124mph; 0-62mph times are 8.1 and 8.3 sec­onds. Power fig­ures are 204bhp vs 178bhp and 184 lb ft vs 163 lb ft (more on which later).

Con­clu­sions, the hy­brid is cheaper to run, just about as nippy, and in this SE spec­i­fi­ca­tion free of an­nual road tax and Lon­don con­ges­tion charges. Warn­ing: none of the other IS hy­brids is free of tax or Lon­don pay­ments be­cause they emit just over 100g CO2.

My test car was the fa­blook­ing F Sport ver­sion, which out­wardly re­sem­bles the 5-litre V8 blaster known as the IS F (£58,414). It has gulp­ing air in­takes and a tiered rear valance – ready for the 168mph which the F can reach. Ex­cept the hy­brid can’t. But it is no slouch, no eco couch po­tato, not shy at shak­ing a leg. The dou­ble power pack de­liv­ers what we fast driv­ers call poke at dif­fer­ent stages – which is why the bhp, torque and

It is no slouch, no eco couch po­tato, not shy at shak­ing a leg. The dou­ble power pack de­liv­ers

ac­cel­er­a­tion fig­ures are mis­lead­ing. The petrol en­gine does in­deed de­liver 178bhp and 163 lb ft. How­ever, the elec­tric mo­tor adds 105bhp and 221 lb ft of torque, and be­ing an elec­tric en­gine you get the fizz al­most im­me­di­ately.

For­tu­nately the IS mod­els are rear wheel drive and with the ad­di­tion of smart trac­tion con­trol you can get rapid ac­cel­er­a­tion with­out spin­ning out of con­trol.

Liked the sportily clad Lexus? In parts. Would I like a less sporty ver­sion? Prob­a­bly. The snag is that by aping the rapid F in looks the hy­brid wannabe has wide shal­low tyres that give a dis­turbingly firm ride and, cu­ri­ously, some side to side mo­tion. It does, though, look the busi­ness.

Lexus is Toy­ota’s ri­poste to rear-wheel-drive pres­tige ve­hi­cles from BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The IS goes up against the 3-se­ries and the C-Class and Audi’s A4. It has the req­ui­site qual­ity and af­ter that it comes down to a mat­ter of taste and im­age and I dare say brag­ging rights in the Camshaft Arms. Lexus hasn’t ac­quired much of an im­age ei­ther way. It oc­cu­pies the rar­ity peg which once sup­ported SAAB and Volvo. A Lexus is not com­mon.

There’s a BUT com­ing. Diesel power is dom­i­nant in th­ese ju­nior exec cars and some of them match the head­line econ­omy of the Lexus hy­brid and in real life de­liver higher mpg though none of them gets be­low the 100g CO2 bar­rier which gives free ac­cess to cen­tral Lon­don.

So, no diesel Lexus and Lexus sales rose only 2.6 per cent Jan­uary to Oc­to­ber (reach­ing 7,769) but Mercedes-Benz soared 18.8pc (helped by a new A-Class), BMW was up 5.7pc and Audi al­most 13pc. The Ger­man trio sold around 300,000.

Ah, the nav­i­ga­tion. At first it promised so much with its cur­sor con­trolled by a fixed “mouse” but the pointer is too quick and you need a steady hand. It will not ac­cept a full post code, which means you still have to en­ter a street. Even given the full ad­dress, some­times from its own li­brary of des­ti­na­tions (eg a tourist of­fice), the bally thing ended well short and of­ten out of sight of the desti­na­tion.

There was the same fault with its nav­i­ga­tion back to an en­tered lo­ca­tion in the sticks. Ergo: I was lost in the dark.

Lexus IS300h F Sport with the looks of its much more ex­pen­sive sta­ble­mate but a much tamer hy­brid power plant.

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