We drive Lexus' popular hybrid saloon on Irish roads
Pros: Cabin comfort and quality, distinctive looks, low emissions
Cons: Rivals more engaging to drive, infotainment takes getting used to
Diesel is dead, long live hybrid! It’s a bold statement from Lexus, especially at a time when mainstream car makers continue to produce diesel models. Hybrid cars are becoming increasingly popular though, a trend that is evident in the latest edition of the Carzone Motoring report which surveyed over 2,000 Irish motorists. Over half of the people surveyed said they would consider purchasing a hybrid car in the near future. The newly-updated Lexus IS 300h is probably one of the most desirable hybrids on sale right now, so we spent a week driving it on Irish roads to see how it fares in the uber-competitive compact executive saloon class.
What is it like?
The IS 300h boasts distinctive styling and it is a welcome breath of fresh air in this corner of the market which is mostly dominated by German executive saloons from Audi and BMW. The IS 300h looks futuristic from the outside in keeping with the rest of Lexus’ range, with sharp and angular lines along the front and side panels, striking LED lights and large alloy wheels. Hybrid badges near the rear wheels and blue-coloured Lexus emblems show the IS 300h isn’t a traditional diesel and petrol executive car.
The interior is striking, with comfortable seats, eye-catching inlays and one of the nicest dashboard designs in the class. Space up front is excellent with plush levels of comfort for the driver, however rear seat room is slightly restricted for taller passengers. The infotainment system is a bit fiddly to use, but the infotainment screen is attractively-integrated into the dashboard and works well, while an analogue clock can be found on the centre console for an extra touch of class. There is 450 litres of space in the boot, which is respectable given the electric motor’s batteries are stored under the floor.
The IS 300h is powered by a 2.5-litre petrol engine, which is paired to an electric motor and a CVT automatic transmission. The combined output of the engine and electric motor is a substantial 223 horsepower, and the IS 300h delivers power smoothly with 0-100km/h taking 8.4 seconds. Whilst rivals like the BMW 3 Series are sportier and more fun to drive, the IS 300h is comparably quiet and incredibly refined on the move. There are three driving modes to choose (Eco, Normal and Sport) and the system alters between electric and petrol driving modes in seamless fashion.
Thanks to a low emissions rating, the IS 300h’s annual motor tax bill is just €190 and we averaged 6.5l/100 kilometres in fuel economy during our week of varied driving on Irish roads. The rear-wheel-drive platform is incredibly planted on twisty back roads. Some of the IS’s rivals are sportier and ultimately more exciting to drive as the CVT automatic transmission seems lazy at times, but it offers a satisfying drive nonetheless and is is very much at home in stop start traffic and urban commuting conditions.
In Ireland, prices for the new IS 300H start from €40,950 and there are five grades of specification to choose from; Eco, S-Design, Luxury, F-Sport and Premium. The base specification Eco model is well equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels, Adaptive Cruise Control, a seven-inch infotainment screen, a four-inch TFT driver’s display, electronic climate control and lots of other safety aids. We tested the mid-range Luxury model which gains additional front and rear parking sensors, rain sensing windscreen wipers, leather upholstery and front heated and electric seats, however prices start from €46,950 at this level.
Carzone verdict: 4/5
The Lexus IS 300h is a unique compact executive saloon package which offers something different to its closest class rivals. Its styling is admirably distinctive, it is only available with hybrid technology and equipment is generous from base specification. Most of the IS 300h’s rivals are sportier to drive however, and it falls slightly short of the mark in terms of driver engagement. It makes up for this with lavish cabin comfort and an incredibly refined ride however. For company car buyers and aspiring executive car owners, the IS 300h is definitely one to shortlist.
Test Car Details:
Model driven: Lexus IS 300h Luxury
Prices from: €40,950
Price as tested: €46,950
Annual Road Tax: €190
Engine: 2494cc four-cylinder petrol and electric motor
Top Speed: 200km/h
0-100km/h: 8.4 seconds
Transmission: CVT Automatic
Body style: Saloon
Boot Space: 450 litres