We've been indulging in the Lexus IS 300h's first impression sensations for almost half an hour now and we're not rushing to go past this state.
Whenever we make our first miles of a Lexus test drive, we feel that we've just been sited at a reserved table. This impression is still here, but it's combined with the sensation that the car is walking with confidence. It seems planted on the road and, of course, much of the credit goes to the F Sport suspension and steering.
It's totally advisable to opt for the F Sport, since it takes very little comfort away for the massive feedback it has to offer. For the passengers, the setup doesn't make too much of a difference, but the driver now gets to enjoy the experience more than before.
The car is eager to follow your inputs and while those around you lean back in their leather-appointed cushions, you can feel the hefty amount of grip available. They won’t even suspect you’re having a good time behind the wheel.
Alas, one mustn’t get carried away. Not just for the sake of your passengers, but also for your own, it's best to drive the Lexus IS 300h up to seven or eight tenths. This means you'll get loads of comfort and refinement, all wrapped in a poky package that always feels ready to wrestle the big boys and displays a precise character.
Take it past this level though and you'll notice that the powertrain could do with some extra horses. You'll also wish that the grippy, neutral handling wouldn't turn into calculated understeer at the limit.
You can even disable both the traction and the stability control and you still won’t convince this Lexus to perform overpower oversteer. Yes, you can convince it to slide, but you’ll have to work for this.
Another reason to drive this car in a sporty, yet calculated manner would be the efficiency reward it has for you. We weren’t shy at all during our open road drive and yet the fuel consumption didn’t exceed 9l/100 km (26 mpg). Pretty nice, but we can’t help notice that we got about the same value in the larger and more powerful GS 450h.
The performance numbers make the self-proclaimed sporty aura of the car rather amusing, but as you drive along it feels better than 8.3 seconds and 124 mph (200 km/h). It really does and that’s because, aside from the straight line statistics, it’s got a determination to serve that pleases one.
In this respect, you can clearly see they’ve set up the car in a sportier way than they did with the Lexus GS 450h. You get the same driving modes, but these control a set of adaptive dampers that have simply been taken one step towards handling.
As for the ride, this provides the typical Lexus treatment, but you do feel there’s a bit of a struggle under the car when encountering larger road issues.
It’s the same with the steering, which becomes surprisingly firm in the sportier modes, while its feedback stays decent regardless of the chosen setup.
By the way, don’t get carried away by the excellent brakes - the pedal bites a bit aggressively to surround you with confidence, so be gentle.
Alas, the Lexus IS300h feels “junior” compared to the GS 450h and, just like in the case of its at-the-limit understeer, you can feel that the car has been kept on a leash. It’s not just the power difference, but the F Sport on the IS misses the integral steering it brings on the GS.
So, the Japanese have learned bad manners from the Germans. Fortunately, unlike Audi, BMW or Mercedes, Lexus only makes this difference in terms of performance, leaving the rest of the car to its full potential.
It may seem fun to compare the Lexus IS 300h and the BMW 320d, but, thankfully, the world hasn’t reached that point where they truly share their customers.
The Lexus IS300h looks sportier than the BMW 320d and the Japanese have produced a smarter, sleeker cabin. And when it comes to comfort, the IS spoils you more, but the 320d takes the cake when it comes to dynamics. You don’t have to reach the limit, where the Lexus has its weak point, it’s enough to go through a bend at a normal speed and you’ll feel that the BMW is much happier to do this job, it acts more natural.
Things may seem pretty balanced in this comparison, but there’s one little detail that puts the spotlight on the Lexus. We are talking about the price, a chapter where the BMW loses by a hefty margin.Continue reading
Hold on, Mary would like to say something...
It's no secret, a woman like me gets asked out all the time. However, what many men fail to understand is that it's not all about the money, the way you spend them is just as important. Seriously, I've become sick of seeing that BMW or Mercedes badge every time I am taken to the restaurant. Come and pick me up in an IS and I'll appreciate it!
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