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LEXUS IS 300 HYBRID

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Toyota’s fledgling luxury division, Lexus, introduced its first compact sedan in Europe and North America at the turn of the century. Now in the late stages of its third generation, the re-imagined IS continues to deliver on Lexus’ distinctive brand of luxury, evocative design, innovative technology and leading driving dynamics. 

When Lexus launched locally nearly two decades ago, competition from traditionally dominant German manufacturers was at an all-time high. Toyota, by then already South Africa’s number one automotive brand for more than two decades, wagered that Lexus’ market success in other parts of the world would translate into achievement here against the executive sedan offerings from the German luxury triumvirate. 

Toyota South Africa played the long game with the first and second-generation IS, establishing the compact sedan as an alternative worthy of buyers’ attention. Now, with its updated third-generation range, the stage is set for the IS to reach its well-deserved full potential.

A RANGE OF FIRSTS

Setting it apart from the pack, Lexus introduced the IS as a hybrid-only range. Having shown immense growth in recent years, the groundswell to alternative-propulsion vehicles is expected to keep growing at a rapid rate.

Leveraging its existing dominance in the hybrid-electric market, Lexus has positioned its hybrids as performance and technology-rich vehicles, with the IS leading the charge as the first all-hybrid range, including the IS 300h EX, IS 300h SE, and the explosive IS 300 F Sport.

Standard features on the Lexus IS now include 18” alloy wheels for the EX and SE grades and 19” for the F Sport, an electric park brake, a new 10.3” touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a pre-collision system for the SE and F Sport grades (with a remarkable daytime/night-time pedestrian detection system and daytime cyclist detection), all-speed active cruise control (SE and F Sport), lane tracing assist (SE and F Sport), blind-spot monitor (SE and F Sport), rear cross-traffic alert+brake, as well as a panoramic view monitor for the SE and F Sport when reversing. 

On the F Sport and SE grades, the pre-collision Lexus Safety System+ will warn you of hazards from approximately 10 km/h, all the way up to 180 km/h. Pre-collision brake assist functions from 30 km/h to 80 km/h with pedestrian and daytime cyclist detection. The system will also detect a moving or stationary vehicle ahead between 30 km/h and 180 km/h.

The pre-collision system is also designed to provide a warning and apply braking should you accidentally turn in front of an oncoming car in an intersection or a pedestrian walking in the opposite direction. It is also the first Lexus to offer emergency steering assist (ESA) that will automatically apply additional steering to help you avoid an obstacle in your lane.

Although not new to the line-up, several standard luxury features include smart entry and start, heated- and power-adjustable front seats, dual-zone climate control, a 10-speaker audio system for the EX grade, and spectacular 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound for the SE and F Sport grades. The top-spec models come standard with satellite navigation, voice control and LED headlamps with automatic high-beam. IS 300h SE buyers also have the luxury of a moon roof, which comes standard with the model.

HYBRID FUTURE

All models boast the same petrol-hybrid powertrain combo that achieves a total system output of 164 kW, with 133 kW of that figure derived from its 2.5-litre engine at 6,000 r/min, and maximum torque of 221 Nm between 4,200 and 5,400 r/min. The IS offers combined-cycle fuel consumption from as low as 5.2 l/100 km at low-impact city speeds, while on the performance front, the zero to 100 km/h sprint is dispatched in 8.7 seconds, culminating in a top speed of 200 km/h.

Lexus positions the new IS as a focused driver’s car. The IS F Sport and SE grades offer more advanced specifications, with the F Sport offering dynamic hybrid vehicle performance.

HALO MODEL

The IS F Sport now comes standard with 19” alloy wheels, in addition to an F Sport body kit and spoiler, F Sport scuff plates and ornamentation, high-grade LED headlamps, five-mode Drive Select, adaptive variable suspension, F Sport leather-accented trim, sports pedals, and seats with driver memory settings.

Alluring and assertive in its design, the car’s coupé-like silhouette is vastly unlike any other sports sedans. The Lexus spindle grille with its iconic mesh pattern is a work of art all its own, complementing the brand’s sporty image. 

The car’s new slim design headlamps with automatic high beam not only look fantastic, but three newly-designed high-beam projector lamps and integrated L-shaped daytime running lights add brilliant vision to the IS’ extensive list of premium characteristics.

F Sport exclusive decorative items include the F Sport emblem on the front fender and piano-black trimmings on the front grille and lower bumper.

DRIVING DYNAMICS

The new IS becomes the first Lexus to debut the “Lexus Driving Signature” that will become the development standard for all future Lexus models. This ‘signature’ is defined by linear vehicle movement that remains faithful to a driver’s intentions, providing a seamless transition from braking to steering and acceleration through a corner. Developed on a test course based on the gruelling Nürburgring Nordschleife, the IS features a variety of enhancements to its chassis, body rigidity, suspension set-up and development, and Lexus Adaptive Variable Suspension system, to name a few. Active Cornering Assist (ACA) is also new on all models. It is designed to maintain the ideal vehicle posture when cornering by subtly braking individual wheels to keep your intended driving line.

LAST WORD

Now more than ever, the Lexus IS refuses to conform to the traditional notions of what an executive sports sedan should be. That same determination to maintain its segment-leading status for hybrid sedans is evident in the fact that the entire IS range also boasts a best-in-class seven-year/105,000 km warranty and full maintenance plan.

Report by BERNIE HELLBERG JR | Images © LEXUS SOUTH AFRICA

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