AFTER 15 years on sale in the UK the Lexus IS has finally got the body it deserves with the launch of the latest range which is now available as a hybrid and a petrol powered car writes Bryan Longworth.
It was in 1998 that Lexus the luxury division of Toyota decided to launch their IS range in Europe and I have always felt that the Japanese manufacturer had been far too conservative with the styling of their premium rear wheel drive entry level model which was a very good quality car.
But not any more as confirmed by their Chief Engineer Junichi Furuyama who says the new IS has “powerful distinctive styling” which is highlighted up front by a dramatic interpretation of Lexus’s hallmark spindle shaped front grille arrangement.
It all adds up to a car that now has plenty of street appeal as was evident by the number of admiring glances and favourable comments about my test car the Lexus IS 250 F Sport with its sportier styling attracted.
The dynamic frontal styling provides the IS with an instant new look and this continues down each side to the rear where this Lexus really cuts the mustard and the new IS will now look really good in dealer showrooms.
This model which costs £30,495 on the road is powered by a very smooth and quiet 2.5-litre V6 petrol engine that provides it with a top speed of 143mph a zero to 62mph time of 8.1 seconds and a fuel consumption of around 30mpg.
The F Sport has six speed automatic transmission plus 18 inch ten spoke alloy wheels and several of the other design features including the instruments are linked to the Lexus LFA supercar adding to the dynamism of this model.
There is a sporty ambience inside the cabin especially with the leather covered steering wheel which provides the driver with superb well balanced steering aided by excellent handling qualities and the instruments including the easy to see digital speedometer add to the enjoyable driving experience - it was also nice to be in a rear wheel drive car again.
There is a good sized boot with a space saver spare wheel underneath and the two rear seats fold to provide additional load space.
I was surprised that Lexus have used a foot operated parking brake and not an electronic device in this high tech car as I find the foot brake is not all that user friendly and disabled drivers have problems with this type of parking brake.
And while I appreciate there is a hybrid model that is more economical I am surprised there is not the availability of a diesel engine especially as all the competitors from the German big three - Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz have very good oil burners in their ranges.
But this apart I found the latest IS to be a massive improvement on the previous model especially with the shapely styling and the steering and firm handling providing the driver with such a satisfying driving involvement.
My Verdict: At last a really sexy IS.
Model: New Lexus IS 250 T Sport.
Engine: 2.5-litre V6 petrol.
Output: 205bhp @ 6400rpm.
Transmission: Six speed automatic.
Top speed: 143mph.
Acceleration: 0 to 62mph 8.1 seconds.
Fuel consumption: 30.7mpg combined.
CO2 emissions: 213g/km.
Price: £30,495 on the road.