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How much? £33,495
On sale in the UK: July 2013
Engine: 2494 16v 4cyl, 178bhp@6000prm, 163lb ft@4200-5400rpm, plus 141bhp/221lb ft electric motor. Total output 220bhp
Transmission: CVT, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 8.3sec 0-62mph, 125mph, 65.7mpg, 99g/km (60.1mpg, 109g/km F Sport)
How heavy / made of? 1680kg/steel
How big (length/width/height in mm)? 4665/1810/1430mm
Need to know

CAR's rating

Rated 3 out of 53


Rated 4 out of 54


Rated 3 out of 53


Rated 4 out of 54

Feelgood factor

Rated 3 out of 53

Readers' rating

Rated 3.5 out of 53.5

Lexus IS 300h F-sport (2013) CAR review

By Chris Chilton

First Drives

22 May 2013 15:00

Diesels are out and hybrids in, as Lexus has a third crack at the European premium elite. The third iteration of the IS saloon arrives in the UK with a choice of two engines: a 2.5 V6 petrol with 205bhp available from £26,495, and the 220bhp hybrid we drove, which starts at £29,495.

The hybrid mates a 2.5-litre petrol four with an electric motor and emits only 99g/km of CO2 on a poverty spec car (109g/km otherwise) and achieves 66mpg, making it massively appealing to fleet buyers. Neither engine can be had as a manual, the V6 getting a six-speed auto, and the hybrid a droning CVT. US buyers get the option of a 3.5 V6 pushing out over 300bhp, but zero demand means it won’t be coming to the UK.

Scariest grille this side of a ’50s yank custom?

Well it’s certainly distinctive. Lifting styling cues from the Detroit 2012 LF-LC concept, and a platform from the GS, the new IS is handsome, if fussy, but delivers nearly 2in of badly-needed extra rear legroom compared with the old car, although rear headroom is tight. The cabin materials are, as you’d expect, first rate, the dials are inspired by those of the now-dead LFA supercar, and there are various interesting details, including the touch-sensitive sliding air con controls. The driving position is excellent, and the F-sport model’s seats are grippy without feeling constrictive.

What’s it like to drive?

Lexus desperately wants to be seen as a sporty brand and the ugly CT200h hatch rides like a skateboard as a result. But the IS is far more appealing. With its adaptive dampers set to comfort mode, our F-sport IS rides at least as well as a similarly-equipped 3-series, and handles respectably too, with responsive, if not overly engaging steering, and minimal roll partly attributable to all those batteries stashed under the boot floor to the benefit of its centre of gravity.

Here comes the B word…

But it’s the drivetrain that spoils this car, or more specifically, the transmission. The CVT ’box is okay in gentle cruising, but never feels suitable for a car with even vaguely sporting pretensions, treating you to soaring revs when you summon some overtaking urge. A fake dubbed engine soundtrack attempts to disguise the commotion, but we switched it off. Fortunately the IS is refined enough that the CVT din is at least reasonably muted. An unremarkable 8.3sec 0-62mph time can probably be attributed to its lazy step-off: gun the thing hard to overtake and it feels pretty brisk, but never as instantly lively as a BMW 320d, and brake feel still suffers from inconsistent feel typical of hybrid cars.


The IS’s chief engineer says his team is working on integrating a traditional auto with the hybrid drivetrain, but it adds too much length. When the solution to that problem arrives, Lexus will have a pretty convincing 3-series rival on its hands, because there’s plenty to like about the new IS. As it stands, we’d shop elsewhere, but Lexus GB only expects to sell around 5000 examples of the IS (4600 hybrids), and should have no problem finding buyers swayed by the quality, tax advantages and the fact that it isn’t a BMW


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Lexus IS 300h F-sport (2013) CAR review


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chickenfeed says

RE: Lexus IS 300h F-sport (2013) CAR review

 @gtrslngr - Rub it in. We might get the ISF in the future too, you never know. :)


I have tried really hard to like the new BMW 3 series. But that nose does not match the rest of the body, which is at least a decade out of date. It's nice to see some manufacturers are at least trying for a bit of coherence even with a nose as wacky as the one on the IS. Whether it's worked or not is open to discussion. One fact on the other hand is not open to discussion. That interior puts the plastic A4, the underdesigned 3 series and the laugnable C class interiors to shame. Lexus should send the three German interior design teams a Tanto each as a jest. ;)

25 May 2013 18:13



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carmobster says

RE: Lexus IS 300h F-sport (2013) CAR review

I don't think it will even put a slight dent in Audi A4/BMW 3 series sales, but in Europe at least the hybrid will be a attractive alternative for fleet buyers. Most European countries have lower taxes on sub 100g/km CO2 cars which will make the car more attractive as a business rep mobile.


The design is messy and inchoherent but so is most car design these days, beauty and soft lines is out and screamy 'please notice me!' design is in.


I think overall it's an attractive package and a viable alternative to the teutonic Giants.


But we are missing emotion in this class, what we are missing is a beautiful Alfa Romeo 159 replacement (Giulia) and the promised new baby Jag. Hurry up guys!

23 May 2013 07:04



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Fadyady says

RE: Lexus IS 300h F-sport (2013) CAR review

Now this is bound to add to the worries of the class leaders - the 3-Series, the C-Class and the A4.

I like the F-Sport binnacle. The sporty steering is another treat. And the dash is the usual Lexus.

22 May 2013 23:58



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gtrslngr says

RE: Lexus IS 300h F-sport (2013) CAR review

 Ha Ha .... you guys get stuck with the techno weenie hybrid  version of the F-Sport .. whereas we get the one with genuine cojones under the hood ..... Ha Ha ! 


But .... having said that ..... is the IS-F -Sport a direct competitor for the 3-Series ? Well in our spec .... at least performance wise .... why yes it is ..... 


But in reality .... its an Alternative to the 3-Series ... not a direct  competitor .... an alternative that btw is about ten times more reliable and who's dealer service is at least 100 times bettter than BMW's I might add . 


But in closing . Ha Ha  You guys get stuck with the junk for once ... and for once WE get the good stufff ... Ha Ha 

22 May 2013 18:01



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oopnorth says

RE: Lexus IS 300h F-sport (2013) CAR review

 I don't feel I really know how bad the CVT is - reading between the lines, does it seem worse because Car (and the other mags) havee all been provided with an F-Sport, and have driven it accordingly?  Car deos at least say that refinement is really good- so if you treat it as a waft-mobile, does it then satisfy?  I understand that the variable suspension is only available on the F-Sport, which might mean the other versions are more crashy... but I may have a test drive to see if the refinement does it, as the tax benefits are pretty immense.  That said, the 518d might work out to be a smart company car choice with the lower list price and a couple of carefully selected options...


For me, the BMW 320d is a non-starter cos the engine feels coarse and underwhelming.  The 330d is utterly fab but the tyre noise on the one I drove was so bad I could not have one (other people who went in the same car had no idea what I was on about so it seems the pitch just got my ears), and the wind noise was poor too

22 May 2013 17:54

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