Lexus IS300h: Japanese elegance taking the fight to the Germans

Known for fastidious attention to detail and high levels of refinement, Lexus has introduced their revised premium midsize saloon, the IS. Lexus’ smallest offering goes head-to-head with segment stalwarts, like the hugely popular BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and Audi A4. It goes against more niche products, too, such as the Alfa-Romeo Giulia and Jaguar XE.

It won’t be an easy fight for the Lexus, though. Luxury SUVs remain the darling of consumers, so sedans have to stand out from the crowd to appeal to buyers. The IS has always been a left-field choice, with buyers preferring the more traditional Germans. With the updated model, Lexus has clearly got BMW, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz in its sights.

Lexus IS300h
The F Sport (left) retails for R916,100 while the EX and SE are priced at R841,300 and R899,800, respectively.

Stylistically, the IS has received a welcome refresher. The little Lexus has a lower, wider look than before giving the Japanese sedan a sportier, more aggressive stance. The rear lightbar, for example, is reminiscent of the larger, more luxurious offerings from the Lexus stable.

Just one powertrain is available – the 300h. Under the bonnet is a 2.5-litre petrol-hybrid engine mated to a CVT gearbox. Peak power outputs sit at 164kW of power and 221Nm of torque. Lexus says the IS300h can average just 5.2L/100km. Three derivatives are available: IS 300h EX, IS 300h SE, and IS 300 F Sport.

Lexus IS300h
All IS300h derivatives are equipped with a 2.5-litre petrol-hybrid powertrain.

Starting the range off at R841,300, the IS300h EX is impressively equipped. 18-inch alloy wheels, a touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and an electric parking brake are all standard. The plusher SE (R899,800) and F Sport (R916,100) models gain a pre-collision system, active cruise control, blind-spot assist and numerous other safety features. The range-topping F Sport gains 19-inch alloy wheels and a sportier look, including a mesh grille that is used on the brand’s F Sport models.

The F Sport models feature Adaptive Variable Suspension which includes anti-dive and anti-squat control, as well as roll-attitude control. Lexus SA says, “it even includes unsprung mass vibration damping control – where a higher damping force is maintained when unsprung resonance is detected based on speed-sensor signal output, thus helping enhance road holding with no loss of ride comfort”.

Impressively, the IS range boasts a seven-year/105,000km warranty and maintenance plan.

SE and F Sport models are equipped with electrically adjustable (and heated) front seats, dual-zone climate control, satellite navigation and more.

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