Road test: Lexus iS 300h: Silky, smooth…
iS 300h might sound like a secret code number. In fact, it is the rather discrete nomenclature for a superb compact executive saloon in the determinedly upmarket Lexus range.
Unlike its Jaguar, Volvo, BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz competitors, the iS 300h does not so much shout its merits as whisper them seductively.
A key USP is its use of a silky smooth 2.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid power train that can push the car to 62-mph in 8.3-seconds, reach a computer limited 125-mph and comfortably wring just over 60 miles from a gallon of fuel.
Spacious and outstandingly comfortable – with 2016 model year examples providing improved legroom over its predecessor – this car is hard to beat as a motorway cruiser but zap it round the lanes and you will find it has no pretensions of offering sports’ level performance, though steering-column mounted flappy paddles allow competent drivers to over-ride the automatic gear changes and press on.
Around town, petrol can be saved by running on the electric motor alone, but it will only be a couple of miles before the petrol has to start flowing again.
Ultra-low emissions, low insurance ratings and far from eye-watering depreciation – with close on half the original showroom price being retained after three years – are among pluses winning plaudits from company accountants. Bean counters will also note that the electric motor has its own eight-year warranty.
Attention to detail has been a Lexus hallmark ever since the brand was launched by its Toyota parent, back in 1983. A useful innovation here is a new parking navigation system that not only helps find a space but tells what it will cost – a worthy boon in busy cities. Of course, technology can get a little OTT at times, as witnessed by the zany ‘active sound control’ – operated by a dial that’s located just to he right of the steering wheel, ASC relays an engine sound into the cabin.
Like other Lexus models, this one can effectively be tailor-made to order, thanks to a choice of trim levels, ranging from £29,495 for the basic SE to the £37,360 option-laden Premier version.