The new Lexus IS is now on sale as a hybrid model in three grades. Picture: SUPPLIED
The new Lexus IS is now on sale as a hybrid model in three grades. Picture: SUPPLIED

The updated Lexus IS launched in SA this week and though not all new, it’s a comprehensive upgrade.

The SA line-up is now available exclusively in 300h hybrid guise. The revision starts with deliberate changes to the styling. It looks absolutely stunning with its coupe silhouette, more prominent flank bulges and revised front and rear features while the Lexus signature spindle grille that’s filled with plastic wire mesh is wider and lower.

The  newly-designed “squinting” high-beam projector lamps with L-shaped daytime running lights now look as angry as those of its RC-F coupé cousin. At the back, the light units are fully LED and incorporate a full width light bar.

There are three grades available: EX, SE and F Sport. On the IS F Sport model —  the Poseidon blue car pictured here — there are F Sport emblems, piano-black garnish on the front grille, lower bumper and boot spoiler and it rides on 19-inch alloy wheels while the standard version gets smaller 18s.

The technical headline grabber is the hybrid power unit that mates a CVT transmission to a 2.5l four-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor for total system outputs of 164kW and 221Nm.

It’s a flexible unit that’s cultured in Lexus traditions of smooth and quiet operation.

The character of the powertrain can be tweaked through a new mode selector with Eco, Normal, Sport S and Custom. EV mode is available only at speeds below 40km/h.

F-Sport models gain a Sport S+ mode which incorporates Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) and the variances between the two models are evident when cornering hard. If you are more driver than cruiser, get the F Sport.

On its launch drive the IS used an average 8.7l/100km but its maker reckons 5.2l is possible. A claimed 0-100km/h sprint time of 8.7 seconds and a top speed of 200km/h may be too far-fetched from the sport saloon moniker, but Lexus has enough of a sporting pedigree to have dynamic cornering prowess.

The cabin gets more stylish two-tone seats when specified with F Sport trim. Picture: SUPPLIED
The cabin gets more stylish two-tone seats when specified with F Sport trim. Picture: SUPPLIED

The Lexus IS comes with plenty comfort and safety features inside its adequately spacious cabin with subtle changes from the pre-face lift model. These include an electric park brake, a 26.1cm touch display now brought  forward for enhanced ergonomics, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, active cruise control on SE and F Sport models, remote entry and keyless start, heated- and power-adjustable front seats and dual-zone climate control.

There is also a 10-speaker audio for the EX grade and 17-speaker Mark Levinson sound for SE and F Sport models, satellite navigation, voice control, a pre-collision system, daytime/night-time pedestrian detection, lane tracing assist, blind-spot monitor and a panoramic view monitor for the SE and F Sport when reversing.

First impressions are of a well-engineered, luxurious alternative to the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class with good looks, but lacking in the performance figures needed to enthral sport sedan enthusiasts. It is the saloon to beat in the comfortable drive stakes.

Pricing:

Lexus IS 300h EX — R841,300

Lexus IS 300h SE — R899,800

Lexus IS 300h F Sport — R916,100

The IS range comes with a seven-year/105,000km warranty and maintenance plan.

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