Hybrid propulsion has decidedly come of age, and Lexus has gained a vast experience in building and perfecting the concept.
Now they have decided to bring hybrid propulsion a step further, and introduced it for the first time in their dynamic Lexus IS series. This means that sporting drivers can also have their bite in the hybrid cake.
Can they enjoy the taste? You bet they can…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
We are growing quite fond of the latest styling (in)roads the Lexus designers have taken lately. We think the new, more ourstpoken spindle grille is a very good step in the right direction, giving the brand a very distinct personality.
It is in tune with the sophisticated dynamism of the new Lexus, and gives an aggressive elegance, a more powerful road presence and a stronger brand identity.
The exterior design incorporates several Lexus firsts, including a new headlamp cluster design with Lexus trademark, arrowhead Daytime Running Lights (DRL) located independently below. We also like this feature…
…and more comfort
In "eco" drive mode, the instrument cluster gives you basic info about the power use, and whether on deceleration, one charges the battery... but the info is neatly centered around the driver...
The IS’s interior design has been overhauled and is more driver focused. Indeed, the snug, wrap-around driving position has been inspired by the cockpit of Lexus’ race-bred LFA supercar.
These LFA-style features include a sports steering wheel trimmed in tactile, high-grip perforated leather (see photo above), and a highly supportive sports seats design. Indeed, they envelop one tightly, using an “integrated foaming” construction method which eliminates gaps between the upholstery and the foam padding.
Needless to say, this lets you more fully exploit the new Lexus sedan’s driving dynamics.
The seat position is indeed quite sporting: the seat hip point has been lowered by 20 mm, the angle of the new, 3-spoke, 370 mm diameter steering wheel has been lowered 3 degrees, and steering reach adjustment has been increased by 23 mm.
Driving is believing…
If you are in a more dynamic mood, this Lexus lets you have it all. Just select the “Sports+” position on the circular selector knob and there appears a large rev counter in front of you. You guessed it, the car now means business. There is even an enhanced engine sound now enveloping you, coming from the system speakers. Deepen the throttle, and all systems are on “Go”, with even the outer rim of the rev counter glowing ever more red as the revs rise up. Acceleration is exhilarating, with 100 kph reached in 8,3 seconds. Top speed is set at 200 kph.
But with the help of the very powerful electric motor, delivering a whopping 105 kW/143 hp, the newly developed 2.5 litre, 133 kW/181 DIN hp, four-cylinder Atkinson cycle petrol engine has light work. The power unit features a next generation D-4S direct fuel injection system, Dual VVT-i and a high-efficiency Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) system.
With the circular selector knob, one can easily choose the power mode...
All this power is delivered super smoothly, with no transmission jerks whatsoever. How could it be: the power flows to the rear wheels through the hybrid system’s Electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (E-CVT).
Even under all this sporting driving, the hybrid system never ever forgets what it is build for: efficient economy. Therefore, the powerful electric motor is used when traffic conditions allow or warrant it. Of course you have the choice between a further “sport”, and then a normal mode and even an ECO mode. Then the system will transport you on E-power when it can, without however ever letting you down on power availability. The car will always react immediately when you put your foot down. Indeed, the intermediate accelerations in this car are quite exhilarating: it will accelerate from 80 to 120 km/h in only 6.2 seconds.
When you are in the mood, you can use the gearshift paddles on the steering wheel...
According to the manufacturer, the new Lexus full hybrid returns an average fuel consumption of 4.3 l/100 km, and class-leading CO2 emissions from 99 g/km. Whilst these figures are quite realistic, we reached an average test consumption of 6 litres/100 km, falling to the temptation of driving the car quite sportingly.
Delightful road behaviour…
The latter had much to do with the beautiful dynamic balance of the car, which made faster cornering and spirited driving a very enjoyable exercise. The body is very rigid, thanks to new laser screw welding and adhesive body bonding techniques, along with additional spot welding.
The new IS combines a revised double wishbone front suspension system with a new multilink rear system similar to that of the latest generation Lexus GS.
Steering feel and feedback is key to an enjoyable driving experience, and the new IS benefits from a steering gear box based on that of the new GS.
Both the front and rear suspension systems and the Electric Power Steering (EPS) are exclusively tuned for the F SPORT package, and indeed, driving experience was great.
Despite all this sportiness, the Lexus can also be driven leasurely, enjoying the uncanny smoothness of the drivetrain. Just flick it in E-mode, and enjoy the excellent sound system on the car.
This Lexus earned very high marks with its pleasant drive characteristics, and will also further be a joy to own. The car has not only a very reasonable consumption, but also cost of ownership is quite low, and Lexus is deservedly proud of this. The manufacturer boasts that through a combination of low maintenance and running costs, significant tax incentives or benefits, and high residual values, the full hybrid technology of the new Lexus IS 300h offers customers cost of ownership advantages, which are not matched by 2.0 litre diesel rivals in the D-Premium sedan segment.
With this intelligent pad control "mouse", one can choose between the menu options on the central display...quite ergonomic!
The powertrain has been designed with no requirement for a clutch; the starter motor and alternator are integral to the hybrid system and require no servicing or replacement over the life of the vehicle; and the conventional timing belt has been replaced by a maintenance-free timing chain.
With no need to either service or replace these parts, IS 300h customers can, therefore, realise a saving of some 1,500 Euros –the component cost alone- over 100,000 km.
Lexus Hybrid Drive technology also has a positive impact on both brake and tyre wear. Over the course of 90,000 km, the IS 300h will require no disc replacement, just one set of new brake pads and only one new set of tyres; a saving over 2.0 litre diesel rivals of some 1,250 Euros in the cost of parts alone…
There is also further good news on the battery front: backed up by over 15 years of in-service experience, Lexus assures us that the full hybrid battery is designed to last the entire life of the car.
So when you consider the purchase of a dynamic sports luxury sedan, do not forget to make a test drive with this Lexus…you will have the extra money for these beautiful racing gloves!
Hans Knol ten Bensel