Handsome comfort

Handsome comfort

What does the updated Lexus IS have in store?

At first glance, not a lot has changed about the IS. Lexus says the styling of the car has proved so popular since the IS was launched in 2013 that it’s left most of the styling alone – and it certainly shows. So what’s new? The headlights – now full LED – have had a tweak, while the grille has been reshaped ever so slightly. There are new lights at the rear too – LED again, naturally – and some additional colour and alloy wheel options.

Inside is where Lexus has made the most effort, with a slightly redesigned dashboard, new wood trim and a larger 10.3-inch display for infotainment.

The IS was a handsome thing already – which is just as well, given that not a lot has changed. LED headlights bring the car bang up to date, and we think its swoopy styling still looks great.

Inside, things are similarly impressive: a well-laid-out dash, attractive and easy-to-read dials, and premium materials here, there and everywhere. As usual for Lexus, everything feels very well screwed together without a flimsy bit of trim in sight.

Lexus has fiddled around with the chassis in a bid to make the IS better to drive too, though you would be hard pushed to notice the changes.

Comfort, a traditional Lexus strong point, remains class-leading. Seats are plush, supportive and have plenty of adjustment, while the ride quality is second to none – even on the largest alloy wheel options.

Unlike most rivals, there’s no estate option for the IS, and boot space is at a slight premium. There’s around 20 litres less than an Audi A4 – 50 litres less in the case of the IS 300h – while the Mercedes C-Class and BMW 3 Series beat the IS by a similar margin. Rear leg-room isn’t as cavernous as some larger rivals, but four medium adults could still sit comfortably in the IS.

Safety is another key strength for the IS. Though it hasn’t been tested since 2013, the IS scored the maximum five-star rating from Euro NCAP, and additional safety features added in this update should only strengthen that. Lexus has added pre-crash auto-braking systems to all but the entry-level SE trims, along with a sway warning system designed to detect drowsy driving.

As before, there are just the two engine choices: a 2.5-litre petrol electric hybrid with 220bhp, and a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol with 241bhp. We drove the hybrid – badged IS 300h – and it’s a flexible, if not particularly thrilling option. The CVT gearbox drones on when pushed – don’t they all – but drive in the relaxed manner that the IS encourages and it’s a pretty serene experience, aided by slipping into near-silent electric mode at low speeds.

Seats are plush, supportive and have plenty of adjustment, while the ride quality is second to none

Perhaps more importantly, Lexus argues that the IS 300h’s low emissions make it one of the most affordable company car choices in the segment, with BIK rates considerably lower than those of diesel rivals. To make the most of this you’ll need to keep an eye on which alloys you select, though – CO2 outputs range from 97g to 107g depending on the wheel size.

This generation IS has never been a particularly sporting car to drive, though Lexus is adamant that changes it’s made to various suspension and steering parts – including new, stiffer bushes and forged aluminium lower arms – have made all the difference.

In reality, the IS feels much like it always has: an incredibly comfortable executive saloon with neat, but by means outstanding, handling in every other respect.

In fact, the IS rides remarkably well – even on its largest 18-inch alloy wheel options – and you’re well insulated against wind, road and engine noise.

As you’d expect for this segment, there’s plenty of toys to choose from – including 21st century kit like adaptive cruise control, in-car wifi, internet connected sat nav and so on. Music lovers in particular will appreciate the 15-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound system, though we suspect the cheaper 10-speaker Pioneer system would also give it a run for its money.

Helpfully, most of the IS’s options are bundled inside the seven different trim levels rather than forcing you to box-tick, leaving top-level Premier trim buyers with so much kit as standard that just a sunroof and a towing pack are left available to choose.

Where the IS still trails rivals is in its infotainment system. Lexus has added a larger 10.3-inch screen, finally allowing you to split content across it à la BMW’s iDrive, but the interface design itself is still pretty horrid – lacking the polish of BMW, Mercedes or Audi systems.

The haptic ‘mouse’ control system won’t be to everyone’s tastes either, and although you soon get used to how it works, there’s still the occasional frustrating moment where the cursor seems to take on a mind of its own.

At a glance

Lexus IS 300h F-Sport

2.5-litre petrol with electric motor (220bhp, 220Nm)

CVT automatic

0-60mph in 8.3 seconds

Top speed



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