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First Drive: 2021 Lexus IS  300h F-Sport

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First Drive: 2021 Lexus IS  

Lexus currently finds itself in a grey area. Do we stick to our beloved sedans, or do we ride this highly saturated SUV wave? Many brands find themselves in this space, too as sales for sedans have taken a massive decline in recent years. This, along with the international lockdown, South African’s have started to look at vehicles that are either practical and spacious or just plain affordable. Lexus, a brand who prides themselves in their luxury cabins and performance, face a new task of reviving this now dying segment. However, they are not the only ones; German manufactures such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi have made it known that they too want a piece of the pie. This leaves the Japanese manufacturers in an even tighter position. See, Lexus is not exactly the most popular locally despite having a substantial market globally. But we believe their odds may be turning, as the brand has taken the courageous step of bringing their fully hybrid IS 300h to South Africa. This decision was maybe bold, but after attending the IS 300h’s local launch, we have grown to become just confident in it as Lexus is. 

 

Drive and Engine 

Bringing a fully hybrid sedan to South Africa is never an easy thing to do. Still, it is certainly the next best thing considering that owning a fully electric vehicle in our country may be a very costly affair. The IS 300h gets a 2.5-litre petrol engine paired up with a hybrid-electric system producing a combined system output of 164kW. This may not seem like a lot of power compared to its European rivals, but it proves to be more than enough. Its handling was quite exceptional, and you slowly begin to get used to the hybrid engine's stealth-like approach. Behind the wheel, the IS 300h is more than capable of being a worthy competitor. It may be not the quickest sedan out there, but given how gracefully it takes to the road, you cannot help but appreciate it. To make things even more appealing, the IS 300’s fuel consumption is as low as 5.2 litres per 100 kilometres. 

 

Looks great 

Both the body and cabin of the Lexus IS 300h are equally stunning. One gets a sense that Lexus has spent a large percentage of their time perfecting their craft. Lexus has broken down the IS 300h into three trims; the IS 300h EX, IS 300h SE, and all-new IS 300h F Sport. The IS 300’s design looks a lot more aggressive and sharper than before. The IS 300h EX and IS 300h SE get an appealing redesigned three-dimensional integrated Spindle Grille. Although we may call it the highlight of the exterior, its new slim black headlamps certainly come in as a close second. However, if you have the extra buck, you may want to consider the new IS 300h F Sport. In our opinion, it just looks a lot meaner. The IS 300 F Sport gets equipped with Slim black Auto High Beam headlamps, a piano black rear boot spoiler, and a lower bumper. 

 

Comfortable cabin 

When stepping inside a Lexus, you have a certain expectation as the brand has built some of the finest cabins on the market. Thankfully, the brand's passion for building high-quality cabins has not been lost. The IS 300h has one of the most premium interiors within its segment, and those who value comfort will certainly find it quite satisfying. The IS 300h’s interior has gotten a refreshed look, with the upper instrument panel, centre display screen, centre cluster & horn pad have all been completely redesigned. However, the main attraction must be the IS 300h’s new touch and remote-controlled centre display screen, which comes standard across the range. It gets a nice 10.3-inch size and is quite easy to use. Lexus has also added a very sleek looking remote touchpad which we have to admit looks good. 

 

Verdict 

Overall, there are many things to appreciate about the latest Lexus IS 300h. In fact, finding the right word to describe our short encounter with it was quite hard. This is simply because there was so much to enjoy about it that one word would certainly not do it any justice. The IS 300h is impressive in every way, and although it lacks the speed of its German rivals, it still is quite enjoyable. At first, one may question Lexus’s decision to stick to its sedan market and make the IS 300h a fully hybrid vehicle, but over time you begin to understand its passion. Whether South Africans will resonate with the IS300h still looks a bit hazy for now. Especially given the fact that the vehicle market has recently favoured SUV. But we believe that despite this, the IS 300h has all the tools to tackle the obstacles that lie ahead.  

 

Pricing 

Lexus IS EX                          R841 300 

Lexus IS SE                           R899 800 

Lexus F Sport                       R916 100 

The entire IS range will get the best-in-class 7-year/105 000km Warranty and Full Maintenance Plan. The vehicle service intervals are set at every 15 000km, alternatively once a year. 

 

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