Lexus IS 2017 range road test and review
LOOK no further than Lexus to witness the changing automotive landscape.
Approaching a record sales year, the marque can thank sports utility vehicles for the growing stature. The 18-month-old NX along with its mature RX counterpart account for more than half of all Lexus sales.
Which means this new IS range comes with soft targets.
There are expectations the compact sedan will contribute more than the current 20% in Lexus' overall sales figures, but the plush four-door sedans are playing second fiddle to the high-riding wagons.
Although anyone seeking a cushioned ride and refinement would appreciate the IS virtues.
This mid-life update comes three years after launch, and includes better safety, external changes and improved features with price rises of less than $1000 across the range.
Many of the changes echo what we've seen in the sexy RC coupe.
So what's new?
Fifteen changes have been made to the cabin, most notably a larger centre screen which grows to 10.3 inches. The mouse-style controller has also been altered with back and enter switch on an extended palmrest, but it can still be challenging to navigate.
Then there have been changes to the various meters, clock, steering-wheel switches, shift-lever knob, centre-console cup holders and door handles… all trainspotter stuff.
Under the skin there is now lane departure warning, sway warning system and automatic high beam, which is added to the pre-collision safety system with autonomous emergency braking, active cruise control and hill-start assist control.
On the outside there is a different bumper which makes the vehicle 15mm longer, a spindle grille, LED headlamps, daytime running lamps, rear combination lamps and trapezoidal tips on dual exhaust.
On the road
Expectations are for the turbocharged four-cylinder to be the volume seller. Not just because it's the least expensive, but it's the best combination of performance and fuel efficiency.
The hybrid can feel heavy and lacks the sporting prowess of the other two models - especially with the continuously variable automatic transmission.
Still, all three were a big improvement on the second generation when launched, and new suspension tweaks mean it can still brake, corner and accelerate with predictable finesse.
While the V6 is the quickest with a 0-100kmh time of sub-six seconds, the turbo is only about one second slower.
Comfort and practicalities
Park yourself in a Lexus seat and it's somewhere you want to stay.
The pews are beautifully finished with soft leather. Combine that with the high levels of fit and finish and the IS sedan is a distinguished environment. Up front there are a pair of cup holders, but the console needs a space for phones, keys and other vital items. There is a space near the colour screen, but it sits on the dash where things can slide when cornering.
The cabin has some large buttons, with some strong ties to parent company Toyota, while the bulbous dash design is an interesting collaboration of lines and shapes.
What do you get?
Features are strong in the Lexus offerings, and safety is top-notch with the automatic braking system which can help avoid or lessen a frontal collision, radar cruise control, lane departure warning with sway warning system and automatic high-beam, that combines with 10 airbags and rear camera.
Other standard gear includes daytime running lamps, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, emergency brake lamps, Hill-start Assist Control, paddle shifters on the steering wheel, digital radio, LCD multi-information display, Lexus Remote Touch controller, satellite navigation with Suna traffic alerts, heated and ventilated front seats, voice-control multi-media system, pop-up bonnet and tyre-pressure monitoring system.
There are two new colours: deep blue, and a graphite black replaces starlight black, while inside options include black, brown and "chateau" (cream for those who haven't been wine tasting lately).
That adds to two shades of red, white, grey, black, silver and titanium. F Sports get optional unique blue and white hues.
Gauging the suspension improvements proved challenging on a soggy Melbourne day. Tweaks and adjustments are certainly a case of evolution rather than revolution.
That probably suits the target market for the IS range. Buyers can expect reliability, longevity, cushioned ride and strong value equation.
Falling short of being a heart-stopper, the compact plush sedan has traditionally excelled in meeting luxury expectations in terms of refinement. The 2017 line-up is more of the same which some extra shizzle.
Model: 2017 Lexus IS.
Details: Four-door rear-wheel drive luxury sedan.
Engines: 200t - 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol generating maximum power of 180kW @ 5800rpm and peak torque of 350Nm @ 1650rpm. 350 - 3.5-litre V6 233kW @ 5400rpm and 378 @ 4800rpm. 300h - hybrid four-cylinder plus electric motor 133kW @ 6000rpm (164kW combined) and 221Nm @ 4200rpm.
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic (petrol) and continuously variable automatic (hybrid).
Consumption: 200t - 7.5 litres/100km (combined average); 350 - 9.7L/100km, 300h - 4.9L/100km.
Bottom line: 200t Luxury $59,340, 200t F Sport $67,480, 200t Sports Luxury $78,040, 300h Luxury $61,890, 300h F Sport $70,310, 300h Sports Luxury $81,160, 350 Luxury $65,390, 350 F Sport $73,540, 350 Sports Luxury $84,160.
What matters most
What we liked: Still refined and accomplished, safety equipment is first class.
What we'd like to see: Improved storage spaces, some edgier F Sport performance.
Warranty and servicing: Four-year/100,000km warranty (eight year battery warranty) with roadside assist. Lexus also gives you a loan car during servicing.
Driving experience 16/20
Features and equipment 18/20
Functionality and comfort 15/20
Value for money 18/20
Style and design 16/20