I immediately hop in to the range-topping F Sport and head off for a drive towards Dullstroom in Mpumalanga, with a few stops on the way of course. After a few kilometres, I think to myself, why does the IS not sell as well as its German counterparts? The often forgotten IS has been lurking in the shadows of Germanic and indeed British saloons for quite some time, but perhaps this updated model spells change.
The changes made to the exterior design of the IS range includes a refreshed front grille, a redesigned front bumper, a new bonnet and LED headlights instead of the HID items on the outgoing model. At the rear, there are new exhaust tips, revised rear lights with an L-motif and a new rear bumper.
The more basic E and EX models also get new alloy wheels designs. The changes are relatively minor, however, the pre-facelift fourth generation model was quite a handsome vehicle to start with, so these minor updates were all that the range needed to ensure its competitiveness within an important segment.
Inside, the changes are even more difficult to spot. Keen observers will note an improvement in the quality of various materials in the centre console which includes a handy padded knee rest on the driver’s side of the centre console. Other changes include redesigned cupholders, a new instrument panel and clock design with the use of black metallic paint and silver accents.
On the infotainment front, there is a larger 10.3-inch screen above the centre console in the EX and F Sport variants which boasts improved graphics and clarity along with Bluetooth and USB functionality.
The system is still not the most user friendly in its class it must be said. The Drive Model Selector in the F Sport has had an update with the ability to customise suspension, engine and air-conditioning modes independently. Again, these are minor updates but are noticeable in the more expensive models.
The recent addition of the 200t to the IS has given customers the option of more affordable model(s) in the range. This 2.0-litre turbo petrol unit produces 180kW/350Nm and makes for quite a brisk small saloon car. The eight-speed automatic gearbox however lets down the eager motor and impressive chassis slightly, with sluggish shifts which impedes the driver when wanting to push on.
The other motor in the range is the IS350 F Sport powered by the familiar 3.5 -litre naturally aspirated V6 with 233kW/378Nm on offer. This model sounds absolutely incredible, however, its show doesn’t necessarily translate into the most rapid form of propulsion, which could be down to its loss of power up at the reef.
As with the 200t, the gearbox again blunts the otherwise dynamic package of the V6. The aforementioned chassis and driver engagement is impressive, even when comparing the IS to its rather accomplished German and British rivals.
The steering, handling and feedback that one gets as a drive makes the IS one of the most lively cars in its class. The one problem area is consumption where both models exhibit a bit more thirst than you might expect.
As with many Japanese products, the list of standard features often means that the buyer gets reasonable value for money. The base 200t E gets LED Headlamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, rear fog lamp, headlamp cleaners, hated and retractable electric mirrors, heated and ventilated seats, eight-speaker sound system, seven-inch infotainment system and rear PDC.
The 200t EX adds a 10-inch infotainment system with sat nav and remote touch interface. The range-topping IS 350 F Sport gets 18-inch wheels, Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS), Variable Gear Ratio Steering (VGRS) and sport leather seats to name a few.
The Lexus IS range is certainly something that must be considered when shopping in the premium small sedan segment. It is comfortable, well made and feels as dynamic as its rivals. Just be weary of the consumption and ensure that you’re comfortable with the infotainment set-up.
Warranty and service
Depreciation has been something that has plagued luxury car makers such as Lexus over the years. The brand now offers what it calls FutureDrive where the future value of your Lexus is guaranteed in the form of a fixed balloon payment at the end of your finance term. Usually, I hear ‘balloon payment’ and run for the hills so if you’re interested, visit the brand’s local website or a showroom and see what the brand has to offer in this regard.
All IS models come with a four-year / 100 000km service plan which varies from the Distance Plan to Distance Plan Plus and Distance Plan Complete.
IS 200t E - R601 900
IS 200t EX - R659 100
IS 350 F Sport - R728 800