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Lexus IS as sophisticated as ever

31.03.2017

When I think of vehicles that don’t receive the love, and therefore sales they deserve, cars like the Peugeot 308, Toyota 86 and indeed the Lexus IS come to mind.

You see, the IS consistently records single digit sales figures on a monthly basis, whereas its rivals from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz sell in droves by comparison.

Forgotten in the left field

Late last year, I attended the launch of the updated IS and was again reminded of just how good these cars are. I then had the opportunity to drive an IS 350 F-Sport for a week recently, and became even more acquainted with the car.

Unfortunately, it would appear that the sales of small executive saloon cars are decreasing as consumers look to premium crossovers and SUVs as an option within the market. However, as with everything else, just because the market has decreased doesn’t mean that there isn’t a demand for these products and indeed an opportunity for Lexus to improve its share within this segment.

Value proposition

It’s no secret that if you are after a vehicle within this sector, you’re bombarded with options, not just in terms of models but also levels of specification.

The German manufacturers are famous for their enormous optional extras lists, which is great on one hand because it gives the consumer options, but at the same time can drive the list price up dramatically, which in turn means that in the used market, the current owner may lose more money if the next buyer doesn’t consider the options fitted as adding value.

That’s where Lexus seems to be doing well, by offering a car with very few options and a high level of specification, despite a slightly higher sticker price.

Updated IS

The updates made to the model are relatively minor with a new grille and front bumper, reshaped bonnet and LED headlights, while the rear gets new exhaust tips, revised lights and a new bumper. Some of my colleagues consider the design to be too busy, but I find it quite alluring, especially this F-Sport variant with its 18-inch wheels and more aggressive body kit.

Inside, the updates are even more minor with improved materials in the cabin, redesigned cupholders and a new instrument panel and clock design. The overall look and feel of the interior exudes a premium touch, with good tangible material quality and a sense that Lexus are more design-orientated these days, which is a good thing if you’re after more customers.

Despite the larger 10.3-inch screen in my test car, I couldn’t help but feel that the infotainment system is still not the most user-friendly in its class, with clumsy controls that make precise inputs more difficult.

Driving IS

It’s driving the IS where one finds that the dynamic qualities provided by the Japanese executive match that of its German counterparts. The chassis is sweet with exceptional road holding and confidence-inspiring levels of feel and driver engagement.

The naturally aspirated 233kW/378Nm 3.5-litre V6 is a masterful acoustic set in a world of turbocharged Electronic Dance Music (EDM). However, when it comes to the gearbox, things go a bit pear-shaped, with slow shifts and dulled reactions to driver inputs. It makes the car feel lazy, which is fine on a daily basis, but when pushing on, it would be nice to have a ‘box willing to add to the driving experience.

Verdict

Despite being robbed of around 18% of its power up here in Gauteng, I felt that the IS performed commendably with a creamy power delivery and respectable fuel returns of 11.3-litres/100km.

It is an exceptionally accomplished car in terms of performance, comfort and practicality when compared to its rivals. I’m not saying that you should rush out and buy one, but rather consider one when shopping in this segment, as it’s worth a look. With a list price of R728 800 it’s a lot of money, but it’s also most certainly a lot of car.

Article written by Sean Nurse
31.03.2017
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