The well-balanced Lexus IS 300 offers much better value for money than its two-litre predecessor, but can it really compete with BMW and others on price, performance and specification?

The well-balanced Lexus IS 300 offers much better value for money than its two-litre predecessor, but can it really compete with BMW and others on price, performance and specification?


Launched at Lake Pleasant in the Southern Cape yesterday, the Lexus IS 300 features a torquey 157 kW three-litre V6 engine, a higher specification and minor detail changes over the long-serving IS 200. More importantly, the IS 300 retails for R363 285 – only R6 140 more than the automatic version of the IS 200, which has now been discontinued.


This means that Lexus South Africa now has a well-specced three-litre cylinder powered model to take on similar offerings from BMW SA and Audi SA, for example. Should those carmakers, two of the dominant players in the medium saloon market, be overly concerned about the introduction of the IS 300? After all, other Japanese middle weights (Mazda 6, Honda Accord) have not exactly loosened Germany’s grip on the sector.


It depends who you ask… Lexus markets the IS 300 at image conscious, young(ish) upwardly-mobile city people, no surprise there, but the manufacturer expects the model’s exclusivity to appeal to individualistic buyers.


But the exclusivity comes at a premium… CAR reported in January issue that the price of the IS 300 was expected to undercut the opposition, but at R363 285 it is notably more expensive than the BMW 330i Steptronic (R341 000) and Audi 3,0 quattro Tiptronic (R359 000).


However, the standard specification list of the IS 300 includes leather upholstery (the driver’s seat features eight-way power adjustment while the front passenger seat has power adjustment for fore/aft and recline movements), climate control, six-disc CD changer, electrochromatic rear-view mirrors (internal and external), cruise control and high intensity discharge lights (HID) headlamps with automatic headlight level control system.


Those items are provided over and above the electric windows, remote central locking, vehicle stability control, ABS, with EBD and BAS and front, side and curtain airbags – systems that are expected in a car of this calibre.


Enthusiasts are bound to appreciate the rear-wheel drive layout (traditionally associated with sportscars) of the IS 300 and the combination of the double wishbone suspension, grippy low-profile 17-inch tyres (on very attractive rims) and power assisted steering resulted in crisp, sure-footed handling on the test route.


As for raw power, the engine produces peak power at 5 800 r/min, maximum torque of 288 N.m at 3 800 r/min and Lexus SA claims the car will accelerate from standstill to 100 km/h in 8,2 seconds and reach a top speed of 230 km/h. Performance is therefore sprightly, but not class-leading. Having said that, the IS 300’s smooth power delivery, through a five-speed “E-shift” automatic transmission, fits hand-in-glove with the car’s overall feel of refinement. The IS 300 is more Fabiani suit than road rocket…


The exterior of the IS 300 looks much the same as that of its predecessor, although the car now sports a subtle rear-spoiler with an integrated brakelight. The styling of the IS range has aged gracefully, but it must be added that the model is well past the middle of its model life. Sources say that the successor to the IS will be on the Japanese market by next year.


Changes to the interior of the cabin have been minor. The dashboard has a limited number of "metallic" finishes to contrast with soft touch feel of the panel and an additional covered storage is provided in the centre of the dashboard upper surface. The unique chronograph-style instrumentation has been retained.


Gearshifts can be actuated via two steering-wheel mounted shift buttons when the gear selector is set to the “M” position. The twin front buttons activate downshifts and the buttons at the back of the steering wheel activate upshifts. The silver ball-endowed gear selector may not appeal to everyone, though.


The Lexus IS 300 comes with a comprehensive three-year mechanical warranty, five-year/90 000 km service plan. A 24 Hour roadside assistance plan is available during the warranty period.


Marius Burger, Toyota SA’s vice-president of marketing and sales, on Monday said the Prospecton-based manufacturer was determined to establish Lexus as a dedicated division within the company. A revitalisation programme was also being carried out throughout Lexus SA’s network of 150 dealers and the brand also recently launched its own financial services arm.


The competitive pricing of the RX300 has made Lexus' highly-rated RX300 a strong contender in the SUV market, is the IS 300 set to do the same in the medium saloon category? You tell us.

Original article from Car