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Car review: Lexus IS 300h F SPORT

After a cheap-on-tax company car? The Lexus IS 300h saloon with its efficient hybrid engine is an excellent choice, writes car reviewer Tim Barnes Clay.

Lexus IS 300h F SPORT exterior

Does a car project an image? Of course it does. It's just like that suit you wear to the office.

After all, we all like to leave an impression, especially when it comes to business. 

In the corporate world how you come across is vital when it comes to winning a contract or even keeping the one you've got.

So it's easy to see how cars can play a significant role in our working lives.

What your car says about you 

Flashy, sensible, or bland: cars can signal to others what the person behind the wheel might be like. 

And, for many, German cars signal that the driver has done okay for themselves. 

So when you consider that the Lexus IS 300h is pitched against BMWs and Audis, you might imagine Lexus has simply imitated the look of these ubiquitous but high-status motors. 

Well, I'm really pleased to report that the Japanese carmaker has done a lot more than that. 

Lexus IS 300h stands out from German rivals

On sale in the UK since July 2013, the sleek surfacing and tight, sporting proportions of the Lexus IS 300h make it stand out from, say, the BMW 3 Series or the Audi A4. 

The range includes an F Sport model, on test here, which comes with sports-tuned suspension and electric power steering. 

Its design is even more toned and athletic than the standard model's features.

The cabin is clean and elegant, with an ergonomically ideal environment for when you're behind the wheel. 

High quality materials and finishes are used throughout the interior to convey a contemporary, premium appearance. 

Lexus IS 300h F SPORT cabin interior

Many soft-touch areas have been created, including knee pads either side of the centre console. 

The IS F Sport's seats are even made using an integrated foaming method.

This ensures there are no gaps between the upholstery and the filling, giving both excellent comfort and great lateral holding.

But the latest IS does a lot more than look and feel good. 

Lexus IS 300h F SPORT: Spec

It's the first full hybrid version of Lexus's premium sports saloon and secures a combination of performance and efficiency. 

With low CO2 emissions, it delivers particularly attractive benefit–in-kind tax rates for company car drivers.

The vehicle runs using a fusion of pulling power. An electric motor produces 141bhp and a 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine delivers 178bhp. 

The rear wheels are driven through the hybrid power train's Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) – an automatic gearbox that provides smooth and seamless changes. 

You can modify the 300h's performance by selecting from a range of drive modes.

Range of drive modes

There's EV all-electric running, with the petrol engine switched off; Eco, for optimum fuel efficiency; Normal; and Sport, for sharper throttle response and a sportier steering setting.

Total system output is 220bhp, enabling a 0-62mph acceleration time of 8.3 seconds and a slightly less impressive 125mph top speed. 

Safety is top notch too. 

The IS 300h has been declared the best in its class by Euro NCAP. 

Five-star Euro NCAP safety rating 

It achieved the highest ratings in the large family category in the organisation's 2013 safety performance testing programme, securing the top five-star rating.

So, image-wise, the Lexus IS 300h F SPORT radiates style blended with green cool. 

It demonstrates you're successful and conscientious without being boring. 

The car is a gem and will stand out among the sea of German executive motors lined up in the parking spaces outside any corporate building.

Lexus IS 300h F SPORT: Pros & cons

  • Green √
  • Safe √
  • Sporty √
  • Different √
  • Top speed X

Lexus IS 300h F SPORT: Fast facts

  • Max speed: 125 mph
  • 0-62 mph: 8.3 secs
  • Combined mpg: 60.1
  • Engine: 2494cc 4 cylinder 16 valve petrol + electric motor
  • Max. power (bhp): 220 
  • Max. torque (lb/ft): 163
  • CO2: 109 g/km
  • Price: £33,495 on the road

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Tim Barnes-Clay

Leon Poultney

Tim is an experienced motoring writer with a background in radio and TV journalism. He puts his pedal to the metal each week with his must-read car reviews.

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