The 2013 Lexus IS range gains a hybrid model as the Japanese brand aims to counter fuel-efficient diesel models from its German luxury rivals.
The Lexus IS300h joins the IS250 and IS350 models for the third-generation version of the company’s rival to the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class.
IS300h sits in the middle of the range, priced from $58,900 and offering a combined power output of 164kW from its 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and electric motor.
The new Lexus IS starts at $55,900 for the IS250 that continues with a 153kW/252Nm 2.5-litre V6, or from $65,000 for the IS350 that uses the same 233kW/378Nm 3.5-litre V6 as before but now teams it with an eight-speed (derived from the IS-F's gearbox) rather than six-speed auto.
The most affordable entries to key competitors are $50,900 for a BMW 316i, $55,500 for the Audi A4 1.8 TFSI and $59,900 for the Mercedes C200.
The Lexus IS300h is the slowest of the three variants from standstill, taking 8.5 seconds to reach 100km/h from standstill compared with 5.9 seconds for the IS350 and 8.1 seconds for the IS250. Rolling acceleration, however, sees the hybrid sit between the two petrol models, taking 4.8 seconds to go from 40 to 70km/h compared with 5.4sec (IS250) and 3.6sec (IS350).
It’s by far the most economical, however, using just 4.9 litres of premium unleaded per 100km, and emitting just 113 grams of CO2 per kilometre.
Figures for the Lexus IS250 and Lexus IS350, respectively, are 9.2L per 100km and 213g/km and 9.7L/100km and 225g/km.
Lexus IS F Sport grades feature adaptive dampers for a suspension that has redesigned front and rear across the range.
The 2013 Lexus IS, the first all-new IS since 2005, sits on a shortened version of the platform used for the bigger GS.
It is 75mm longer and 10mm wider than before, with 70mm of the extra length going into the distance between the front and rear axles.
Lexus says 50mm of that wheelbase extension was devoted to increasing rear legroom to class-leading status – overcoming a key criticism of the previous model.
The company also points to the Lexus IS300h being the first hybrid sedan to offer 60/40 split fold rear seats as a result of its positioning of the hybrid battery pack under the luggage deck board.
Boot space for the hybrid Lexus IS is also less compromised as a result, offering 450 litres to the 480 litres of the IS250 and IS350. It's helped by the use of run-flat tyres for the hybrid model.
Lexus again minimises options lists, including plenty of standard equipment throughout each of the variants’ trim grades that comprise Luxury, F Sport and Sports Luxury.
Luxury models all include ventilated and electrically adjustable front seats, keyless entry, satellite navigation, dual-zone climate control, digital radio, Bluetooth with audio streaming, bi-xenon headlights with daytime running lights, reverse-view camera, 7-inch colour media display, and Drive Mode select that allows the driver to alter steering, throttle and stability control settings.
Key additions for the F Sport include 18-inch alloy wheels instead of 17s, sports suspension with variable dampers, rain-sensing wipers, blind spot warning, auto-dimming mirror, power adjustable steering wheel, and driver seat memory.
Sports Luxury extras include a 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, lane departure warning, active cruise control, and auto high beam.
There’s also a general four-year/100,000km warranty, with the IS300h getting an additional eight-year warranty for the hybrid battery.
The Lexus IS is offered with up to 10 airbags with the availability of rear-side airbags. Eight airbags are standard on Luxury and F Sport.
New safety technology additions include blind spot and lane departure warning systems – standard on Sports Luxury grades and optional on the IS300h.
A new telematics system dubbed Enform, and powered by Apple iOS and Android, will be available from the fourth quarter of 2013, offering owners a range of information assistance including customer care, local internet search, petrol station finder with fuel prices, weather, plus downloadable destination guides.
The new Lexus IS was previewed by the LF-CC coupe concept that points to a future two-door version of the model to help the company match the broader line-ups offered by German rivals.
The previous generation offered sedan and convertible body styles only.
Lexus has yet to decide whether it will build another version of the V8-powered IS-F performance sedan, saying the current model would continue to be offered for a while longer.
2013 Lexus IS pricing
Luxury from $55,900
F Sport from $64,900
Sports Luxury from $77,900
Luxury from $58,900
F Sport from $67,900
Luxury from $65,000
F Sport from $73,000
Sports Luxury from $84,000
2013 Lexus IS specifications
Engine: 2.5-litre V6
Power: 153kW at 6400rpm
Torque: 252Nm at 4800rpm
Transmission: 6-speed auto
0-100km/h: 8.1 seconds
Fuel consumption: 9.2L/100km
CO2 emissions: 213g/km
Engine: 3.5-litre V6
Power: 233kW at 6400rpm
Torque: 378Nm at 4800rpm
Transmission: 8-speed auto
0-100km/h: 5.9 seconds
Fuel consumption: 9.7L/100km
CO2 emissions: 225g/km
Engine: 2.5-litre 4-cyl + electric motor
Power: 164kW (combined)
Torque: not available
0-100km/h: 8.5 seconds
Fuel consumption: 4.9L/100km
CO2 emissions: 113g/km