The Lexus IS300h was put to the test while shopping for a family get-together and ferrying a few of my relatives around the Northern Beaches.
Yes, the Lexus IS300h is in its element in stop-start traffic, where the mild hybrid system can be most effective. When creeping along at very low speeds the engine remains silent, improving both fuel economy and the NVH. At higher speed the engine resumes its duties driving the rear-wheels, where it's reasonably quiet assuming you don't flare the CVT transmission with an unprovoked prod of the throttle.
I'm just not a fan. Sure, it is quite economical which is the point of the hybrid, but if saving money is your aim then you'd be better off buying a less expensive diesel from any number of other manufacturers.
I will say that I love the look of it, it's very striking in pictures and in person, and with the F-Sport pack as fitted to our IS300h long-term test car it's pretty aggressive.
The heated/ventilated red leather seats look really cool and are very comfortable. I'm also a fan of the digital dashboard that moves about, very cool!
Unfortunately the rest of the interior is a bit of a let down.
The design reminds me of an old Blaupunkt stereo system my dad had from the 80s, and the toggle mouse system for controlling the media and navigation interface is downright hateful. The media system isn't helped by graphics that look pretty dated, and a confusing layout.
It also proved itself to be quite economical in a mix of predominately city driving with a splash of highway.
The sport mode, which adds a ridiculous sounding noise to the mix of CVT drone and tyre noise. What's worse is that the artificial "engine" sound doesn't sound like an engine, and doesn't seem to have any real relation to the revs or speed of travel. Best avoided.
Space is generally decent and the boot is a good size, though there is a dearth of storage up front.
Being a Lexus it will likely last till the end of time. Come service time, Lexus will collect your car and drop it back to you. The competition should take note.
It's far from cheap and not really sporty despite its looks.
I wasn't too disappointed to hand the keys back to its long-term driver, Tony. The Lexus IS350 with it's potent V6 and proper eight-speed auto is much more fun.
While I love the look, and I'm just not a fan of this particular variant. There are plenty of super-efficient diesels and even some turbo-petrols that would offer similar fuel economy for similar or less money. For me the new Mercedes-Benz C-Class would be a serious consideration.
If you want a hybrid that stands out for looking very cool rather than very weird, the IS300h fits the bill.