0-litre diesel engine business users will be used to. It’s a refreshing approach for people in search of something just that little bit different.
Lexus has decisively shifted from bland to bold with this third generation IS. At the front, we get the signature Lexus spindle grille flanked by xenon headlamp clusters underlined by daytime running lights fashioned in the ‘L’ of the Lexus logo. It all delivers a highly distinctive visual signature that’s even more dramatic if you’ve an F Sport model with a mesh front grille and a swoopier front spoiler.
That front grille defines the dynamic shape of the body, the starting point for creases that widen across the powerfully domed bonnet before passing through the base of the front pillar and tightening as they flow towards the rear. The shape is certainly expressive, with its muscular front wings and flared wheelarch, and features a strong horizontal belt line that’s supposed to create the impression of larger rear tyres and a lowered centre of gravity. The rear light cluster seems to start in the rear wheel arch before framing the rear number plate. It even incorporates an aero-stabilising fin.
This is a bigger car than before, 75mm longer and 10mm wider in fact, the extra size paying big dividends when it comes to rear seat space, traditionally a shortcoming not only for this Lexus but for most of its direct rivals.
Get inside and you’ll find that the extra space the bigger wheelbase generates has been well used. Whereas the old IS was pretty cramped in the back, this one offers best-in-class standards of kneeroom – there’s 85mm more of it than before, aided by front seats that are thinner than the old car.
Up front, first impressions are very positive indeed. For a start, the basics are right: all-round visibility’s good, the mirrors are big and clear, the driving position is adjustable in just about every imaginable way and the seats, pedals and steering wheel all feel great. But it’s more than that. This cabin feels better built, with higher quality materials, than anything else in its class - and by quite a margin too. Even the faux leather looks realistic and there’s plenty of the proper stuff too. Highlights include the lovely analogue dashboard clock and the touch-sensitive electrostatic switches you use to adjust the air conditioning temperature.
As with bigger Lexus models, the dash is split into distinct display and operation zones, the upper display section dominated by a 7-inch LCD infotainment screen. If that includes satellite navigation, then operation can be marshalled by the eight-way moveable ‘mouse’ you’ll find in the lower operation zone, with functionality that not everyone likes. It does, after all, take quite a subtle touch to guide the cursor where you want it to go. Once you've got the hang of it though, it works fine. Overall, the seats, with their lovely quilted finish, are also worth a mention as those drivers who like a sporty feel can get hunkered right down in the car, while those who prefer a more elevated view out can jack them up a fair way.
And the boot? Well the batteries that must be housed beneath its floor in the hybrid IS 300h model rob you of 30-litres of space, but that still leaves a class-competitive 450-litres of room on offer.
If you thought that Lexus was the company that tried to copy the German makes, you need to try this car. It looks right, it feels good and it makes eminent sense on the balance sheet.
Nothing else in the compact executive saloon segment is quieter, cleaner, better equipped and as affordable to tax. Add in the arresting looks and a brand routinely steeped in praise by every survey going and I think there’s room for this brand to be optimistic about its prospects with this car. It’s the best small Lexus yet made. And that makes it a very desirable thing indeed.