Lexus may have at last created the right compact executive saloon, in the form of the IS300h, for Britain’s company car drivers.
Having dallied with a diesel engine without ever truly developing it, the company has done the obvious thing: applied hybrid technology of the sort that is already proving popular for fleets in other model segments.
The resulting IS300h is competitive with big-selling diesel rivals on price, performance, handling and economy. It also sets an exceptional standard for refinement and quality, and its styling certainly cuts a distinctive dash on the road.
What it doesn’t do is offer its driver very much. Not very much involvement or amusement, or even much satisfaction. The powertrain blocks that particular road at every turn. In fact, ‘driver’ is perhaps wrong, come to think of it, because in the IS300h you’re actually made to feel more like a kind of ‘chief passenger’. And most Autocar readers wouldn’t tolerate that situation for long.
Which is why Lexus looks a bit foolish in attempting to sell this car as a viable alternative to a sporting business saloon. The IS lacks the involvement to keep keener drivers interested, and so it doesn’t have the sheer breadth of ability of the best cars it’s up against.
The petrol-engined IS200t is equally disengaging, and simply isn't powerful or flexible enough. Its efficiency and output is notably less impressive than some very competent turbocharged four-cylinder alternatives as well, although some buyers may approve of its smooth, naturally aspirated nature.