Lexus IS 300 Review
Shimoyama Saddle

Words and Photos by Clifford Chow
5 Jan 2021
 

While buyer trends have changed within its production lifespan, with more switching to SUVs, the IS soldiers on with an extensive top-to-toe update.

When Lexus first introduced the IS, they had the BMW 3 Series in their sights. The small Executive Sedan is aimed at the young corporate mid-brass, who would want both a driver’s car and one that is luxurious. The IS has more boxes to tick, as compared to say, its front-drive ES sibling, that caters to the more senior towkay. And since its launch early last decade (yes, the car has been around for quite a bit), this is the second time that the good people at Lexus have set about to massage even more refinement into this small sedan.

While buyer trends have changed within its production lifespan, with more switching to SUVs, the IS soldiers on with an extensive top-to-toe update.

Where designers may have tried too hard previously to express the brand’s ‘L Finesse’ design philosophy, the updated car seems to thrive on a ‘less is more’ approach. The front end of the car receives sleeker headlamps that flank the car’s signature spindle grille, and Lexus has also gone on to simplify the front bumper. The restyling this time is not as simple as a nose and tail job, but one where just about every panel has been extensively reworked; with the IS receiving new doors, and a revised ‘C’ pillar that is also stiffer. Designers have also gone on to sort out the tail end, which now looks more refined.

The IS 300 is equipped with 18” rims, one size down from what the 350 F Sport and Hybrid models are equipped with, but this is not necessarily a bad thing, since it would help to deliver a more comfortable ride. The rim design however, looks quite like an afterthought.

Inside
With the facelift, the leather-clad interior has been freshened up. The deep-set 10.3” infotainment is now moved forward by 5.9”, and sits proud on-top of the centre console. I would have liked it if they had tilted the screen to face the driver a little more. Navigation of the infotainment is now done via a touchpad, and the system supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. While it is a neat setup, the user interface does show its age when compared to the more advanced one in the similarly-priced BMW 318i. Along with the redesign of the dashboard, the left and right air-conditioning vents are now circular.

The interior room of the IS remains the same, with front passengers benefitting from electric adjustable seats, that are comfortable and supportive. Sadly for the base IS 300, the driver’s seat does not come with memory settings.

Rear legroom is sufficient for most adult-sized passengers, though the tall transmission tunnel does make this more of a four+one, rather than a five-seater.

For those who have a golfing habit, the 480 litre boot is wide enough to accommodate two stacked golf bags. Although the rear seats do fold, they leave behind quite a massive kerb, which in my opinion is not too big a deal, since most owners will not be using the car to haul large objects around often.

The Drive
Lexus has retained both the 2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine and the accompanying 8-speed transmission that drives its rear wheels. Power and torque figures of 241bhp and 350Nm, the latter delivered from 1,650rpm are the same, and so is its off-the-line acceleration to 100km/h in 7 seconds. If you are looking for aggressive initial acceleration, like that found in say… a BMW 3 Series with a 2.0 turbo, you would be disappointed. Even with its turbocharged engine, the IS is designed to deliver its drive in a smooth and linear style, quite like a natural-breathing engine.

Lexus engineers who now have a 5.3km test course at Shimoyama, Japan at their disposal, have worked their magic into the updated IS. The track which boasts sections, mimicking those found  at the famous Nürburgring Nordschleife, where engineers have spent their time refining the car’s suspension, which is now fitted with ultralow-velocity valves in their pistons that manage oil flow. Placing it around a few bends reveals a car that is planted, while the adaptive automatic transmission, which learns as you drive, seems to be spot-on in most cases of which gear the car should be locked on to.

Lexus also claims that stiffening their car has also resulted in the elimination of vibration, and I do notice while driving, there is little noise coming from the rear.

Safety-wise, the IS is equipped with their latest Lexus Safety System+ (LSS+), with improvements made to their single-lens (monocular) camera and millimeter-wave radar. Together with this pre-collision system, the IS also boasts Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, which is able to scan around bends, and adjust the car’s speed accordingly.

Our Thoughts

A Lexus thing. The placement of the wing mirror lets you check your blind area with ease.

In all, I like how the IS 300 delivers a pleasant driving experience. While it makes for quite a good driver’s car, the base Lexus sedan shines the best in its refinement, while the IS 350 on the other hand, would better please those who want to milk the most out of the chassis.

The dated infotainment interface, the lack of driver seat memory, and a wireless charging dock, could be the factors that would drive buyers to look elsewhere.

In Summary

We Like

Driving refinement. Exterior styling is a vast improvement. Comfortable and supportive seats. Lexus build quality.

We Don't

Lacking in driver seat memory and wireless charging dock. Infotainment system is showing its age. 18” rim design on the IS 300 does ruin the look a little.

Verdict

Lexus has added more polish to their IS sedan, making it even more refined than before. The car delivers a near-excellent driving experience; pity the dated infotainment, lack of driver seat memory and wireless charger.

Car Loan Calculator - Lexus IS 300 (A)

SGD 203,300 (21 Jan 2021)

This car is eligible for minimum 40% down payment

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Engine

Engine Capacity 1988cc
Engine Type Inline 4
Power 241bhp @ 5800rpm
Torque 350Nm @ 1650rpm
Power to Weight 113.1 bhp per ton

Performance

Acceleration 7s (0-100 km/h)
Top Speed 230 km/h
Fuel Consumption (combined) 13.3 km/L

Misc Technical Data

Transmission 8 -speed Manual
Drive Type FR
Steering Electric

Measurements

Body Type Sedan
Dimension
(L x W x H)
(4750 x 1840 x 1435) mm
Wheelbase 2800 mm
Kerb Weight 2130 kg
Boot Capacity 480 L
Fuel Tank Capacity 66 L

Brakes

Brakes (Front) Ventilated Discs
Brakes (Rear) Ventilated Discs