Lexus IS 300h: A driver’s car with a heart of green

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Manny De Los Reyes
Manny De Los Reyes
Manny de los Reyes, motoring editor of as well as its print edition, has been writing about cars since 1995. His life has been deeply intertwined with cars, having cleaned and maintained the family cars as a teenager, operating a paint shop and entering national car shows in college, before joining Nissan after graduation. He handled car brands as a copywriter afterwards. Today, when he's not testing or writing about cars or attending motoring events, he is home reading novels or playing with his shih tzu.

Luxury car buyers might know the Lexus IS as the first rung in the luxury brand’s hierarchy of smooth and ethereally silent sedans. It is also Lexus’s—and the country’s—most attainable hybrid luxury sedan. (The Lexus CT 200h is actually the brand’s most affordable hybrid, but it’s a sport hatchback.)

But while the P3,328,000 IS 300h Premiere hybrid sedan was unveiled last November (together with the decidedly sportier non-hybrid P3,808,000 IS 350 F Sport), a new, lower-priced IS hybrid variant is making its Philippine debut—the P2,978,000 IS 300h.    

But while the IS 350 F Sport might be the model to make your heart beat faster, the IS 300h promises nearly equally spirited motoring that lives up to the IS sports sedan heritage. The new IS was born and bred at the brand-new Toyota Technical Center Shimoyama Test Track, after all. Shimoyama is the Nurburgring-inspired proving ground where the toughest and most challenging roads in the world have been recreated. The outcome was an IS lineup that is agile and provocative.

A powerful yet efficient drive

Under the svelte and sculpted lines of the IS 300h is a powerful-yet-efficient hybrid drivetrain—a  2.5-liter inline-4 mated to a Lexus E-CVT intelligent transmission. The 16-valve DOHC dual VVTi petrol engine is paired with an equally powerful electric motor. When in tandem, power delivered to the rear wheels is a combined 220hp and 221Nm. Zero to 100 km/h happens in a swift 8.7 seconds.

Even more noteworthy is the kind of fuel efficiency the IS 300h delivers. The EV Drive Mode lets you use the electric motor at slow speeds, reducing emissions and fuel consumption.

Keeping drivers engaged and in full control is a suspension system tuned and refined in the Shimoyama Test Track. The double-wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear is complemented by ABS, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Hill Start Assist (HSA), and a Traction Control System. Topping things off are fresh 18-inch alloy wheels shod with 235/45R18 tires. Improved brakes add stopping power and give drivers a more natural brake feel.

 Stunning exterior

The traditionally low and wide IS 300h will slice through the air with its sculpted shape that’s more aerodynamic than its predecessor, despite being 30mm wider.

The IS 300h is available in seven colors, including newly developed Chromatic colors: Sonic Titanium, Sonic Iridium, and Sonic Chrome. Colors that are exclusive to the IS 300h variant are Sonic Quartz and Red Mica Crystal Shine. Graphite Black Glass Flake and Heat Blue Contrast Layering round off the head-turning choices.

State-of-the-art connectivity and safety

Front and center on the dashboard is an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Miracast, and voice recognition. A 10-speaker audio system will please even the most discerning audiophiles. There is also a multi-information TFT display where drivers can monitor their fuel economy through the Eco-Driving Indicator Light and Zone Display.

A power tilt and telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle shifters offer an even more engaging interface. The luxuriously crafted interior can be had in black synthetic leather. Driver and front passenger are treated to eight-way power-adjustable seats.

A Parking Assist Monitor accurately guides your parking attempts by superimposing guide lines on the back camera’s video screen—very helpful in tight parking spaces. Adding to this is a clearance and reversing sonar to make sure that drivers are aware of what is behind them. Eight airbags lining the cabin give enhanced protection in a crash.

The IS 300h has become one of the most distinctive compact luxury sedans in the market. Combining sophisticated and unique in-class hybrid technology, its head-turning styling, and its artisanal Takumi craftsmanship—plus its price of P2,978,000, which undercuts its closest German rival—the Lexus sports sedan presents an extremely compelling proposition.

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