Lexus has always had a bit of a tough time of it in Europe, largely because we love our premium German saloons. But with the latest generation IS, Lexus is looking to play its hybrid wildcard in a bid to attract a more environmentally-conscious executive.
On the face of it, the IS looks like a more futuristic offering than before thanks to the spindle shaped grille and the rather unusual, tick-shaped daytime running LED lights, which are separate from the headlamps. Other than that, it's more or less business as usual.
The cabin may not be as stylish as an Audi but it's definitely an improvement on the Lexus models of old. The interior boasts a joystick-controlled infotainment system which is a little bit like the BMW iDrive system (although not quite as intuitive), but the buttons on the otherwise well laid out dash are a little scattered. Because the new IS is longer than its predecessor, the back seats benefit from greater legroom – space is on a par with the BMW 3 Series and better than that of a Mercedes-Benz C Class and Audi A4.
This is the first IS to feature Toyota's petrol/ electric drivetrain, which uses a 178bhp 2.5 litre 4 cylinder petrol engine with a 141bhp electric motor, and is cheaper to run than diesel rivals thanks largely to low emissions. It lacks the mid-range grunt offered by diesels, but is on a par performance-wise with some of its rivals, hitting 60mph from stationary in around eight seconds. Alternatively there is a 2.5 litre V6 petrol. All-round the Lexus IS is a good alternative to its more established European rivals. It may not be as dynamic to drive and the rival diesels may offer better performance, but the hybrid system does have its benefits. Plus, Lexus is a by-word for reliability.
So that's what we think, but what do a group of professionals make of the car? Watch the video above to find out.