Lexus pushes greener gear with new IS hybrid

Apart from trademark trims, it also comes with good spec set of safety features.

It feels like just the other day that Toyota rolled out the world’s first hybrid powered car, the Prius, when it was in actual fact as long ago as 1997.

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Yes, the first Prius looked hideous in more ways than one, more it paved the way towards the future and a much greener one.

Fast-forward 20 years and in 2017 alone, more than 1.5 million hybrid cars were sold across all brands worldwide, with the total numbers since 1997 reaching 12 million in April 2017 of which Toyota and its luxury brand Lexus own 50% of the market share.

Last week, Lexus rolled out yet another hybrid model, the IS 300h, to extend their local hybrid line-up to four options.

The others are the ES 300h, the NX 250h and the RX450h.

But coming in at R753 800, the IS 300h is the most affordable of the lot. And although that price tag is anything but cheap, it’s a world apart from the first batch of Prius where the rich and famous competed on a waiting list.

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Although the current IS range has been around since 2013, there is a method behind Lexus’ madness to only introduce a hybrid five years down the line, says Toyota SA senior manager for corporate communications Clynton Yon.

“Globally, there is a movement towards alternatively fueled engines as we strive for greener cities,” says Yon.

“A lot is happening around diesel and the upcoming ban on diesel engines by the European Union. “But we are still a long way off from electrically power cars as a viable option and therefore at Lexus we can fill in the gaps with our hybrids. We offer more hybrid options than anybody else.

“The plan is to make it even more affordable down the line and bring in hybrids in the EX grade, but that can only happen with greater incentives from government.”

One of the reasons hybrids have become popular in overseas markets, is because of the fact that buyers are incentivised on a range of things from tax exemption to toll fees.

Locally, however, buyers have to cough up more for hybrids than petrol or diesel cars without any love from the government’s side.

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So if you’re into hybrids for the sake of having money to burn or purely on the basis of being a bunny-hugger, the IS 300h is a great option.

Apart from bearing the distinctive Lexus trademark trim levels inside, it also comes with good spec-set of safety features also found in the ES 300h, which comes in at almost R100 000 more at R843 800.

The only drawback to the IS is that the battery is located on the floor of the boot, necessitating the vehicle to be equipped with run flat tyres without a spare wheel, whereas the new ES battery is under the front seat, allowing space for a spare wheel in the boot.

The IS is also a rear-wheel drive, whereas the ES is frontwheel driven, something that has been questioned for a large sedan.

The IS 300h is fitted with an Atkinson cycle 2.5-litre inline four-cylinder engine, which was exclusively designed for the hybrid model and produces 133kW of power at 6 000rpm and 221Nm of torque from 4 200 to 5 400rpm.

The powerplant operates alongside a 650-volt permanent-magnet, synchronous electric motor, adding to a maximum combined output of 164kW, to go with a six-speed CVT gearbox.

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The power allocation is constantly adjusted between the engine and electric motor to achieve the best balance of performance and fuel efficiency.

During startup and low- to mid-range speeds – the least fuel efficient times – the 300h runs on its electric motor and as speed picks up, it will draw power from the petrol engine.

If you set out to drive economically and can manage to keep it in EV mode, you might just come close to the claimed consumption of 5.0l/100km.

The 300h slots into a revised IS line-up, which also features the entry-level 300EX and range-topping 350F SPORT.

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The 300E has been discontinued. Lexus plans to increase its hybrid offering further by introducing one for the LS, LC and RC, as well as the all-new UX crossover.

Likes

  • Very quiet inside cabin.
  • Premium finishing.

Dislikes

  • The parking brake being situated on the left of the brake pedal not everyone’s cup of tea.
  • Lack of a spare wheel.

Verdict

  •  Riding in style and hugging trees at the same time? Bonus!

Pricing

  • 300 EX R715 400
  • 300h SE R753 800
  • 350 F SPORT R806 400

All IS models come with a best-in-class seven-year/105 000km warranty and full maintenance plan, a seven year/105 00km guarantee and eight-year battery warranty.

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