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Test Drive: The Lexus IS 300h retains its excellence

It might be an eight-year-old car, but the redesigned Lexus IS 300h continues to impress.

The Lexus IS300h has been around for a long time. The carmaker launched the first edition in January 2013. But, the model is only getting its time now in the Singapore sun after eight years with the government’s push to increase adoption of electric and hybrid vehicles.

My first encounter with the Lexus IS was when I binged on videos of Japanese drift racer Daigo Saito winning the opening round of the 2012 Formula Drift Asia, held in Melbourne, with a heavily modified Lexus IS250 convertible. Before Saito’s win, the only impression I had of Lexus was that it produced stable albeit bland automobiles.

It’s safe to say that Lexus cars are far from bland now. The newly redesigned Lexus IS300h sports a more aggressive stance, thanks to a wider and lower front end. The back is just as sexy with the unbroken line that stretches across and visually elongates the rear.

The interior has also been extensively updated (although it still befuddles me that a CD player is part of the mix). A new touchpad lets you control the infotainment system, which offers Apple and Android connectivity, and old-school buttons give you access to everything from cabin temperature to volume. The seats are plush and comfortable although the knees of your backseat passengers might occasionally rub against your back. This is essentially an eight-year-old car, which is a lifetime in the automotive world, so these changes are welcome.

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The front end of the Lexus IS 300h is lower and wider.

The front end of the Lexus IS 300h is lower and wider.

As for the drive, the Lexus IS300h is excellent. It’s exceedingly fun around corners and moves forward with ease and rapid grace. The steering is accurate and there is an elegance to the drive that is hard to find with its European competitors.

Under the hood, it remains unchanged. A 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine paired with a 140hp electric motor completes the century sprint in 8.5 seconds, good enough for Singapore’s city streets, and reaches a top speed of 180kph. Where the Lexus IS300h excels is in fuel economy. On paper, it can cover 100km with 5.1 litres. Even with a leaden right foot, I got close to those claims, so I imagine a driver with a less temperamental driving style would easily hit or even exceed those numbers.

Final Thoughts

The electric car revolution is well and truly here. While you still have some time to drive your petrol-powered cars before the Singapore government fully phases them out by 2040, perhaps it might be best to switch to a hybrid variant now that lets you straddle in between both worlds. The Lexus IS300h is a great contender.