By Nick Jones
Think Lexus and I bet you think big, luxurious and full of high-tech gadgets.
And I bet you think there will be an older chap behind the wheel.
But think again. I’ve recently spent time behind the wheel of an IS F-Sport and I don’t yet fit the description of ‘older chap’.
The IS both is available in both petrol and diesel formats and, in my opinion, is something of an unsung hero.
It brings the Lexus brand into the realms of affordability for those of us who want genuine quality and luxury but don’t have huge budgets to play with.
Owning an executive car, like an Audi or BMW, is good for street cred.
And both those marques (both German) have sporty versions of most models for that little bit more oomph and that little bit more street cred.
And so does Lexus, the topmost brand from the Toyota stable with its IS F-Sport.
Much the same visually as the £58,000 V8 monster it follows, this iteration of the F-Sport has undergone quite a transformation aesthetically while leaving most of the mechanical bits untouched.
It has beautiful alloy wheels, a lower nose and deeper air intakes, colour-coded all-round panels and a sexy rump with a boot spoiler.
In petrol form the IS F-Sport has a 2.5-litre V6 engine growling under the bonnet, the diesel has a 2.2-litre common-rail powerplant. #
The petrol produces 205bhp and provides quiet, smooth progress on the road. And while it doesn’t throw you back in your seat when you accelerate, it still gets to 60mph in just a tad over eight seconds from standstill and hits a top speed of 145mph.
All this with the promise of low emissions (164g/km) and the promise of 32mpg. Talking of which, the diesel returns over 50mpg and offers a very company car-user tempting 148g/km.
Top speed for the diesel is just shy of its petrol stablemate and the 0-60mph dash is achieved in just under nine seconds – not a big enough difference really to justify the thirstier petrol unit.
Best bit though for me is despite having 175bhp, it hits 400Nm in the torque counter, and that’s where it really hits the spot for me.
Torque is the real measure of an engine’s power and the lower it can be delivered in the rev range the more efficient the unit is. And this baby delivers, making for easier overtaking and smoother cruising at low revs.
Don’t get me wrong, the petrol is happy to plod along in sixth gear (the auto box is good, by the way) and that’s all fine and dandy. But the diesel is much more civilised in the same environments and when you floor the throttle and the car drops a cog and surges you effortlessly towards the horizon.
On the inside there are swathes of alcantara and leather, with a black headlining, drilled pedals, sports steering wheel and rather comfortable sports seats.
It’s well-equipped too with eight airbags, traction control, brake assist, 13-speaker stereo system, all the usual electric windows and mirrors, air conditioning and rain-sensing wipers plus very bright HID headlights.
There’s plenty of space in too, not only in the front but in the back as well, with easily room for three adults abreast.
Opening the boot reveals just under 400-litres of luggage space, which is disappointing really given the Lexus’ size.
I also liked the fact that everything is easy to understand an operate in the cockpit as most of the electronic gizmos operate automatically.
So, I recommend spending your £28,900 on the diesel, saving yourself £1,400 over the petrol.
But both possess visual potency while retaining those smooth, mechanical underpinnings.
Is this Japanese offering good enough to worry its German rivals? I think so.
The IS F-Sports Lexus is seen to be an exercise in aesthetics over substance but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.