By Mike Torpey on 2017-10-01 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Lexus IS 300h
ON looks alone, the Lexus IS should be a dead cert to make most people's executive model shortlist.
Elegant, low slung and classy, the compact sports saloon is a real head-turner with its deep spindle grille and flared LED headlights.
But there's much more to the IS than sculpted lines - it's also a car that makes economic sense, both to private and business buyers.
Powered by the Lexus Hybrid Drive combination of 2.5-litre petrol engine and 65-volt electric motor, it is capable of topping the 60 miles per gallon mark while still managing smart if not fiery acceleration of 0-62 in 8.4 seconds.
The hybrid is an engaging car to drive too, feeling beautifully engineered, nicely balanced, smooth - and capable of producing a sound to match its style when you liven the exhaust at the touch of a button to the right of the steering wheel.
That's on top of a new Drive Mode Select system with three switchable driving modes - Eco, Normal and Sport, allowing drivers to set their preferred balance of economy, comfort, performance and handling. There's even a setting for snow.
You can drive sedately in fully EV (electric) mode, though that is deactivated if you exceed 20mph.
Switch to Sport and adjust the volume of the Active Sound Control and the car's character changes completely, making it feel more focused as the sound of the engine burbling beneath the bonnet is relayed into the cabin.
And the prestige arm of Toyota didn't stop there, because the IS also showcases a fresh interior - inspired by the LFA supercar - with upmarket materials and plenty of legroom for two rear passengers, who sit low in the seats.
On the downside you wouldn't want to travel far in the centre rear position, which is perched and uncomfortable, and the use of a foot-operated parking brake can also take some getting used to.
The boot is user-friendly though, even in the hybrid which has its battery pack placed beneath the boot floor so capacity isn't affected.
Stowage is well thought-out too, with a pair of cupholders front and back, a bottle container in each door, a central box, door bins and glovebox.
Lexus IS 300h prices start at £29,995 for the SE automatic, entry level for the seven trim grades, while top end Premier adds close to an extra £10K.
But that premium tab brings with it some sumptuous kit including eight-way power adjustable leather seats, laser-cut dark wood dashboard inlays and a 15-speaker Mark Levinson surround sound set-up.
And every car gets the likes of cruise control, keyless entry, hill start assist and dual zone climate control, while all bar SE have sat-nav.
Lexus IS 300h Premier
Mechanical: 178bhp, 2,494cc, 4-cyl petrol engine and electric motor driving rear wheels via electric CVT transmission
Max Speed: 125mph
0-62mph: 8.4 seconds
Combined MPG: 61.4
Insurance Group: 30
C02 emissions: 107g/km
Bik rating: 20%
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles
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