LEXUS has launched a solid attack on the lower end of the Australian luxury car market with a new IS compact sedan range to battle Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
The new model, the third generation for the IS, presents as the most complex compact range for the company in Australia since the car first launched here in 2000.
With petrol-electric hybrid and regular petrol engines across sport and luxury models the newcomer offers buyers a total of eight variants starting with a 2.5 litre V6 engine for the IS250, a 2.5 litre, four-cylinder and battery-powered electric motor for the IS300h and a 3,5 litre V6 for the IS350.
Chief engineer for the IS project, Junichi Furuyama, said his key aim for the new model was to make it a “fun car” to drive.
As part of the development project, Lexus built 350 IS prototypes and covered 1.6 million kilometres in testing around the world.
He said while a lot of work had gone into styling the cars’ exterior and interior just as much work had gone into streamlining it to help achieve maximum fuel efficiency. The work included a stepped underbody panel, aerodynamic fins underneath the car and even grooves on the insides of the wheel arches to maximise airflow.
The new design means the car is marginally bigger than its predecessor with most of the size gains translating into increased interior room and boot space. The hybrid car, the first IS hybrid in the history of the model, had the battery pack mounted horizontally beneath the boot floor so that a conventional split/fold rear seat could be fitted. Because of that the hybrid gets a 450 litre boot, just 30 litres smaller than the two V6-engined cars.
For Sean Hanley, installed as the head of Lexus Australia just three months ago, the new IS range is a whole new pitch at a strengthening market segment.
“Never in the history of Lexus have we been in the position to launch such a competitive car,” he said. “I think people will be attracted to this car.”
Pricing for the new IS range starts at $55,900 for the IS250 Luxury and peaks at $84,000 for the IS350 Sports Luxury. Standard features across the range includes satellite navigation, a reversing camera, a pedestrian-safe bonnet, keyless entry and start, heated and ventilated front seats, a digital radio and high intensity bi-xenon headlights.
• Read Brent Davison’s comprehensive report on the new Lexus IS range in Saturday’s Motoring.
SAME NAME, NEW FACE: Lexus has given its third-generation IS range a complete wheels-up rework, creating an eight-car family that includes a hybrid variant.