2020 Lexus IS 300 Review: Dynamic Range

Lionel Kong

Driving Experience

The car may still use the very smooth 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder and eight-speed automatic transmission for the previous-gen car, but the suspension has been thoroughly redesigned. Lexus states that the handling characteristics of the IS 300 and the more powerful IS 350 F Sport were honed at Toyota’s Shimoyama test circuit, which was opened in 2019 and inspired by the Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit in Germany. The 5.3km-long Shimoyama circuit features a maximum elevation change of 75 metres and was developed exclusively as a vehicle handling test track for Toyota and Lexus. 

Over the circuit’s dips and crests, curves and straights, the engineers tuned the automatic transmission’s software to learn how to read the inclines and driver inputs for even smoother gearshifts, and also found where the body needed extra reinforcement to allow the new shock absorbers to work better. 

The car does sometimes feel at odds with itself as the quiet, luxurious interior along with the quiet engine doesn’t exactly scream sports car. Yet the 244 horsepower motor can propel the car from 0 to 100km/h in a reasonably brisk 7.0 seconds, and there is a good sense of handling prowess under all that insulation when you feed the car through some curves. 

Brake feel is also refreshingly progressive, without being overly assisted or sensitive. There’s plenty of serious stopping power, and you can actually modulate it in the IS 300. 

The requisite steering wheel mounted paddle shifters react to input very quickly, and it’s an engaging car to drive when you find that rare section of road with enough curves and nobody around. The engine could do with a little more noise though as it sounds incredibly muted.

That’s probably deliberate though, as many drivers have come to expect a certain level of refinement from a Lexus. The V6-engined IS 350 F Sport could be a very different animal, as that version  supposedly features a sportier engine note. 

There’s also plenty of active safety packed into the car, with aids like Emergency Steering Assist and Lane Tracing Assist fitted as standard. The Dynamic Radar Cruise Control is a feature that after you start using, will likely never do without it again. The system can reliably track the car in front and even bring the IS to a complete stop completely automatically, so on longer highway drives you may never even need to touch the pedals. It’s also linked to the GPS to detect curves so that it can slow the car down to appropriate speeds when approaching bends. 

Continue to Page 4: Rivals and Conclusion

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IS 300 Lexus sports sedan

About the Author

Lionel Kong

An old hand from the bad old days of crazy COEs, the straight-shooting, ex-CarBuyer editor is back in the four-wheeled world. Rumours that he went to another country to start a Judas Priest tribute band are unfounded.

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