2021 Lexus IS 300h Review: IS Time To Shine

Derryn Wong

Driving Experience

There hasn’t been much evolution in drivetrain terms, the car is still powered by a 180hp 2.5-litre inline four Atkinson cycle engine. Fuel efficiency has gone from 5.0L/100km to 5.4L/100km, but that is probably due to new testing cycles, and the car’s electric motor now puts out 140hp/300Nm up from 120hp/200Nm before, which slices half a second off the 0-100km/h time. 

But like we said, the fact that there hasn’t been wild evolution shows how Lexus got it right seven years ago. The majority of the low-speed work happens on purely electric power, and when the petrol engine’s effort kicks in it’s almost seamless.

We deliberately tested the IS 300h like a sporty executive sedan: Being more aggressive with the throttle, not using the optional Eco mode, with a mix of city, highway, and dynamic driving as well. Covering more than 200km, the IS 300h gave us 6.3L/100km, which is superb mileage (coincidentally the same as we did back in 2013, despite larger 19-inch wheels) for a car of this type.

In the day to day, the hybrid IS still delivers that quiet, vault-like feel of a Lexus sedan, walling you away from the outside world with the hybrid system’s refinement taking that feeling up a notch. That feeling is lessened by the car’s stiff ride quality, which makes you feel every bump, though it’s in a sporty and direct fashion and not the uncouth crashiness of a badly-setup SUV.  
It proves as much when you want to speed things up. In Sport mode, the drivetrain becomes more lively, and the fact that Lexus has upped the output of the electric motor (and shaved half a second off the 0-100km/h) makes an obvious difference.

The IS has always been up for a dance with the driver, but the widened stance and improved suspension tuning of this version means it’s truly an excellent handling vehicle.

It’s a real driver’s car, communicative and fluid, and in classic Lexus style the dance truly does feel like a two-way thing. These days with high-performance cars, it can feel like you’re simply along for the ride or death by snu-snu.

For instance, while some cars love to go fast and egg you on, the Lexus responds to what you need. Want more speed? Done. Take the next corner quicker? Sure. Then you realise you’re actually going rather fast, but things are all still calm, stable, and the car has plenty more in reserve. That’s the sporty drive experience we’ve come to expect from Lexus, and at a higher level than the previous model. Which also goes to show that platform isn’t everything. 

In fact, we were wrong about the four-door coupe in disguise idea, the IS is the refreshing inverse: It’s a sedan that looks like a coupe and drives like one, but doesn’t claim that it is a coupe. In fact, the IS reminds us of another not-a-fast-car that’s a driver’s delight, the BMW 420i, and in case you’re in doubt, that’s high praise. 

Page 4: Pricing, competition, conclusion

Page 1: Introduction, design and appearance
Page 2: Interior, space, equipment
Page 3: Driving experience
Page 4: Pricing, competition, conclusion

Pages: 1 2 3 4


4-door 5 seat Hybrid IS IS 300h Luxury Lexus sedan

About the Author

Derryn Wong

CarBuyer's chief editor brings 15 years of experience in automotive journalism. Previously, he was the editor for Top Gear Singapore, and a presenter for CNA's Cruise Control motoring segment. He's contributed to The Business Times, Today, and many other publications, and also covered technology as editor of Stuff magazine. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he is the Chief Slave of two cats. Follow him on Instagram @werryndong

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