In 2010, the Lexus brand marked its 20th year in the automotive industry. The IS series was in its second generation, sold under a single name with the introduction of the Lexus brand in Japan in 2005.
The L-finesse design philosophy introduced by Lexus has now played an essential role in transforming the IS series to a true compact luxury sedan.
Lexus IS 350
Starting with the second-generation, the IS350 (GSE21) model joined the line up as the top-of-the-line offering for the IS series beginning in 2005. Initially, Lexus released the IS350 in the US market only. European dealers were selling the IS250 and the IS220d, while the rest of the world got the IS250.
In 2010, the IS series underwent a second facelift and was now offered in Australia and other countries. Australian trim variants were the IS350 F Sport, IS350 Prestige and IS350 Sports Luxury. The IS350 X Special Edition was added to the lineup in 2012 and the IS350 X Xtra in 2013.
The new IS series was the entry-level offering from Lexus but, at this time, was geared to take on the competitors, namely, the BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, Infiniti G35, and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The first generation wasn't really up to the task, so with this enhanced series, refinements on body styles, handling, and better powertrains have given the IS series the edge it needed.
It was powered by an all-aluminium, direct-injected V6 3.0L 2GR-FSE that produced 233 kW of power at 6,400 rpm and 378 N⋅m of torque at 4,800 rpm. Power was transmitted through a 6-speed automatic that could be manually shifted through either the floor shifter or the steering wheel-mounted paddles. The variable valve timing in this engine, together with direct injection (D-4S gasoline direct injection), produces a broad powerband, making the IS350 very aggressive at most engine speeds. An IS350 all-wheel-drive variant was also added in 2010 but was only available in a few countries.
The third-generation and current IS350 (GSE31) was released in 2013 and featured a new spindle grille and improved aerodynamic body elements. Design cues were taken from the iconic Lexus LFA and the LF-LC concept car shown at the 2012 Paris Auto Show. An IS350 AWD (GSE36) was also available in select world markets.
Lexus initially released the IS350 with the 2GR-FSE V6 coupled to an 8-speed automatic. During the 2016 mid-cycle refresh, which incorporated new headlights, taillights, grille and front fascia, a new engine was also installed. A 3.5L 2GR-FKS V6 (233 kW/ 380 N⋅m) coupled to an 8-speed automatic replaced the previous powertrain.
Lexus IS 300H
Fuel economy has always been in the mind of buyers. Rather than going for turbo-diesel development, Lexus has decided to concentrate on developing their hybrid systems. Following in the footsteps of the GS450h, the third-generation IS series was introduced with its own hybrid variant, the IS300h (AVE30).
Hybrid power is provided by an Atkinson cycle 2.5L 2AR-FSE inline-4 cylinder. The petrol engine produces 130 kW of power and torque of 215 N⋅m while the electric motor could generate 105 kW and 300 N⋅m of torque. When used simultaneously, advertised power figures reach 162 kW. Power is transmitted through a Lexus-developed continuously variable transmission (CVT) that doesn't suffer from lag often found in other systems.
The IS300h is 80 kg heavier than the base models due to the batteries and other components related to being a hybrid and pushes its kerb weight to 1,635 kg. Acceleration from 0-100 km/h is timed at 8.5 seconds but is quick off the line due to the electric motor's instant torque. The advertised fuel consumption is 4.9 L/100 km, but individual tests have produced real-life numbers of between 6.5–7.4L/100km.
Australia markets the IS300h in two trims initially, the IS300h F Sport Hybrid and the IS300h Luxury Hybrid. In later years, the IS300h Sports Luxury Hybrid trim became available and is still being marketed today.
Lexus IS 200t
Introduced in 2015 in a third-generation IS-series, the IS200t (ASE30) is the only version to be equipped with a turbocharger. The IS200t was used from 2015 to 2017 and was then changed to IS300 from 2017 and carries this designation up to the present. The Australian market trims available for the IS200t are the F Sport, Sports Luxury and Luxury.
The 200t is powered by a 2.0L 8AR-FTS turbocharged inline-4 which turns out a maximum power of 180 kW and a maximum torque of 350 N⋅m and transmits this power through an 8-speed Sport Direct Shift automatic (AA81E). The advertised 0-100 km/h acceleration is at 6.9 seconds but may not feel like it as the turbocharger suffers from lag. It takes a while to kick in fully and the 8-speed gearbox has so many gears that it keeps on shifting.
The IS200t is not the most powerful variant. However, if purchased with the F Sport package that includes a sport-tuned suspension, the IS200t deserves to be called a true sports sedan with excellent steering response, precise cornering, and overall great handling. However, the same F-sport package also gives the car a bouncy ride due to its firmer suspension tuning.
Maintaining the Lexus IS Series
The IS-series is the entry-level car model for Lexus, which is not to say that it's cheap. Still, it's a bit more affordable than its German-made counterparts. The advantage of the IS series is that it is made by a Japanese carmaker known for reliability and decades-long success in the industry.
The IS200t, IS300h and IS350 are fairly new models, and proper maintainenance would make them last longer. Visit us at Carpart.com.au and see our extensive selection of high-quality replacement parts to help you keep these luxury sedans problem-free. If you want to buy or sell a Lexus IS, or any car for that matter, we're also the place to go. Find out more about our services at Carpart.com.au.