With sporting good looks and strong performance, wheelworldreviews editor DAVID HOOPER puts the latest diesel-powered car from Lexus to the test.
LEXUS has brought us some pretty impressive cars in the last few years and this week’s test car is another that fits that billing.
Inspired by the formidable IS F sports saloon I tested a few months ago, this car, the F-Sport version, offers a similarly sporty stance, but in a less fearsome package combined with sensible running costs, thanks to its diesel engine.
The IS range now consists of four equipment grades – SE, SE-I, F-Sport and SE-L, with the diesel-powered F-Sport costing £28,290.
Sitting 10mm lower on its suspension than the rest of the range, it comes with a host of sports themed exterior and interior features which include specially designed 18in alloy wheels, lowered suspension, a mesh front grille and an IS F-style bootlid spoiler.
Inside, the sporting theme continues with superbly comfortable and supportive front seats and Alcantara and leather upholstery. The pedals are aluminium and the steering wheel has a little F-Sport logo on it.
The equipment levels are as good as you will find in any car, with keyless entry, the latest satellite navigation system, Bluetooth communications to connect your telephone, six-CD autochanger, a 13-speaker audio system, climate control, automatic wipers and lights and electrically adjustable seats with memory settings for both front seat occupants.
Safety is also a top priority and all versions of the IS come with 10 airbags as standard, including driver and front passenger knee airbags and a full collection of the latest safety aids to help keep you out of trouble on the road.
The diesel engine deserves special praise as it is an impressive power plant. It is the first such engine from Lexus, and as you would expect, is among the most refined you will find in any car.
Constructed from aluminium, it’s a 2.2-litre four cylinder unit which delivers 175bhp and a useful 400Nm of torque, which means the 0-62mph benchmark time is despatched in a rapid 8.9 seconds, with a 135mph potential top speed on tap. These are a tidy set of figures, but are actually only part of the story. The car’s C02 emissions are just 148g/km which means the tax disc isn’t too costly and for company car drivers, the Lexus diesel is an attractive proposition. Fuel economy has also improved, with a nine per cent reduction in consumption on the combined cycle, from 46.3 to 50.4mpg, although in my test of almost 500 miles, thanks in part to a huge diversion off the A1 on a Saturday night, saw us achieve an overall average of 39.8mpg.
With good mid-range punch, the car delivers its performance impressively, which makes pulling away from roundabouts and junctions, or overtaking slower traffic on A roads quick and safe because you need less space in which to complete the manoeuvre.
My test car was equipped with a smooth and precise six-speed manual gearbox, but in my opinion the choice of gearing for the top two gears doesn’t really suit British roads.
Sixth gear is very high, and the car is only just comfortable cruising at a corrected 70mph in top gear on a flat and level motorway. With the engine running at little more than tickover the fuel consumption is no doubt maximised, but as soon as you reach a slight incline, the engine starts to labour and sounds harsh as it struggles to maintain momentum.
Dropping to fifth gear instantly solves the problem by increasing the engine’s revs, but will also have a negative effect on fuel economy, so I found myself changing between fifth and sixth fairly regularly as the roads we travelled rose and fell with the undulations of the countryside. On the plus side, the higher cruising speeds enjoyed by our friends on the Continent would certainly suit the Lexus better and it would be an excellent car for a cross-Europe trip.
Another useful feature which came into its own on our large detour were the High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlamps with adaptive front-lighting system which adjusts the angle of the headlamp beams to improve illumination through bends and at junctions. On main beam, the view was almost as good as daylight.
If you want a great looking car, with strong performance and sensible running costs, then the Lexus F-Sport could be that car.
THE VITAL STATISTICS
MODEL: Lexus IS 220d F-Sport.
LEXUS IS220d RANGE: From SE four-door (£24,350) to SE-L four-door (£29,075).
ENGINE: 2,231cc, 177bhp four-cylinder engine, driving rear wheels through 6-speed manual gearbox.
CO2 EMISSIONS: 148g/km.
PERFORMANCE: Top speed 135mph. 0-62mph in 8.9 secs.
ECONOMY: City: 39.8mpg.
Fuel tank: 65 litres.
INSURANCE: Group 28.
WARRANTY: 3 years/60,000 miles.
• All data correct at time of publishing.