2021 Lexus IS 300h Executive Review: An Efficient Sport

The Lexus IS 300h Executive is the entry-level variant of the brand’s hybrid sports sedan. So what does it drop to manage an S$11k price saving and is it the one to buy?


It’s quite clear that COE prices in Singapore are on an upward trajectory and are not likely to be receding anytime soon. Whatever you budget, it’s no fun to be paying so much extra for a new car when a huge chunk of it is going to the vagaries of the quota/demand and bidding system.

So how about ‘downsizing’ within the model range itself to save a little? We put the Lexus IS 300h through its paces a couple of months ago and found it tremendously sporty but also frugal. And compared to the regular IS 300 gasoline model, it delivers a lot more for similar money.

But what we tested was the upper grade Luxury variant of the IS 300h. At launch in February 2021, the Lexus IS 300h Luxury was going for just S$203,800 with COE. By now (May 2021) the price has ballooned to S$229,800 with COE. 

So how about the less expensive Executive variant of the car instead? The S$218,800 with COE price is still pretty high thanks to the previously mentioned rising COE prices, but it’s a pretty big amount saved over the higher spec car. 

What does the car drop to bring the price down by S$11k? Not very much actually, as the hybrid powertrain and driving experience is identical in both IS 300h variants. The biggest differences with the Executive variant is that it gets smaller 18-inch wheels to the Luxury’s 19-inch rollers, and there are no ventilated front seats nor seat position memory. The seats are also upholstered with Nuluxe, a synthetic leather material from Lexus rather than the more premium genuine smooth leather found in the Luxury variant.

In practice the Nuluxe material is really just as soft and supple as the genuine leather that Lexus is known for, and unless you point it out, your passengers are not likely to be able to feel the difference as it is really that good. 

The Executive also doesn’t get the new Lexus signature ‘triple L’ LED headlights, but they are still fitted with full LED lighting units, just without the new design signature. 

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We’ve already given the full rundown of the IS hybrid driving experience in the IS 300h Luxury’s review, and the Executive variant is much of the same.

What’s important to point out here is that for most drivers looking for a sporty sedan in the low S$200k range, the IS 300h Luxury may have gone up another gear on price but the Executive represents a substantial saving with the omission of options that most drivers won’t really miss. It may not be the ‘full-fat’ Lexus IS hybrid experience, but as far as the user and ownership experience goes, it’s pretty close. 

As far as hybrid luxury sports sedans go, it still stands on its own in this bracket. Audi’s A4 is a mild hybrid, and BMW’s 3 Series sedans are similar. None of them can match the IS 300h’s fuel efficiency, rated at 5.4L/100km on the specifications. In real-world use, we managed 5.7L/100km over two days of driving around Singapore, and that included some hard driving thrown into the mix. 

COE premiums have yet to plateau. The ‘Heightened Alert’ Covid-19 situation that is happening in Singapore from May to June will put a damper on car sales and demand, but our experience is that the pent-up demand tends to get unleashed when the situation settles eventually. In the case of the IS 300h though, the lesser variant isn’t really lesser, and may actually be the smarter buy.  

Lexus IS 300h Executive

Engine 2,487cc, inline 4
Power178hp at 5700rpm
Torque221Nm at 4200-5200rpm 
Electric Motor140hp/300Nm
BatteryNiMh, unknown capacity 
System Power219hp
System Torque Not stated
0-100km/h8.5 seconds
Top Speed180km/h
Fuel Efficiency5.4 L/100km 
VES BandA2 / -S$15,000
AgentLexus Singapore
PriceS$218,800 with COE 
Availability Now
Verdict A nearly identical experience to the very competent and excellent handling Luxury variant, but with a S$11k lower price 

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.