New Lexus IS range arrives in Singapore, and includes the 3.5-litre V6 engined IS 350

Prices for the luxury Japanese sports sedan start from $199k with COE for the IS 300

SINGAPORE — It’s been a while since the Lexus IS sports sedans have been on anyone’s radar, but now there’s plenty to talk about with the launch of the new IS 300 and IS 350 F Sport in Singapore. There’s also an IS 300h hybrid variant hovering somewhere in the background, and that’s expected to come on sale in Singapore only next year.

But meanwhile, the IS 300 is going for $198,800 with COE and the IS 350 F Sport has been provisionally priced at $243,800 with COE, pending homologation approval here. 

This is the fourth-generation Lexus IS, with a lineage that stretches back to 1998 when the first  front engined, rear wheel driven sports sedan was designed as a credible challenger to cars like the BMW 3 Series. More than two decades later, the Lexus IS has built up a strong fanbase for itself, and the new car looks likely to keep up the tradition.

At 4,705mm long, the new IS is slightly longer than a Mercedes-Benz C-Class’s 4,686mm and on par with the BMW 3 Series’ 4,709mm. 

The drive characteristics of the IS 300 and IS350 were honed at Toyota’s Shimoyama test track facility

The driving characteristics of the new IS 300 and IS 350 were honed almost entirely at Toyota’s new technical centre in Shimoyama, Japan. In typical Japanese fashion, when they come across a good thing, they go all out to make a better version for themselves, which is the case of the 5.3km-long test track at Shimoyama. It’s designed to mimic the most challenging corners of the famed Nurburgring circuit in Germany, where every German car maker goes with their prototypes to hone the handling characteristics of the cars.

Lexus claims that with the IS, the aim is to create a linear operation that is faithful to the driver’s intentions and can smoothly transition between acceleration, braking and cornering without unpredictability. The automaker calls it the “Lexus Driving Signature”, and claims that this will be the new development standard for Lexus from here on.

New swing-valve shock absorbers claim to improve handling and ride comfort

New developments found in the IS include swing-valve shock absorbers equipped with ultralow-velocity valves in their damper pistons. In simple terms, these claim to be able to smooth out small road ripples for a magic carpet ride on the highways while still providing the dynamic damping forces necessary for a sporty suspension setup through the corners. 

The 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder of the IS 300

The IS 300 is powered by a 2.0-litre, turbocharged inline 4-cylinder petrol engine. Power is sent to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox. With a peak power output of 244hp, the car covers the 0 to 100km/h sprint in 7.0 seconds. 

This 3.5-litre V6 powers the IS 350 F Sport

The IS 350 F Sport is a little more unique in that it’s powered by a 3.5-litre, naturally aspirated V6 engine with a brawny 315hp power output also sent to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. 0 to 100km/h is covered in 5.9 seconds. With current trends towards forced induction, smaller capacity engines, the size and power output of the IS 350 balks the trend but we’re not complaining, as it sounds like it will be a stonking car to drive in the same vein as the BMW M340i

F Sport petrol variants will come equipped with Active Sound Control, a system that claims to enhance comfort and quietness during urban driving and delivers a powerful engine sound when you really lean on the throttle. How it does so, Lexus has not revealed but it’s likely to be some form of variable sound induction pipe that feeds into the cabin. 

IS 350 F Sport features a racier coloured interor

The third and final IS variant, the IS 300h hybrid, is expected to arrive in Singapore sometime in 2021.

Externally, the IS range still retains the signature Lexus Spindle grille on the nose, updated with a new three-dimensional, polyhedral structure that blends into the slender headlight assemblies on both sides. The F Sport version boasts an exclusive “F” mesh pattern on the front grille, 19-inch alloy wheels, and a rear spoiler.

Two new colours, Sonic Iridium and Sonic Chrome, were also developed specially for the IS. 

Sonic Chorme (left) and Sonic Iridium (right) are two new colours developed to complement the Lexus IS’ contours

Lexus interiors have a very unique, Japanese craft quality to them that is very different from their German counterparts, and it’s always interesting to see how the designs integrate luxurious textures with the purpose-built, sporty aggression on the IS series sedans.  The cabin features a new multimedia system with a 10.3-inch touchscreen and is compatible with SmartDeviceLink, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. It’s now mounted 5.9 inches closer to the driver than the last-gen car, so you don’t have to stretch out to control it while on the move. 

The capacitive touch temperature adjustment controls have also been reshaped to better fit the fingers, with an improved tactile feel.

The Lexus Safety System+

The new IS range will come fully equipped with an enhanced suite of Lexus Safety System+ features, designed to expand the scope of hazard detection and provide additional driver support functions.

The camera and radar sensors have been improved for a quicker response time. The LSS+ suite includes Intersection Turning Assist, which recognises oncoming vehicles or pedestrians when performing a turn and may activate a warning and brake assist if needed.

Emergency Steering Assist activates in situations where the Pre-Collision System has detected the possibility of a collision and the driver has initiated steering to avoid the collision.

Dynamic Radar Cruise Control now has a full-speed range of operation including stopping when the car ahead of you does so.

Dynamic cruise control can now recognise curves and slow the car down as appropriate

The cruise control is linked with Curve Speed Reduction to reduce speed through curves as determined by GPS data and the lane tracing cameras, which combine to make it easier for the driver to keep in the current lane on the highway. The system alerts the driver with a visual warning and either an audible alert or steering wheel vibration if the car starts to drift out of the lane.

The Lexus IS range at a glance

IS 300 IS 350 F SportIS 300h
Engine1998cc, turbocharged inline 43456cc, V62.5L HV
0-100km/h7.0 seconds5.9 seconds8.5 seconds
VES / CO2C2 / 191g/kmTBC / 217g/kmTBC / 122g/km
Fuel Economy8.4L/100km9.5L/100km5.4L/100km
Price $198,800 with COE(provisional) $243,800 with COETBA

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.