In November 2021, Lexus Australia stopped sale of its third-generation IS sedan, thanks to a change in toughened Australian Design Rules side impact requirements. And thus ends the eight year presence of the ‘XE30’ model line-up that arrived in mid-2013, as well as the IS nameplate presence locally since the first XE10 generation lobbed back in 1999.
The gen-three drew polarising response for its styling. By its local launch, in July 2013, Lexus was deep into ‘Predator face’ spindle design language and XE30 copped flak for having curves and edges in all the wrong places. Eye. Beholder. To each their own, right?
This new IS was – and in some markets still is – built off a new longer and wider platform, if maintaining the classic rear-driven appeal of generation prior and offering what was a well-minted model range packed with a familiar array of powertrain and variant choices, plus a brand-spanking petrol-electric hybrid alternative.
Staple was the choice of lower-grade IS250, powered by a 2.5-litre petrol (4GR-FSE) six outputting 153kW and 252Nm, or the high-spec IS350 that brought – you guessed it – 3.5 litres of naturally aspirated (2GR-FSE) quad-cam V6 energy sprouting 233kW and 378Nm. The former, a six-speed automatic, runs 0-100km/h in around eight seconds. Meanwhile, the larger engines brought sub-six-second performance while fitting eight-speed automatics.
New to breed was the 300h, which offered petrol-electric hybrid power with a total system output of 164kW, packs a 133kW/221Nm 2.5-litre four-cylinder and a CVT transmission. Its advertised fuel consumption is just 4.9 litres though, at 8.5sec 0-100km, the hybrid is the slowest in the stable, if not by much.
The petrol six versions settled into a familiar three-tier variant hierarchy of base Luxury, middling F Sport and all-you-can-eat Sport Luxury, a naming convention that’s a little confusing to the uninitiated. In IS250 guise, pricing ranged between $56k and $78k, while stumping for the larger engine commanded a premium of between $6k and $9k. At just under $59k, the IS300h Luxury essentially asked an extra three grand for its hybridisation.
The interior design would gain reputation as more pleasing than its exterior styling, with typically lush Lexus build and material choice and the marque’s infamously crook approach to utterly clumsy infotainment and user interface. Gen three IS marked Lexus’s local debut of its Enform telematics ecosystem, back during luxury cardom’s big push for such systems, which offered owners certain connected services (business search, weather updates, concierge services) most generally now use on the their smartphones.
The Japanese maker – with its spirit in the US market – continued it penchant for high levels of standard equipment and a solid value-for-money pitch compared with premium European alternatives. Drive mode select, a reversing camera, sat-nav and heated/cooled seating was offered right from Luxury up to the full-loaded Sport Luxury, while the middling F Sport got its own unique styling tweaks inside and out, its own steering and chassis tuning and some detailed specification variation.
The IS saw a very minor range fettle in October 2014 – new colours, upgraded safety – but the first key update for gen three was the arrival of the turbocharged IS200t in September 2015. Featuring VVT-iW valve tech, the forced four brought 180kW and 350Nm, switches between Otto and Atkinson cycle operation and is backed by an eight-speed auto, putting the IS250 model and its N/A 2.5L V6 to pasture.
The IS debuted a major facelift in 2016 that went on sale locally in 2017, remodelling its polarizing bonce and bringing design changes outside (eight) and inside (15 by its maker reckoning), with stylisms robbed from its then-fresh RC sports coupe. Infotainment also grew from a seven to a larger 10.3-inch display screen. A more wide-ranging Lexus Safety System+ suite was also implemented at this facelift stage. The update IS ranged in pricing from just under $60k to around $85k.
Not much happened in IS land for a while, bar some Black Line appearance pack specials mid-2020, but in October that year Lexus lobbed a “reimagined” IS, essential shaking up the line-up to consolidate down to two versions – Luxury and F Sport – whilst omitting the old flagship Sport Luxury and reconfiguring the remaining versions’ features and specifications lists with an ever-expanding array of cost-optional enhancement packs to essentially form a 12-version line-up.
The revised MY21 F Sport, now on 19s with part-leather trim, adaptive suspension and 8.0-inch TFT driver’s display styled after the famed LFA supercar’s instrumentation, is perhaps the pick of its generation. And a fitting swan song for a range and nameplate that would feel the axe (locally) just 12 months later.