Lexus IS300h F Sport: Too angular, too prickly and too bum-numbingly aggressive - this unlovable car is trying too hard

  • @_seanogrady

PRICE £36,100 as tested
ENGINE CAPACITY 2.5-litre petrol/electric hybrid
POWER OUTPUT (bhp @ rpm) 178 @ 6,000
TOP SPEED (mph) 125
FUEL ECONOMY (mpg) 60.1
CO2 EMISSIONS (g/km) 109

Let me be plain – Lexus make some of the finest cars in the world. This is not one of them. My idea of a Lexus is positive. It derives from being cossetted by cars granted to us by God's grace to lift the soul and soothe the spirit. Like medieval cathedrals, the Lexus is built as a tribute to the almighty, some of the finest details hidden away so that only the almighty can see them.

Despite this, Lexus cars have been ignored by European buyers who cannot see beyond the badge to the superlative engineering underneath. For British drivers in particular, if it isn't an Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz, they aren't interested. But Americans have approached Toyota's youthful luxury brand with an open mind and have enjoyed a quarter century of technologically advanced, comfortable and reliable motoring as a result.

But this version of the IS300h I found to be a bit of a disappointment. It is just too sporty to be comfortable and at home in: rock-hard ride; gigantic impractical alloy wheels with ludicrously thin rubber; a body kit that adds nothing; bucket seats impossible to get in and out of with any semblance of dignity. Hard on the eye and harder on the butt. There is also a dial to set the car into sporty, normal and economy modes, and the sport mode is the best preparation you can have for a colonoscopy, as the Lexus numbs your bottom so comprehensively you wouldn't feel a thing.

Technically there is less to whinge about. The latest hybrid drive train delivers astonishingly long runs of electric-only silent progress. Even so, hybrid technology, with which Toyota/Lexus is strongly associated, is a bit of a dead end and will, in due course, give way to the evermore impressive electric-only vehicles from the likes of Nissan/Renault and General Motors. Indoors, the attempt at a mouse-style joystick to control the sat-nav and similar functions was far too sensitive.

You're not supposed to fall in love with a Lexus the way that you are a Jaguar, a Bentley or an Alfa. Yet I have done so on many occasions. They charm you by being good at what they are supposed to do. This one is just too angular, too prickly and too bum-numbingly aggressive. It's trying too hard to be an Audi. That's not lovable at all.