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Lexus IS

Rafay Ansar

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The first Lexus IS was aimed squarely at the executive driver bored with premium German brands. It did its job well, but with the second-generation IS launched in late 2005, Lexus upped the ante with a genuine challenge to BMW and Audi.

Three years on, it has failed in that challenge — maybe because Lexus underestimated how faithful mid-level execs are to their chosen premium brand. Or perhaps it’s to do with the stigma of Alan Partridge driving an IS. Maybe it’s simply that nobody understands what a Lexus says about you.

The case for the second-generation Lexus IS is quite compelling, though. It is bigger, better looking and more generously equipped than its predecessor, and there’s the lure of the Lexus brand’s legendary quality and reliability. Also, this version was the first Lexus to offer diesel power — ages after all the rivals.

The 2.2 litre diesel is a proven unit, having cut its teeth in the Toyota Avensis, and isn’t short of power, producing 175bhp. The 0-62mph sprint takes just 8.9sec and fuel economy is 44.8mpg in the combined cycle. All good stuff, but while this engine feels as if it’s among the best when under an Avensis bonnet, it’s outclassed against Lexus rivals from BMW and Mercedes.

Given the diesel’s forecourt premium and the high cost of diesel fuel, the 2.5 litre petrol V6 may be better for the private buyer. Producing 204bhp, it is free-revving, smooth and refined, and gives the IS real executive-car ambience and performance. With the optional six-speed automatic transmission it’s perfect for soothing motoring, and this gearbox is so efficient it actually benefits fuel economy, so it’s well worth paying £750 more for it.

By doing away with the chronograph-style dials of the first-generation IS, Lexus signalled that this version is more grown-up. It has more space, too, although rear-seat passengers won’t welcome a third traveller, and front-seat occupants would describe their environment as “cosy” at best.

It’s the same for the boot, which, at 378 litres, is hardly cavernous. Some may complain that the absence of either a folding rear seat or an estate body option (as in the first-generation car) is something of an oversight.

Equipment levels are decent, regardless of model specification: entry level cars have climate control, alloy wheels and cruise control, but spend another £1,500 on an SE and you gain heated hide seats and 17in alloys. The Sport model appeared in April 2006, but its firm ride is not to everyone’s taste.

The second-generation Lexus IS wasn’t a hit, but as a second-hand buy it is appealing for its reliability, style and driving manners, although the lack of German prestige does limit its allure.

OWNER’S VIEW

I’m very impressed with my first Lexus, and my dealer. I only wish the diesel engine came with the option of an automatic gearbox

KF, Hamble, Hampshire

CHECK THE FOLLOWING

ALLOY WHEELS Optional 18in wheels give harsh ride

AUTOMATIC GEARBOX Six-speed auto has paddle-shifters

REAR SEAT Doesn’t fold, so practicality is limited

SAFETY Euro NCAP five stars for adult occupancy, four for child occupancy

SATELLITE NAVIGATION Touchscreen unit is an optional extra. Expect to pay about £750 more for it

SEATS Eight-way electric-adjust driver’s seat

SECURITY Alarm, immobiliser and keyless entry standard on all models

SERVICING Fixed at 12 months or 10,000 miles

SPARE WHEEL Space-saver is stowed under boot floor, so check that it’s there

STEREO Standard 13-speaker stereo is superb

VITAL STATISTICS

MODEL Lexus IS 250 SE auto

ENGINE 2449cc, six cylinders

POWER 204bhp

TRANSMISSION Six-speed automatic

FUEL 31.0mpg (combined)

CO2 214g/km

ACCELERATION 0-62mph: 8.4sec

TOP SPEED 141mph

COST NEW (2006) £25,615

TAX BAND F (£210 per year)

VALUES

MILEAGE 10,000 20,000 40,000

2005 (55) Trade £13,900 £13,050 £11,500

Retail £16,350 £15,550 £13,995

2006 (56) Trade £15,450 £14,500 £12,850

Retail £17,950 £16,995 £15,350

2007 (57) Trade £17,100 £16,150 £14,500

Retail £19,650 £18,695 £17,050

THE ONE TO BUY A 2006 56 Lexus IS 250 SE automatic with 20,000 miles on the clock. Pay £16,995 at a Lexus dealer or £15,750 privately

OR FOR SIMILAR MONEY

2005 55 VW Phaeton 3.2 V6 4Motion

2006 06 Mercedes C 320 Avantgarde SE

2006 56 BMW 325i SE

2007 07 Audi A4 2.0T FSI SE multitronic

2007 07 Jaguar S-type 3.0 V6 Sport
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