Fleet News

Lexus IS300 SportCross

Lexus

Review

FIRST there was the Lexus LS400, then the GS300 - now we seem to have a Lexus for every occasion (as long as you have the necessary cash to spare).

Latest to join the line-up - and indeed the latest to join our test fleet - is the IS300 SportCross, complete with straight six 3.0-litre powerplant and enough standard goodies to sink a battleship.

Now don't get me wrong - I hold the Lexus marque in general in the highest esteem, but I just don't get the SportCross at all.

The idea seems to be that here is a sporty model in estate guise, but it neither looks very sporty nor does it hold enough luggage in the back to make it a true estate. The front end is mildly promising but by halfway back it has all gone wrong and the rear end reminds me of a Korean hatchback.

Climbing aboard, we find a few 'sporty' items such as aluminium-look pedals, 3D dials and Sixties-look shiny gearknob, but here again the car is let down by a tacky-looking plastic dash that would more suit a Kia than a Lexus.

Ah, you say, but surely on the road this car will show its true sporting spirit. Here again, I'm going to have to disappoint you.

Three litres it may have under its bonnet, but they produce their 215 horses in a relatively lazy fashion - and matched with a five-speed automatic gearbox, this car will not set the world alight.

There is very little the driver could wish for on the options' list, apart from a satellite navigation system at a monstrous £2,340. Our test model has this facility, bringing the on-the-road price to £30,790. But to spec up a similar 3.0-litre sporty model from Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz sees all the rivals left for dead with prices pushing up towards £40,000.

But I'd have to say that this Lexus doesn't have the quality feel that all the Germanic rivals boast, so personally for the money I'd rather have a Merc without all the bells and whistles. Chancellor Gordon Brown will be rubbing his hands each time the Lexus till rings up another IS300 SportCross sale.

Under the new CO2-based benefit-in-kind taxation system which comes into effect in April 2002, drivers will pay the maximum 35 per cent of list price right from the word go, equating to an annual tax bill of £4,310 for a 40 per cent taxpayer - or £359 a month. Ouch!

So exactly what does this car have to tempt the fleet driver? Not a lot, in my book.

For exactly the same money, our driver could choose the glorious Lexus GS300, which looks more stylish, shares the same engine and has bags more room.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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