Fleet News

Lexus IS300 SportCross



THERE'S an increasingly common saying in motor industry circles that there are no bad cars made today. It all depends, of course, on how you define 'bad'.

Personally, if I spent anywhere between £10,000 and £30,000 of my hard-earned cash on a new car I would expect it to be absolutely faultless.

'Bad' starts with the first unreliability niggle, and it's surprising how frequently CD-players refuse to eject a CD, clutch pedals squeak, electrics fail, boots open mid-journey, and fuel filler caps do not open.

Which brings me to the end of a year of Lexus long term cars, each of which has racked up dizzying mileages as an eager band of test drivers fought to get behind the wheel.

In the course of the year we've put five Lexus models through their paces, and had one mini-fault on one of the cars - the brakes didn't feel right. They still stopped the car with satisfying promptness, but we expected better, and a mortified Lexus immediately replaced the car.

The other four cars have been absolutely faultless, and the Lexus engineering reputation is riding high as we bid farewell to the IS300 SportCross.

Other drivers are also picking up on this engineering and reliability message, giving us credit for our individualism in selecting a Lexus, rather than mindlessly follow the hordes down the autobahn to German driving excellence.

Yet where the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz do have a distinct advantage for company car drivers is in their diesel technology. If you are considering a 3.0-litre petrol powered estate - tax bill be damned - then the IS300 SportCross should force its way on to any A4, 3-series and C-class shortlist, and the rich specification of the Lexus makes it a strong contender.

But the SportCross comes at such a price to the pocket of the company car driver that it is hard to make a compelling case for it, unless the driver is pathologically allergic to diesel.

As an alternative, UK company car drivers can choose a BMW 330d Touring Sport, add £10,000 of extra specification to bring it up to the same level as the Lexus, and still save more than £100 per month in benefit-in-kind tax.

If you are a petrol addict, you could do the same with the 330i Touring and still save £30 per month, so high are the Lexus' CO2 emissions.

I'd like to be more positive about the SportCross, because it's a handsome example of performance, luxury and engineering, but its fleet appeal is either for the tax-blind or staff switching to a cash option.

Within a traditional fleet scheme, the specification and meaty engine are not enough to overcome a small boot and poor emissions.

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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