THIS is incredibly frustrating. Lexus has finally slotted a turbo-diesel engine under the bonnet of its stylish new IS range and has loaded it to the gunwales with kit, but it simply doesn’t deliver on the road.
After years of relying on a thirsty petrol-only model range in the premium upper-medium sector, the IS now has, on paper at least, the engine to challenge the dominant diesel models from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz.
But whereas the diesel versions of these three cars are, in the main, better all-round drives than their petrol stablemates, the IS220d isn’t.
The 175bhp four-cylinder common rail unit in the IS220d has a big power advantage over its three German rivals, and the rear-wheel drive chassis suggests it will have the ride and handling to challenge the 3-series.
All well and good, except there’s a real problem with the performance. Sure, the engine is smooth and refined, but combined with a gearbox with incredibly long ratios, it simply isn’t quick enough.
Factor in a hefty kerbweight of more than 1,600kg (almost as much as the bigger GS model) and progress is frustratingly slow.
The real villain of the piece is the gearbox, with its overly long ratios which conspire to smother any of the engine’s potential – and we know what this unit can offer having driven it in various Toyota models where it displays much more vigour.
In the IS220d, when you press the accelerator very little happens until the gearing allows the engine to reach around 2,000rpm when the peak torque level is found.
Things continue as you progress through the six-speed gearbox, with the process repeated until you reach fourth gear and the torque level becomes more accessible. In Sport trim level you get a different gearbox with shorter ratios which are claimed to boost acceleration times by a third. It’s a shame this unit isn’t available on all specifications.
While performance isn’t brilliant, at least the IS220d is a comfortable driving companion, with a well-balanced blend of comfort and handling.
Inside the comfort theme continues, with a cabin bedecked with items mainly found on the options list of rival models.
Even in basic trim, the Lexus is loaded with equipment including eight airbags, climate control, cruise control and alloy wheels. There’s also a six-CD changer, steering wheel mounted stereo controls and a keyless entry and ignition system.
The new car is also longer and wider than the old model, but space is still tight in the back.
The Lexus doesn’t have the all-round blend of abilities to challenge the best in this sector, but it does shine in certain areas.
It’s a very well-equipped car, comfortable over long distances and also puts up a strong performance in wholelife cost terms.
However, the disappointing driving performance spoils what is an otherwise accomplished package.
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £21,977
CO2 emissions (g/km): 168
BIK % of P11D in 2006: 23%
Graduated VED rate: £160
Insurance group: 12
Combined mpg: 44.8
CAP Monitor residual value: £11,825/54%
Depreciation 16.92 pence per mile x 60,000: £10,152
Maintenance 3.50 pence per mile x 60,000: £2,100
Fuel 10.03 pence per mile x 60,000: £6,018
Wholelife cost 30.45 pence per mile x 60,000: £18,270
Typical contract hire rate: £409
- All figures based on 3yrs/60,000 miles. Monthly rental quote from HSBC Vehicle
At a glance
- Best on wholelife costs
- Striking looks
- Loaded with equipment
We don’t like:
- Pricey fuel costs
- Disappointing drive
- Rear legroom
THREE RIVALS TO CONSIDER
- Audi A4 2.0 TDI S Line
- BMW 320d SE
- Mercedes-Benz C220 CDI Classic
THE Lexus is the cheapest car in this comparison, undercutting the second-placed Audi by around £600. Although the IS220d is in entry-level trim, it is very well equipped and matches or betters the spec sheet in the A4 S Line and BMW 320d SE. The C-class here is in entry-level Classic trim and isn’t blessed with a lengthy list of standard kit. The BMW is better equipped in SE guise, but none can match the Lexus which offers cruise control, climate control and alloy wheels among its list of standard kit.
LEXUS claims to have made great strides to make the IS more competitive in terms of service maintenance and repair costs by lowering the price of replacement parts. As a result it is second only to the Audi in SMR, with a likely bill of £2,100 over three years/60,000 miles. The first-placed Audi will cost £1,800 in garage bills over the same period, compared with £2,370 for the BMW and £2,496 for the Mercedes-Benz.
THE 320d is the most fuel-efficient car in this comparison, with BMW claiming a combined fuel economy figure of 49.6mpg, equating to a fuel cost over three years/60,000 miles of £5,436. Second spot goes to the Audi, with a combined figure of 46.3mpg for a cost of £5,820. The Lexus is claimed to return 44.8mpg for a likely diesel bill of £6,018 while the Mercedes-Benz returns 44.1mpg for a cost of £6,114.
IT’S not often that a 3-series is beaten in the residual value stakes, but Lexus has pulled off this feat. CAP estimates the IS220d will retain a mammoth 54% of its cost new after three years/60,000 miles, giving a depreciation cost of 16.92ppm. The Audi A4 comes second – its low front-end price off-setting its RV of 43%. The BMW will retain 47% while the Mercedes-Benz is off the pace in this company at 38%.
THE Lexus is the cheapest car here and its class-leading residual value prediction sees it secure the wholelife costs victory. Over three years/60,000 miles it will cost a fleet £18,270 to run. In contrast, the second-placed Audi will cost £2,280 more over the same period. The BMW tips over the 35ppm mark with a likely cost of £21,066 while the Mercedes-Benz is well adrift, thanks mainly to its performance in the depreciation section. Over 60,000 miles it will cost a fleet £23,970 to run – £5,700 more than the Lexus.
EMISSIONS AND BIK TAX RATES
THE BMW has the lowest emissions of this quartet, leaving a 40% taxpayer with a benefit-in-kind bill of £165 a month. Just £1 more per month is the Audi, which off-sets its higher emissions with a low front-end price. The Lexus will cost the same taxpayer £168 a month. There is quite a jump in cost to the Mercedes-Benz, which falls into the 23% company car tax band. The C220 CDI will cost a driver £189 a month.
ON paper the Lexus looks hard to beat, with the lowest running costs and cheapest front-end price allied to the most generous list of standard equipment. Factor in a competitive company car tax bill and the IS220d is unbeatable. While the driving experience isn’t anything to write home about, the Lexus’ financial advantage to both fleet managers and drivers makes it the winner. Read Parker's consumer review of the Lexus IS220D.
- WINNER: Lexus IS220d
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