Port Elizabeth, SOUTH AFRICA – 12 months since its local introduction the Lexus IS range remains a highly competent and likable alternative to the German establishment within the South African compact executive segment. Snug rear passenger legroom and relatively small luggage capacity aside, the Lexus sedan impresses with both the fit and finish within its well-insulated interior, as well as the heightened sense of luxury and sophistication readily associated with its parent brand.

Initially offered exclusively with the family familiar 3,5-litre V6 petrol motor (IS 350), given the plethora of activity within this segment (including revised 3 Series and C Class ranges, the arrival of the new VW Passat and the imminent appearance of the all-new Audi A4) the timing of Lexus’ decision to expand the local IS range appears to be perfect.

Introduced in the recently launched Lexus NX200t the new 2,0-litre, four-cylinder 8AR-FTS engine features Toyota’s latest-generation D-4ST direct-injection system and a twin-scroll turbocharger. Mounted transversely in the front-wheel-driven NX this 180 kW/380 N.m unit is nevertheless turned 90-degress in the rear-wheel drive IS. Aside from the performance gains over the previous-generation IS 250 the new engine, mated exclusively with an 8-speed automatic transmission, offers a claimed 7,5 L/100 km (down from 9,2).

A launch route around the city of Port Elizabeth provided not only an ideal opportunity to experience the welcome new levels of low-down punch (maximum torque is now available from 1 650 r/min) offered by the new IS 200t but also, thanks to some spectacularly uneven road surfaces in this area, the revisions made to the car’s suspension.

While Yamaha-tuned dampers (together with a fettled torsion bar) are aimed at affording the IS200t a sharper, sportier turn-in and improved handling, the default gain of their inclusion is a more accomplished overall ride with impressive levels of harsh bump absorption.

Whether in E or range-topping EX specification the new IS 200t range features a comprehensive standard specifications list aimed at reinforcing the sense of occasion associated with Toyota’s luxury brand. On this note, the somewhat fidgety toggle switch aside, every surface and component within the IS’s cabin hints towards luxury and a refined, relaxed driving experience.

For now, the IS 350 remains in the lineup as the model selected to wear the F-Sport badge.

Already revered for its effortlessly sophisticated nature, the IS range, now complete with a latest-generation turbocharged engine option puts forward its strongest case yet as a more-than-worthy alternative to the oft-frugally specced, certainly more common establishment.