Lexus IS VS Peugeot 508
- Smooth powertrain
- Bulletproof quality
- Individual looks
- Feels heavy
- Odd-bod interior
- Some ergonomic failures
- Hatch and wagon available to Aussies
- Punchy engine in top-spec model
- Some questionable fit/finish
- Ingress/egress to back seat
- Pricing unknown
Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the Lexus IS350 Sport Luxury with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
The Lexus IS has carved out a niche in the executive sedan market - some owners would require dynamite to shift them to another brand. With an unparalleled commitment to post-sales service and a reputation for absolutely bulletproof reliability, Lexus hasn't exactly beaten the Germans into submission here in Australia, but it has given them a good fright. If you want to take on Audi, BMW and Mercedes, you've got to bring what Americans call 'your A-game.'
Explore the 2016-2017 Lexus IS Range
Lexus IS 2016 review | first drive video
Lexus IS300h 2016 review | snapshot
Lexus IS350 2016 review | snapshot
Lexus IS200t Luxury 2017 review | road test
Lexus IS200t F Sport 2017 review | road test
The IS350 is a niche within a niche, though. At this level, the Germans have convinced their customers that forced induction fours or sixes are the go, while Lexus soldiers on with a naturally aspirated V6 and a specification list as long as your arm.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Peugeot reckons you shop with your eyes. That should mean the company will sell plenty of this car, the new Peugeot 508 2019 model.
The problem will be convincing the other, more brain-like parts of its potential customers that this is a vehicle worth considering. Most people want SUVs now, and Peugeot has the impressive seven-seat 5008 SUV if you want something like that.
But there are reasons that this car is more appealing than an SUV. More than just its striking design, this is a car with style and substance.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
The IS350 is a fine car and is edging ever closer to the truly European feel the marque seems to crave. It's also different enough for those who don't want to be a part of the German triad and want to do something different while getting an after-sales experience that's hard to beat.
The thing about the IS is that it feels a little old - the interior tech and naturally-aspirated V6 are a bit 2009. That's not to criticise the car itself because it's beautifully made and if past IS generations are anything to go by, will outlast humanity. The 350 feels, and is heavy. It's a bit thirsty and doesn't quite tick all the boxes many in the sector are looking for. But wow, is it getting closer.
Is the Lexus IS in the running for you? Or does your wallet only speak German?
So is it worth considering the 508? Well that will depend on how it's priced. We won't know that til mid-2019, but all signs point to this being a compelling option, and a nice alternative to some of those other luxury-focused European models, too.
Has the Peugeot 508 done enough to lure buyers away from the German brands? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
This third-generation IS is, at last, a distinctive looker. The first car was a clean design that aged reasonably well (as did the car - there's still a ton of them kicking around) but the second one seemed a bit timid, a sort of slimmed version of the first car's styling ideas in a bigger body. Things weren't quite right and that car's look has not aged well at all.
The third generation, though, is much more aggressive, more individualistic. The mid-life refresh made the front end look a bit frowny, but the Lexus spindle grille really looks the business even if the headlights appear awkwardly finished. In profile it fits in well with the pack and then it all gets a bit aggro again at the back, with that extravagant downward sweep of the taillights. Pretty, no, memorable, yep.
Inside is less adventurous and, annoyingly, not ageing as well as Lexus might have hoped. The two-storey dash feels a little heavy-handed with its double chin rolls. I can see what the designers were going for, but they missed.
And that chintzy analogue clock in the centre stack. Please. Stop.
There are also too many Toyota-style buttons littering the dash. Having said all of that, the obvious Lexus bits are terrific to touch and use, apart from the entertainment system's click mouse thing. That's a bit of a mess and the screen's software actively works against precise operation.
All is mostly well on the instrument pack except when the sun is coming over your shoulder. The reflections obliterate both of the traditional dials and if you'd already driven, say, an IS200t with the digital dash, you would be asking tough questions about why that instrument set isn't in the top-of-the-range machine.
Yes, there's a lot that's interesting about the design. But the main point is that it's absolutely gorgeous.
Having spent a few days in and around 508s, I struggled to find a bad angle to the exterior styling. I don't think there is one. Even the lower-grade models look good on smaller (18-inch) wheels, while the GT on 19s looks just right.
From the sharp LED daytime running lights that drop like fangs from the maw of the front end, to the elegant lines that run side to side and the full LED headlight clusters, the front is pretty. I even like that it proudly has '508' brandished above the lion emblem on the grille.
And while Peugeot is acting like most European manufacturers in saying the car is inspired by a coupe, it actually does kind of look like a four-door coupe without being tryhard about it. Peugeot officially calls it a fastback.
Little things like pillarless doors help in that regard - they're very sporty for a mainstream model. And while it might be a convincing sedan shape to some, it's actually one of those clever liftback hatches. We'll get to the practicalities of that in the next section.
The rear end is simple in its styling; the smoked tail-light finish and black central finisher mean it's not fussy in any way back there.
This is probably the weakest part of the Lexus equation. While front and rear seat passengers enjoy a pair of cupholders per row, there's little in the way of storage for our ubiquitous phones. A centre console bin is provided (from which your USB cable must sprout), but the dash and console are bereft of a good place to stow your phone. Each front door will carry a small bottle but rear seat passengers miss out. The glovebox is a good size and cooled for your convenience.
Yes, there'll be a Touring version; a wagon model known as the 508 SW in Europe. And yes, it'll be more practical, with a bigger boot and arguably even more kerb appeal.
But the 508 Fastback was the model we tested, and it doesn't disappoint too much for usability and practicality.
The boot is said to offer 487 litres of cargo capacity, which is pretty decent for a vehicle of this size, and the storage space can expand to 1537L with the back seats folded down. And unlike lots of Peugeots that have come before it, there's decent storage in the cabin, too.
Yep, you even get good-sized cup holders! There are two between the front seats, and the door pockets are decent, too.
More impressive than the storage, though, is the presentation of the cabin. The finishes are lovely, and at a quick glance it feels more convincing in terms of premium-ness than some other European models from more expensive brands.
The 508 has Peugeot's i-cockpit set-up, which means there's a small steering wheel that you look over the top of to see the instruments. It's polarising - some people don't like having a steering wheel sitting so low - but personally, I love it.
The 12.3-inch digital info screen itself is lovely, and offers a lot of different views and configurations depending on what you want to see. Plus there's a 10.0-inch touchscreen media system with sat nav, plus there's Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. All models are expected to get wireless phone charging as well.
The seats offer good adjustment and reasonable comfort, but the ones in our test vehicles were the sports seats in the optional Nappa leather trim, and they were are a bit hard. Hopefully the lower grade versions without leather are a bit cushier.
Another complaint in the cars we tested was some questionable fit and finish. The paddleshifters, for instance, are constructed of several parts, none of which fit together very well (why not just a single aluminium piece, Peugeot?). We also noted a squeaky, loose centre console in one car, and some uneven fitment lines across the dashboard.
What about back seat space? With the driver's seat set in my position (I'm six-foot tall, or 182cm) the room back there isn't tremendous, but I would be comfortable for a couple of hours.
There's good knee room but anyone taller than me might struggle for headroom, especially when getting in and out - that coupe-style roofline has its downsides. And people with big feet may complain about the toe room. I've got size-12 feet and they were cramped.
There are the requisite ISOFIX child-seat anchor points and top tethers, and while the new model is wider than the 508 that came before it, three-across might still be a squish. At least there are rear air vents and the seats are pretty comfy.
Price and features
The IS range kicks off at $59,340 for the base IS200t but it's not until you're spending $65,390 that you'll find yourself in a V6-powered IS350. Another twenty large will see you in the Sports Luxury we had for the week, at a not inconsiderable $84,160 (although that's $4000 less than a BMW 340i). What do you get for that? Quite a bit, as it happens.
A 15-speaker stereo (with Mark Levinson branding, whoever that is), 18-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, a hefty safety package, active cruise control, LED headlights and daytime running lights, auto headlights and wipers, heated, cooled and electrically-adjustable front seats with three memory settings on the driver's side, sat nav, lots of leather, park assist and power everything including sunroof.
Metallic paint is a breathtaking $1500.
The stereo, sat nav and various functions are controlled from a rectangular click-mouse arrangement reminiscent of a '90s laptop. It isn't great and my impression of the software is that the designers need to go out and buy some Apple and Android devices and learn how modern things work. Or at least have a look at iDrive and MMI. Having said that, the sound is epic, although the radio's insistence on switching to KIIS FM on start-up, no matter which device or station was last used, was irritating.
The sat nav also has some annoying functions that are, mercifully, switchable. The speed camera warnings are helpful and insistent while the incessant school zone warnings were hugely annoying. That's hardly Lexus' fault given there are so many of the things, but the constant 'ding-dong' in urban areas is infuriating and sounds like you're trapped in an airport.
The exact pricing and specifications are still to be confirmed for the new Peugeot 508, but we can make some educated guesses.
It is expected that the target zone for the range is between $45,000 and $55,000, meaning it'll compete with upper-end versions of mainstream rivals like the Mazda6 and Skoda Octavia, and under the likes of the Volkswagen Arteon. You might also consider it a more affordable alternative to the likes of the Audi A5, Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class or BMW 4 Series GranCoupe.
It is possible that there'll be three grades offered, and the Fastback hatch and Touring wagon of each. But we'd bank on a more simple line-up, with maybe three or four versions of the 508 to choose from.
We sampled the GT-Line and the flagship GT. Full specifications will follow closer to the local launch of the 508 range in the second quarter of 2019.
Engine & trans
The IS350's power comes from a 3.5-litre 60-degree V6 producing 233kW and 378Nm. Zero to 100km/h for the 1685kg sedan is dispatched in 5.9 seconds with the aid of an eight-speed automatic transmission driving the rear wheels.
Towing capacity is rated at 750kg unbraked and 1500kg braked.
The difference is the power outputs. The low-spec model has a 180 horsepower rating, which translates to 133kW, and it has 250Nm of torque.
The flagship drivetrain in the GT model has 225 horsepower, or 168kW, and 350Nm. This model has a zero-100km/h claim of just 7.3 seconds. The other version claims 7.9sec.
The official European claimed fuel consumption for the high-spec engine is rated at just 6.5L/100km, while the less powerful engine uses a touch less fuel at 6.0L/100km. I saw displayed fuel use on test - with a mix of freeway, traffic-snarled highway, back road and spirited driving - of 8.9L/100km.
Fuel tank capacity is 62 litres. It requires 95RON premium unleaded fuel.
For some reason, the IS always feels heavy. There's something about the way the car moves that makes it feel chunky. That's not all bad, of course, because it imparts a feeling of solidity and strength, but when you line it up next to a BMW 340i, it tips the scales a further 145kg the wrong way. When you look at it that way, you're always carrying two medium sized people around with you.
It doesn't seem to blunt the performance too much, reaching 100km/h in 5.9 seconds, about eight tenths slower than Beemer with the same number of gears and a torque deficit of almost 70Nm.
Another reason it feels heavy is that the sprint itself is one of the most drama-free acceleration events you'll ever experience. The 3.5 V6 is as silky as they come, as smooth as any in-line six, which have the advantage of not having pistons punching away from each other throwing the engine about.
It's not as sharp on the throttle as the 340i or A4, even when in Sport+ mode, so the Sports bit of the Sports Luxury tag is about thirty percent of the equation.
It does steer and brake with great accomplishment, but there's no life in the chassis, really, so it's best regarded as a luxury car rather than a sporting sedan. The IS has always been thus but with the sad demise of the IS F, there's nothing to really go after the quicker Audis, BMWs or Mercs. You have to lose two doors and move on to the RC F for that.
Ride quality is superb and the cabin is seriously quiet. Rough roads with huge expansion joints and zingy concrete surfaces fade into the background, conversation remains easy with just the stereo to push what little wind noise penetrates the cabin into the background. The adaptive damping must take a lot of the credit for the ride and handling refinement - it's unobtrusive and doesn't suddenly pour concrete into the dampers when you switch things up.
Having spent time in both variants, it's fair to say you probably don't need the GT with the extra grunt, but it is a nicer car overall.
That's because the GT gets the additional 35kW and 100Nm - increases of 15 and 40 per cent, respectively - which translates to a considerably more urgent response under hard throttle. It's a quick car, let down a bit by the eight-speed automatic transmission which has a tendency to hang on to gears if you decide to back off the throttle, letting the revs linger higher than you might want.
The lower-output engine is suitable for meeting the requirements of the vast majority of buyers in this part of the market, with decent pulling power and rolling response, but there's a bit of low-rev lag to contend with.
The 508's drive mode system allows you to choose between Sport, Normal and Comfort modes for the steering, transmission and throttle calibration, and the GT's version also adjusts the car's adaptive dampers. You can notice it more at higher speeds on bumpy roads - in Sport mode, the GT's 19s can be a touch terse, where comfort allows a little more in the way of bump-soak through the suspension.
The GT-Line on 18s felt reasonably judged in terms of suspension, with a slightly firm edge to the ride. I'm very intrigued as to how each will cope with Australia's, ahem, poorer road surfaces.
I like the small steering wheel and it feels pretty agile for a car of this size, with pretty nippy steering at higher speeds. It is a little lifeless in terms of feel, though, so enthusiasts may be left wanting more.
One thing that stood out was how quiet it was. Admittedly our drive wasn't on coarse-chip roads like those so prominent in Australia, but the cabin was nicely muted at freeway pace, rather well insulated from road and wind noise, and the engine - which sounded pretty snarly under hard throttle - was hushed enough in more sedate moments.
Eight airbags (including knee bags for front seat occupants), ABS, stability and traction controls, blind spot sensor, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert, auto emergency braking, forward collision detection, brake assist and driver attention detection.
The IS scored five ANCAP stars, the highest available.
The only complaint here is that both lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert are too polite - a little more information as to what's going on would be helpful.
At the time of writing, the new-generation version of the Peugeot 508 hadn't been tested by Euro NCAP or ANCAP, so we can't vouch for its safety rating. But the brand says it "offers a wide range of latest-generation driving aids that notably meet EuroNCAP criteria, which are ever more demanding".
Every model globally is fitted with autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection (up to 140km/h), a reversing camera, plus there are available advanced items like a Night Vision system (infrared camera), a 360-degree camera with parking sensors all around and semi-autonomous parking assist.
Other tech items expected to be offered include: adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, driver fatigue alert, high-beam assist, speed limit recognition, and active blind-spot monitoring (with intervention). There are six airbags, too.
Because we don't know what we'll get in Australia, and what will be standard or optional, we've gone with an 8/10 here.
The Lexus range comes with a four year/100,000km warranty with roadside assist for the duration. Servicing is every 15,000km or twelve months, whichever comes first.
The ownership experience only loses marks because of the lack of capped or fixed price servicing. Service intervals are well-spaced at 12 months/15,000km but Lexus will only commit to "indicative" pricing after the first service (which is, to be fair, a freebie).
The Lexus experience is legendary - owners with cars well over a decade old still have them collected from their homes come service time. Technically, you may never have to visit a dealer again, just pay the nice person when they comes back with your freshly washed, and serviced car. Or they'll give you a loan car to drive yourself around in for the day.
The warranty period offered by Peugeot is now five years/unlimited kilometres, and you get the same cover for roadside assist, too.
The brand also has a capped-price service program, known as its Service Price Promise, which covers up to nine years/180,000km. The service intervals for the current 508 model are every 12 months or 20,000km, which is nice and generous.
While service pricing isn't confirmed yet for the new model, it is expected that the costs will be higher than some of the mainstream competition. The existing model averaged $605 per service - double some rivals. So unless it's considerably more affordable for the new model, we're lopping some points off for that.