Time to buy a used Lexus IS (but not quite yet)

5 February 2013

2013 Lexus IS 300h side view

Whenever a new model arrives in showrooms, it usually exerts a noticeable downward pressure on the used values of whatever car it replaces. The supplanted shape immediately looks just a little bit older and less desirable than before, one step closer to becoming an old banger.

For second-hand buyers with more interest in value than fashion, this is always a very welcome development. Particularly so given that the later examples of a given model tend to be better built than the earliest, because any teething problems will usually have been solved by the mid-point of a car’s lifecycle.

This summer will see the arrival of a new Lexus IS (pictured above), available in two variants – a V6 petrol-powered IS 250 and a petrol-electric hybrid IS 300h. At the same time, the door will be firmly shown to the current car. Indeed the main Lexus UK website now only provides information about the upcoming IS model – the existing one, still presumably on sale, has already been erased.

By the autumn, used IS values should be distinctly saggy, and it will be time to bag a nearly-new bargain.

2011 Lexus IS 200d front view

Alas there is no hybrid option with the outgoing Lexus IS – for a used Lexus hybrid car you’ll need to consider the smaller CT 200h hatchback or one of the bigger saloons like the GS 450h. Engine choices with the outgoing IS were limited to the 200d’s four-cylinder 2.2-litre diesel, or the 2.5-litre petrol V6 fitted to the IS 250. There was also a spoilered and sporty IS-F powered by a 5.0-litre V8, but it’s not exactly a typical GreenMotor car.

Of the older IS models, the diesel is obviously the best bet for economy – the V6 was improved during its lifecycle but never did better than 33.6mpg and 194g/km on the official combined cycle test. The 200d, by contrast, managed 55.4mpg and 134g/km.

Both the petrol and diesel engines were periodically revised following their 2005 introduction, so older models will tend to have fared even worse in economy terms when new. Pre-2009 diesels are labelled 220d but provide essentially the same engine, tuned to deliver more power (175bhp versus the 200d’s 148bhp) at the expense of a noticeably worsened thirst.

2011 Lexus IS 200d interior

Diesels all come with six-speed manual transmissions, while the later petrol cars were all six-speed automatics.

Online forums suggest that the 220d diesel engines were not the most reliable units ever to wear a Lexus badge, with plenty of grumbles about head gasket failures and rough running. As ever, it is worth hunting for a carefully maintained car and considering the approved-used route. Non-hybrid Lexus cars come with a 3-year/60,000-mile warranty, while hybrid examples enjoy an additional two years of cover with the same mileage cap.

2011 Lexus IS 200d cockpit

The IS range was given a mid-life makeover for the 2011 model year, and it’s these later cars that should prove the best used buys. The diesel engine was dropped from the IS range in the summer of 2012, however, so even the newest 200d will now be at least six months old.

A special-edition Advance trim level, introduced in 2011, provided a good range of standard kit and is worth looking out for. From new, Advance models cost from £24,995 for the diesel and £26,495 for the V6.

Today, a rummage through the classifieds suggests that reasonable diesel examples from 2011 currently start at about £17,000, while the petrol cars command around £1,500 more.

But don’t buy now, whatever you do. Wait for the new model to start appearing on UK roads, and watch those nearly-new prices take a tumble.

2011 Lexus IS 200d rear view

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