Welcome to the cockpit of the new Lexus IS300h, Toyota’s new premium third-generation compact luxury car. The coziness of the driver’s seat can be called intimate or claustrophobic, depending on your outlook, but regardless of which one you feel, everyone agrees that the highest-quality materials were used to line the interior and exterior of the car. The premium model runs NIS 40,000 more than the basic model (which sells for NIS 249,000), but the wooden paneling, airy seats and other amenities totally make it worth the extra money.Lexus claims that even the competition’s simplest models – Mercedes C-Class, BMW 3 Series and Audi A4 – do not come close to the high level of detail in Lexus’s most basic model. Whether or not this is true, you should take this car out for a drive and check if it’s a good fit for you. There are numerous ways to align the seats and steering wheel (all of which are electronic, of course).The Lexus IS300h is more spacious than its predecessor (the wheelbase is 7 cm. longer), and the console between the two front seats is very high, which makes the driver’s seat feel a bit like the cockpit on an airplane or in a racing car (in other words, it’s a bit cramped). Lexus made an effort to get ahead of the competition technologically, but it did not succeed. The mini-computer that controls the multimedia and other systems in the car is not very comfortable or practical. Similar systems in the Audi and BMW are more successful.The large touch-screen, however, which has become standard in this car category, is well placed and shows the driver everything he or she needs to see behind and on the sides of the car.When the driver presses the button to start the car, there is no noise or movement to let you know that the car is now on. This is standard in this type of hybrid car. All you have to do is press down lightly on the throttle, and the car is ready to go at 143 horsepower – but as silent as a clam.Of course, this is only the case as long as you hold your foot gently on the gas pedal and the nickel-metal hydride battery still has power left in it. If you press down harder on the gas pedal, the four-cylinder, 2.4-liter gasoline-powered engine comes to life. The two engines work together to give the relatively heavy (1,620-kg.) car a burst of energy. The maximum speed the car can travel (it is limited by an electronic meter) is 200 kph, so as not to overwork the hybrid motor. The Lexus IS does not purport to provide the same sense of sportsmanship as the BMW 3 Series. The IS300h is not calibrated for easy steering, but it does know how to accomplish many other important actions, such as speeding up and driving quickly. That said, you can drive the car at normal cruising speeds and enjoy the smooth, quiet suspension and the quality feel.The company’s interior designers put a lot of time and thought into how to provide the ultimate visual experience for drivers. They installed a gauge to measure how much energy the car saves when it switches from economy mode to sport mode. There are also a bunch of other devices in the car, indicating that the engineers knew Lexus drivers are usually inquisitive and love to discover new and exciting gadgets.So it’s time to gather the entire family together and go out for a trial ride in the Lexus IS300h.Translated by Hannah Hochner.