By Antony Dickson
Dress code: Smart casual. That’s the Lexus IS 250 for you in plain terms. It is definitely dressed for the occasion and drivers of the IS 250 will notice long admiring looks coming their way. Its aggressive styling also portrays a sporty nature beneath those sleek lines. Needless to say, this image is associated with anyone who drives this car, but not necessarily the true portrayal of the driver.
Lexus offers the IS in two variants — the IS 250 and the IS 350. Nothing much has changed since the previous model. They look identical from the exterior, but the real deal is under the hood. The IS 250 is powered by a 2.5 litre V6 that delivers 204 horsepower and a peak 185 lb-ft of torque while the meaty IS 350 has a 3.5 litre V6 churning out 306 horsepower and up to 277 lb-ft of torque. Both feature 24 valves and dual overhead cams, Dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (Dual VVT-i), the Electronic Throttle Control System with intelligence (ETCS-i), the Acoustic Control Induction System (ACIS) and other systems to maximize power across a broad speed range while boosting efficiency and reducing emissions. The IS is offered in RWD (rear-wheel drive) or AWD (all-wheel drive). The tester featured here is the IS 250 AWD.
The IS 250 AWD automatically adjusts power distribution between front and rear wheels. Under normal driving conditions, 70% of power goes to the rear wheels but when slipping occurs the vehicle will automatically transfer up to 50% of power to the front wheels to achieve optimum traction. All IS series sedans feature an independent double-wishbone type front suspension with gas shocks and coil springs, plus added stabilizer bars to enhance control and road feel to enhance agility, responsiveness and stability at highway speeds.
While all the technical garb sounds impressive, the IS 250 lacks the oomph one expects from this car. But IS 350 is a different story altogether. The car we have featured here is the IS 250. So lets talk about that a little more.
The exterior still retains its sharp looks and sits on 17″ aluminum alloy wheels giving the IS an impressive stance. The interiors of the IS 250 are extremely plush, as expected in a Lexus. Seating for five comes, though cramped in the back, in leather trim. The front heated sport seats hold the driver and front passenger quite firmly when sharp turns are executed. The back seat, offers a fold-down rear seat centre armrest with pass-through. The steering wheel, equipped with paddle shifters, is wrapped in leather while the gear shifter knob is metallic. The IS 250 comes with a 13-speaker Lexus Premium Audio System featuring AM/FM stereo/CD with mp3/WMA audio capability; six-disc CD changer; auxiliary audio input jack and USB audio input; Bluetooth capability; Integrated XM Satellite Radio; and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. In a nutshell, you will like what you see and feel. Controls are easy to use and so is the touch screen in the centre console.
Driving the Lexus IS 250 is a treat no doubt. It is considerably quiet inside and with Adele playing through the 13-speaker sound system playing, one would be cut-off from the ruckus outside. But with the windows down, the exhaust delivers a lovely deep throaty note. The ride itself could be slightly stiff for some. Steering feel is disappointing and coupled with lack of sprinting power, makes the drive dull, from a driver’s point of view. The AWD performs very well in snowy conditions as we experienced. Overtaking on the highway could be initially sluggish with the IS 250, but once the pedal hits the metal, it eventually does the job for you. During my week with this car, I achieved a combined city/highway fuel efficiency of 10.5 litres / 100 km.
IS series vehicles are standard equipped that include Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), Antilock Braking System with electronic brakeforce distribution and Brake Assist enhancements, and Lexus Smart Stop technology. IS series sedans surround driver and passengers with airbags, including dual-stage driver and passenger airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, front seat mounted side airbags, and front and rear side curtain airbags.
Overall, the Lexus IS 250 offers a good ride and could disappoint enthusiasts, but not necessarily everyone. Lexus has given the IS the same level of luxury it offers in its bigger siblings. And of course the status the Lexus badge offers goes without saying. The 2012 Lexus IS series manufacturer’s suggested retail price starts at $32,900 for the IS 250 RWD, $38,000 for the IS 250 AWD, $51,250 for the IS 350 RWD and $44,950 for the IS 350 AWD. The tester we had was priced at $47,335.