The Lexus IS 250 received lots of attention when it first appeared on the scene in 2006. Strangely, the brand’s smallest rear-drive four-door was largely ignored by Lexus for the next eight years, getting only minor styling changes. For 2014, Lexus is attempting to fix at least a few of the previous model’s shortcomings.
The common theme in the new Lexus lineup appears to be an emphasis on character rather than classic beauty. The bold hourglass shape of the grille creates a recognizable but controversial face for the IS. Some question the Lexus decision to make such a radical change in design.
The proportions of the redesigned IS are certainly more interesting than the current model. With its short overhangs, long hood and cab rearward design, it looks fast even when standing still. HID projector headlamps are standard, and LED units are available as part of an optional package. From the side, the IS has a prominent upswept line that runs from the doorsill to the taillights and the rear spoiler goes almost unnoticed now as part of the trunk lid.
A new platform allowed the wheelbase to be extended by 2.7 inches to 110.2, and overall length is up by 3.4 inches to 183.7. Height and width are up by less than a half-inch. The longer wheelbase has greatly improved rear-seat comfort and access and the trunk can hold up to 13.8 cubic feet of luggage.
Inside, the new IS 250 is as nicely crafted as anything you will find in this segment. Supple leather and attractive wood and metallic accents are tastefully applied throughout. As we’ve come to expect in a Lexus, fit and finish are excellent.
Standard equipment on the IS 250 is generous and includes 17-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlamps, foglamps, heated mirrors, sunroof, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, eight-way power front seats withincludes two-way lumbar control, leatherette premium vinyl upholstery and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Also standard are the Safety Connect telematics system, a 7-inch infotainment display, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, voice commands and an eight-speaker sound system with in-dash CD changer, HD radio, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and dual iPod/USB interfaces. The AWD model includes heated front seats.
The Navigation System package adds a navigation system, Lexus' Remote Touch electronics interface, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phonebook downloading and Lexus Enform enhanced telematics (with smartphone app integration, including Bing, Yelp, Pandora and iHeartRadio). A 15-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system can be added to the navigation system.
A Premium package adds LED headlamps and heated and ventilated front seats. The Luxury package bundles the Premium package with automatic wipers, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, auto-dimming side mirrors, leather upholstery, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering column and driver memory settings.
The F Sport package includes LED headlamps, 18-inch wheels (with available summer tires), special exterior and interior styling details, a sport-tuned suspension, an intake sound generator that enhances the sound of the V6 engine, heated sport seats and LFA supercar-inspired instrumentation.
Keeping up with the trend toward proliferation of electronic devices in luxury vehicles, Lexus has added its optional, computer mouselike Remote Touch electronics interface to the IS this year. A seven-inch screen dominates the center stack along with the HVAC and audio controls. On the center tunnel is Lexus’s “mouse” infotainment control. that guides a cursor on the screen. It takes some practice to operate, making it a potential distraction.
Unfortunately, for 2014, the IS 250's powertrain is basically unchanged. The 204 hp, 2.5-liter V6 carries over, along with the six-speed automatic transmission. You can still choose between rear- and all-wheel-drive. The engine and transmission are smooth and quiet, but acceleration is definitely lacking.
The recent success of direct injection, turbocharged four-cylinder engines in competing sedans has made this aging Lexus engine seem weak and inefficient. A sprint from 0 to 60 mph takes about 7.5 seconds. EPA fuel economy estimates are 21/30/24 mpg with rear wheel drive and 20/27/23 with all wheel drive.
The IS 250's longer wheelbase and new suspension design have greatly improved ride quality. Steering feel and effort levels are appropriate and seemjust right. This newest IS 250 offers a comfortable and quiet ride that will certainly appeal to traditional Lexus buyers. If you want to be more involved with the driving experience you might consider the F Sport package. However, that just-right ride quality is diminished and should be tried out prior to ordering.
Prices start at $35,950 and escalate rapidly as option packages are added.