By KBB.com Editors
Fresh from a complete transformation in 2006, the sporty and affordable Lexus IS touts an aggressive look, a more responsive chassis and a choice between two potent six-cylinder engines. With its increased interior volume the rear-wheel-drive IS is now better situated to compete with the BMW 3 Series, Infiniti G35 and Audi A4. While some purists will grumble about the availability of a manual transmission and all-wheel drive only on the less-powerful IS 250, the IS 350's 5.6-second zero to 60-mph time and advanced VDIM (Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management) stability system should go a long way toward pleasing most. The availability of such uncommon options as Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFS) place the IS a step above the competition.You'll Like This Car If...
If you consider your car as not just a transportation appliance but, instead, as a piece of sporting equipment, you'll feel right at home behind the wheel of the IS 250 or IS 350. An added benefityou won't see clones of your car on every street corner.You May Not Like This Car If...
You might be convinced that no Japanese car, no matter how competent, can match the driving enjoyment delivered by the BMW 3 Series. And if you seek a car with styling so distinct you can discern its brand without seeing its badging, the IS's handsome but derivative styling might not push your buttons.What's Significant About This Car?
A new X Package is offered on rear-wheel-drive models and includes a sport suspension, five-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels, sport pedals and illuminated door scuff plates.Driving It Driving Impressions
Test drives quickly revealed that both the IS 250 and the IS 350 offer significantly better-than-adequate acceleration. Of course, the IS 350 is the hot rod of the two, boasting a laudable zero to 60-mph sprint of 5.6 seconds. In around-town, freeway commute and open two-lane touring, the IS 250 feels completely in its element, but we have to admit the added 102 horsepower of its IS 350 sistership is appealing.
Steering is sharp and direct, although some might complain of a bit too much boost. With a double wishbone front suspension and a multi-link rear, plus either Vehicle Stability Control (IS 250) or the more sophisticated Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management system (IS 350), the car has both traditional and New-Age technology to foster superior handling.
Paddle-Shift Automatic Transmission
The sequential-shift six-speed automatic, offered in the IS 250 and standard in the IS 250 all-wheel drive and IS 350, allows you to cruise in full automatic mode, or shift it yourself via steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters or an up-down push on the console-mounted gear lever.
The Back-Up Camera system, which displays its view on the dash video screen, comes on automatically when you shift into reverse.
The IS interior is well-designed, well-finished and intelligently laid out but, at the same time, lacks the distinctive style some of its European competitors bring to the table. Bright, clear Optitron gauges, which are illuminated even in daylight, are extremely readable and deliver an upscale aura. The seats are firm and properly adjustable, but rear-seat passengers might struggle a bit for foot- and legroomalthough the interior will accommodate five (friendly) adults. Where the interior really shines is in its features. For example, keyless entry with push-button start is standard, so you needn't remove the key from your pocket or purse before you start the vehicle. Welcome features such as a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel and touch-screen navigation system plus "back-up" camera are available as well.Exterior
The new IS is the second Lexus model (after the GS) to incorporate the new Lexus design "language" that was first introduced to the public in the LF Series of concept cars. The goal is to combine sporty and luxurious elements, but the net result is not nearly as distinctive as the BMW 3 Series or the Audi A4, for example. Still, the IS represents a significant styling improvement over the original model. The wide stance and long wheelbase, coupled with tightly-drawn bodywork, give the car a presence and sophistication the previous one lacked. Interior space benefits from increases in overall length (3.5 inches), width (3.0 inches), wheelbase (2.4 inches) and rear tread (1.9 inches.)Notable Standard Equipment
Standard features on the IS 250 include Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), six-speed manual transmission, front side-impact airbags, front and rear side-curtain airbags, 10-way power adjustable front seats, power folding side mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, one-touch open/close power moonroof, tilt-telescopic steering wheel, SmartAccess keyless entry and start, Homelink, 194-watt 13-speaker sound system with in-dash six-disc CD changer and auxiliary input and a multi-information trip computer. The IS 350 adds a 306-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, six-speed automatic transmission with steering-wheel mounted shift paddles, Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management (VDIM) and 10-spoke alloy wheels.Notable Optional Equipment
Notable options for the IS include an Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFS) that enables front headlamps to turn with the wheels to help see into corners, heated and ventilated front seats, Pre-Collision System (PCS) that senses an impending crash and prepares safety systems, a power tilt-telescope steering wheel and a new 14-speaker Mark Levinson audio system. The system offers 300-watts of power, 14 speakers (including a center speaker and sub woofer) and 7.1-channel speaker architecture.Under the Hood
Two new engines are on tap for the IS. The 2.5-liter version found in the IS 250 uses dual variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-i) and a new direct-to-cylinder fuel injection system to create 204 peak horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque, which for most people, most of the time, is more than enough. A conventional six-speed manual or a sequential-shift six-speed transmission are available and, unless you really like to row gears, the automatic is the recommendation. While the 2.5-liter V6 is a good choice, those of us with heavy right feet prefer the new 3.5-liter engine, which uses an intriguing mix of port- and direct-fuel injection to develop 306 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. With this engine the six-speed sequential-shift automatic is the only transmission choice, and performance drivers won't be disappointed.
204 horsepower @ 6400 rpm
185 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/28 (manual), 24/32 (automatic), 22/28 (AWD automatic)
306 horsepower @ 6400 rpm
277 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 21/28 (automatic)
The Lexus IS 250 equipped with a manual transmission has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $30,970, while the version equipped with the sequential-shift automatic transmission starts at $32,140. The all-wheel-drive IS 250 stickers for $35,000 and the rear-wheel-drive IS 350 has an MSRP starting at $36,420. To make your best deal, be sure to check the Fair Purchase Price which shows what consumers in your area are paying. In looking at prices buyers are paying, the IS 250 and IS 350 fall right in line with their competitors, including the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Acura TL. In terms of resale value, the IS is projected to hold its value on par with most of the segment, but a few percentage points off the segment leaders.