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2012 Lexus IS

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2012 Lexus IS Review

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KBB Expert Rating: 7.6

Roughly 10 years after its initial launch, Lexus' IS still struggles – at least in many markets – for its footing in the sport-sedan segment. And although it is in the seventh year of its second generation, and while offering V6 and V8 powertrains, capable suspension and a niche-oriented hardtop convertible, the IS rarely gets a mention when the media or public discusses sport sedans. In most metro markets, the 3 Series BMW, A4 Audi and, to a lesser extent, the Infiniti G37 are ubiquitous, while the Lexus IS (in any variant) goes about its business almost anonymously. That shouldn't deter the sport-sedan prospect, however, from test driving an IS 250, IS 350 or IS F. Performance is crisp, styling is attractive and long-term reliability is well ahead of the German competition.

You'll Like This Car If...

If, in a sport sedan, you find a level of refinement fully appropriate to your transportation mission, the 2012 Lexus IS 250 or IS 350 delivers that refinement in spades. It may lack the ferocity of a BMW 3 Series (unless opting for the IS F), and falls short of the Audi A4 in high-tech cool but the Lexus goes about its business both quickly and oh-so-capably, and can do so long after its warranty has expired.

You May Not Like This Car If...

If you, like the segment, are moving into the ranks of "mid-size," you may find the accommodation offered by the Lexus IS models too small, especially in the rear seat. And while many buy a Lexus for its Four Seasons-level retail experience, others will find that environment sleep-inducing, along with most of the model lineup.

What's New for 2012

Having received several upgrades in 2011, including revised front and rear styling, minor interior updates, the addition of an all-wheel-drive option to the IS 350 and an F Sport package for both IS 250 and IS 350, Lexus gives it a rest in 2012. There are two new colors in 2012.

Driving the IS

Driving Impressions If BMW's 3 Series serves as the definition of "sport sedan," then the Lexus IS 250 and IS 350 might be seen as the "Grand Tourers" of the category. With...

a nimble chassis and responsive powertrains the lineup remains recreational, but all iterations of the Lexus IS provide a level of compliant composure the Germans rarely deliver – at least in this size category. Of course, what's under the hood will determine, in large part, where you peg the smile meter. Opt for the IS 250 with automatic and you have the perfect vehicle for the sorority parking lot. Grab it, however, with the available manual (figure on ordering it, as most dealers won't stock it) and you have a nimble and involving 4-door sportster. The Lexus IS 350 borders on the visceral, while the V8-equipped IS F can make a credible run at BMW's M3, and do it at 170 mph! Given its mission, the hardtop convertible – with either available powertrain – is little more than a boulevard cruiser.
Favorite Features

All-Wheel Drive
In a segment offering all-wheel drive as an all-season prerogative, Lexus' approach delivers 70 percent of the engine power to the rear wheels under normal operating conditions. With that proportional distribution, little of the sport orientation is lost on dry pavement, while capability is increased on wet or slickened pavement.

Optional F Sport Package
While the well-tuned standard suspension will please most buyers, Lexus' F Sport Package is firmer and includes an 18-inch wheel-and-tire upgrade that elevates any rear-drive IS model – but especially the Lexus IS 350 – to near-BMW 3 Series levels of agility and fun. And it does this without detracting from the basic ride comfort or overall level of refinement.

2012 Lexus IS Details
Interior

As BMW and Audi interiors continue to gravitate toward mid-size, the small Lexus remains, well, small. The driver and front-seat passenger are well accommodated, and all seating positions are well appointed, but this is best regarded as a "personal" 4-door sport sedan, one which will never be confused with a family hauler. Of course, if you're in a Lexus showroom shopping for the family, the dealer has roughly a dozen better choices from which to choose. And luxury touches abound on the IS 250 and IS 350, beginning with standard leather, black metallic-finish interior trim, electroluminescent instrumentation and dual-zone climate control. We like the personal feel of the IS, and the convertible hardtop offers unlimited headroom.

Exterior

The Lexus IS 250/350 body shell shown in March, 2005 was remarkable for its utter lack of adornment or distraction. A softened wedge profile, short overhangs, and raked windshield created a sporting four door that was almost coupelike in its integration. Thankfully, despite updates to the front and rear fascias in 2011 its stylistic integrity hasn't been diminished; this remains a very tasteful execution of an established formula. Opt for the IS F (or F Sport package) and things get a bit nasty, but only after hours. The IS C hardtop convertible strikes, to these eyes, the only discordant note; to accommodate the folding hardtop its back end looks slightly pregnant, and that's too bad.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

At least one Lexus dealer keeps the inventory process relatively simply: Do you want navigation – or do you not want navigation? Beyond that, the decisions are already made, with little to add to an already well-equipped platform. Dual-zone automatic climate control, power tilt-and-telescopic steering column, Lexus Memory System for driver and front-passenger seating, leather-trimmed interior, Lexus Premium Sound with SiriusXM satellite radio and electroluminescent instrumentation are among the high points of a standard-spec IS. And let's not forget the IS 250's 6-speed manual transmission; try one, then buy one.

Optional Equipment

For those wanting to underscore "sport" in sport sedan, the F Sport Package should do it. Available on either Lexus IS 250 or IS 350 with rear-wheel drive, the F Sport ups the visual and functional ante with 18-inch alloys finished in Dark Graphite; an F Sport suspension coupled with a more aggressively tuned power-steering unit; front lip spoiler, upper and lower grille inserts and rear spoiler; F Sport front seats, and a host of interior modifications. For those more interested in "audio" than "audacious," opt for the Navigation/Mark Levinson Audio Package, with more adapted technology than the first moon landing.

Under the Hood

Two technology-intensive, all-aluminum V6 engines provide clean and comparatively fuel-efficient motivation for the IS line. Both powertrains use dual Variable Valve Timing with Intelligence (VVT-i) and direct fuel injection. The 2.5 liter develops 204 horsepower and 185 lb-ft of torque, sufficient to take a rear-drive IS 250 from zero to 60 mph in under eight seconds with either transmission (6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic), and to send the IS 250 AWD to that speed in about 8.5 seconds. The 3.5-liter V6 in the IS 350 adds secondary port injection and cranks out 306 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. Backed with the mandatory paddle-shifted multi-mode (Normal/Sport/Snow) automatic, it propels the fleetest member of the standard IS family to the 60-mph benchmark in about 5.5 seconds. If a 0-60 time of under six seconds isn't quite quick enough, consider the IS F's 5.0-liter V8, and then go cruising for pink slips. With an 11.8:1 compression ratio, the all-aluminum eight cylinder produces 416 horsepower and 371 lb-ft of torque, and is capable of launching the IS F from 0-60 in 4.6 seconds and achieve a top track speed (don't tell the wife) of 170! All engines require premium unleaded.

2.5-liter V6
204 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
185 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/28 (manual), 21/30 (automatic), 20/27 (AWD automatic)

3.5-liter V6
306 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
277 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/27 (rear-wheel drive), 18/26 (AWD)

5.0 liter V8
416 horsepower @ 6,600 rpm
371 lb-ft of torque @ 5,200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/23

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2012 Lexus IS Consumer Reviews

Overall Rating
9.1
Out of 10

Based on 375 Ratings for the 2006 - 2014 models.

Review this car
  • Value
    9.1/10
    Quality
    9.4/10
  • Reliability
    9.5/10
    Performance
    9.2/10
  • Comfort
    9.1/10
    Styling
    9.4/10

8.5 years old and still turning heads

By on Saturday, April 05, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 72,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "Good looks and fun to drive"

Cons: "Lexus Service prices/costs"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9

"I love the Matador Red Mica color. Mileage has averaged 24-26 around town (lots of lights and stop-go) over 8.5 years. Does go through tires because of the low-profile. I invested in snow tires and so now trade them out. With the AWD, she handles great in snow and ice. Fun to drive."

6 people out of 11 found this review helpful

Feels and drives almost like new at 160k miles

By on Wednesday, April 02, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 156,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "very fuel efficient for a 6 cylinder"

Cons: "tires are a bit expensive"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"bought it used at 35k miles and has been extremely reliant (the only thing i've had to fix is replace a water pump). It looks like it will keep going forever. Very comfortable and very nice design: car is 8 years-old, but only looks like 2 or 3 years-old."

4 people out of 4 found this review helpful

An Amazing Product and will buy again!

By on Tuesday, April 01, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 79,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
9/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
8/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "Amazing power and control!"

Cons: "Interiordoor trim is not good!"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

My Sandy lady!!

"I have no Bad words for this car but One! Lexus/Toyota need to change the plastic trim on the Doors its doesnt last and breaks off easily over time! Other than that its a perfect car and will never let you down!!!!"

1 person out of 1 found this review helpful

My Sandy lady!!

Very nice car to drive

By on Monday, March 17, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 26,500

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
9/10

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9

Freshly detailed and pampered

"Meticulously maintained and cared for. Always garaged. What a fun car to drive. Gets a lot head turns. Women look 2...even 3 times. It could be just a tad bigger inside. Or I could have gotten a 350."

6 people out of 9 found this review helpful

Freshly detailed and pampered

VERY GOOD CAR, BUT AFTER 7 YEARS JUST WANT A NEW

By on Monday, March 17, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 71,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
9/10

Pros: "GREAT ON THE HYWY. GOT UP TO 44 MPG."

Cons: "COMFORTABLE FOR 4 BUT I NEED FOR 5."

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"BEST CAR I EVER OWNED, I NOW CAN AFFORD A GS350F SPORT. THE IS250 WAS VERY COMPLETE, NAVIGATION FLAWLESS AS WAS EVERYTHING ON THE CAR."

BMW 335i for less money.

By on Monday, February 24, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 40,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "Gets on the freeway!"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9

"I owned a BMW 335i and Lexus IS 350 F Sport at same time. My favorite car to drive? The one I was driving at the time. Both great cars. BMW has slight edge, but not by much."

2 people out of 4 found this review helpful

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Trading in or Selling? Know where you stand with the most up-to-date Kelley Blue Book Value at your fingertips. See your car's value

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