- Acceleration (IS 350, IS F)
- Passenger and cargo room
IS 250s feel sleepy on takeoff, strained up steep grades, and are shy on midrange passing power despite a responsive, silky automatic transmission. IS 350s are strong in all situations. We timed an IS 350 sedan at a speedy 5.5 seconds 0-60 mph. IS F accelerates with race-car thrust, yet is remarkably docile in around-town driving. Credit its 8-speed automatic for lightning-fast, yet smooth shifts.
In Consumer Guide testing, a rear-drive IS 250 averaged 20.7 mpg in city/highway driving. Test AWD IS 250 averaged 23.3 mpg in mostly highway driving. An IS F averaged 18.5 mpg, a good return for a performance car. Premium-grade gas is required.
Any IS closely matches its class rivals, but the ride is tainted by slight wheel thump on washboard roads and mild float over large crests at speed. The optional sport suspension and 18-inch tires detract slightly from comfort. IS F is fairly comfortable on most surfaces despite its performance suspension and wide, track-ready tires.
IS corners with little body lean, secure grip, and an agile feel. The optional sport suspension and 18-inch tires furnish little cornering advantage, nor does AWD on dry roads. All IS models have electric power steering that is quick and informative. IS F is clearly the sharpest model in this roster, with a stable, secure, and nimble feel that puts it among the best sport sedans. The brakes furnish swift, drama-free stops on all models, but pedal action was slightly grabby in some test cars. Our test IS F suffered from squeaking brakes and borderline severe pedal vibration when stopping.
Coarse-surface tire thrum is noticeable on all, especially the IS F. Wind noise is modest. IS 250's engine is louder than the IS 350's at high rpm, but both V6s are subdued and relaxed in highway cruising. The IS F's V8 produces a subdued burble at cruise that rises to a muscle-car growl at full throttle.
IS has Lexus' usual large, legible gauges and handy, intuitive minor controls. The steering wheel obscures switches on the lower dashboard, though. The screen of the optional navigation system is easy to read. It controls many audio and climate functions but is easier to learn than most navigation systems.
Cabin decor includes rich-looking upholstery, soft-touch surfaces, and high-grade plastics. IS F has additional detail touches, including classy visible blue stitching and braided aluminum trim panels. Fit and finish on models tested was generally good, though some test cars suffered from improperly aligned dashboard panels.
Room/Comfort/Driver Seating (Front)
Adult-size leg space, but headroom is very limited for six-footers. The seats are comfortably shaped and padded on IS 250 and 350. IS F has sport bucket seats that some testers find too confining. A tilt and telescopic steering wheel is standard, and power adjustment is optional. On sedans, the body shape limits the view to the right rear and directly aft.
Rear seat room is tight. Headroom is limited and legroom is skimpy with front seats pushed even partway aft. Narrow door openings and small footwells impede entry and exit. The seats aren't in line with the footwells, forcing passengers to sit slightly sidesaddle, and legroom disappears with the front seat set far back.
Packing gets complicated with a small trunk opening and intrusion from the rear wheel arches and trunklid hinges. The hinges are covered, though, to keep them from damaging any cargo. Cabin storage is mediocre.
Value Within Class
These premium compacts impress for their design, features, and materials. They also benefit from Lexus' strong resale-value record. However, they're not quite alluring enough alternatives to the Audi A4 or BMW 3-Series--especially in rear-passenger room and comfort. The IS F blends luxury and high performance into an incredibly refined package. If you're shopping the BMW M3 or Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, add IS F to your list.
The 2010 Lexus IS sees no major changes. This premium-compact car comes in four models with three engines. The Lexus IS comes as a 4-door sedan and a 2-door convertible called the IS C (see separate report). The IS 250 has a 204-horsepower 2.5-liter V6 engine. Also offered is the IS 350, which has a 306-horsepower 3.5-liter V6. The high-performance IS F has a 416-horsepower 5.0-liter V8 along with specific sport suspension, tires, and trim. Rear-wheel drive is standard on all IS models. The IS 250 is available with all-wheel drive. IS 250 is offered with a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission. Automatic transmission is standard on the IS 350 and IS F; a 6-speed on the 350 and an 8-speed on the IS F. Available safety features include ABS, traction control, antiskid system, curtain-side airbags, front-side airbags, and front-knee airbags. Also available is Lexus' Pre-Collision Safety System, which is designed to automatically cinch seatbelts and apply brakes if an unavoidable crash is detected. Leather upholstery and a sunroof are standard.
Consumer Guide Automotive places each vehicle into one of 18 classes based on size, price, and market position. Premium-Compact Cars are similar in size but more expensive than Compact Cars. Premium Compacts have more standard equipment and an upscale image when compared to Compact Cars.
Our Best Buys in the Premium-Compact Car class are the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class. Our Recommended pick is the Audi A4.
New or significantly redesigned models include the Audi A4 (S4), Lexus HS 250h, and Lexus IS. The Audi A3 gets a diesel engine for 2010.