The IS sedan is Lexus' latest attempt to field a sporty four-door that rivals BMW's well-regarded 3 Series. Changes for 2008 include a handful of interior tweaks. Competitors include the BMW 328i, Audi A4 2.0T and Mercedes-Benz C300; the more powerful IS 350 plays against beefier versions of those same cars.
Lexus redesigned the IS sedan for the 2006 model year. The IS 250 comes with a 2.5-liter V-6; the IS 350 and its 3.5-liter V-6 are covered separately in the Cars.com Research section, as is the V-8 powered IS-F, which debuted for 2008.
A six-speed manual transmission is standard in the IS 250, and a six-speed automatic transmission is optional. The automatic's steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters give the driver extra involvement when desired. The IS 250 is the only IS to offer optional all-wheel drive; rear-wheel drive is standard.
High-tech features include a twin-chamber front-passenger airbag, dual knee airbags and a standard Smart Access keyless entry system with a push-button engine starter. Revised seatbacks, wheels and a few cabin details are new for 2008.
Lexus' recent LF-series concept cars influenced the IS 250's styling. The company says the latest IS bears a strong family resemblance to its larger, GS series of sport sedans, themselves given substantial styling updates for 2008. A long wheelbase and wide stance help give the IS 250 a muscular look.
Standard wheels hold 17-inch tires, but 18-inch tires are optional. Built on a 107.5-inch wheelbase, the IS 250 is 180.1 inches long overall and 56.1 inches high. Despite its increased dimensions, the IS 250 still ranks as a compact car. Adaptive headlights that swivel in the direction of wheel travel are available. An optional X Package adds a sportier suspension, sport pedals, a front lip spoiler and 18-inch wheels.
Up to five occupants can fit inside the IS 250. Bright electroluminescent instruments light up the dashboard. Metallic trim is standard, and maple trim is available. A 13-speaker sound system includes iPod and MP3 compatibility.
Options include ventilated front seats, dynamic radar cruise control, a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel and a navigation system that incorporates a backup camera that can help with parking chores.
Under the Hood
The IS 250's 2.5-liter V-6 develops 204 horsepower and 185 pounds-feet of torque. When equipped with the standard six-speed manual transmission, the automaker says the sedan can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 7.9 seconds. A six-speed automatic transmission is optional for the rear-drive IS 250 and standard for the all-wheel-drive model.
Antilock brakes, an electronic stability system, knee airbags for both front occupants and a new twin-chamber front-passenger airbag are standard. Side-impact airbags for the front seats and side curtain airbags for both rows are also standard. An optional Pre-Collision System uses radar to detect impending collisions. If it does, it can tense up the seat belts and preload the brakes for maximum stopping power.