What's New for 2010
The Lexus IS 250 gains a host of standard electronic features for 2010, while the optional navigation system has been upgraded as well.
The 2010 Lexus IS 250 is a luxury sport-looking sedan. Its tidy dimensions and slinky wedge profile indicate a sporty, athletic car -- ditto on its handsome wheels, available manual transmission and standard V6 engine. Yet dip below the surface and you'll discover a typical Lexus that places its priority on comfort and luxury. For those who want all the trappings of a sport sedan but don't need or want the firm ride, taut handling and rapid acceleration that goes along with it, the IS 250 should be right up their alley.
The IS has been around for several years now, but it's aging gracefully. For 2010, Lexus adds a few welcome electronics features to the window sticker. The company's new Safety Connect telematics service provides added peace of mind with its automatic collision reporting, stolen vehicle locator and emergency on-call service. The stereo, meanwhile, has two new additional means of attaching your personal music device -- Bluetooth streaming and a USB audio port. For IS 250s equipped with the navigation system, real-time traffic, weather and other information is now included along with enhanced voice-recognition software.
Outside of the electronics realm, however, the 2010 IS 250 carries over with the usual mixed results. Its 204-horsepower V6 engine is still underpowered, though it achieves excellent fuel economy. Among entry-level luxury sedans, the IS most certainly offers the least amount of usable interior space. With a cramped backseat and limited headroom, it's best suited for singles or childless couples who could buy a coupe but would prefer the convenience of two extra doors. On the upside, Lexus' reputation for outstanding interior quality is well maintained in the IS.
Of course, the 250 isn't the only IS flavor. The more powerful IS 350 and hypersonically more powerful IS F are available, while IS 250 C and IS 350 C hardtop convertibles should be appealing for folks who need to brighten their lives with a little sunshine.
Yet there is some serious competition beyond the Lexus IS lineup -- especially if you need more space. On the comfort side of the spectrum, the Acura TL, Audi A4, Cadillac CTS, Mercedes C-Class and Volkswagen CC are excellent alternatives. For those who want a real sport sedan, the BMW 3 Series and Infiniti G37 are go-to choices. Overall, we'd likely recommend these over the beauty-is-skin-deep 2010 Lexus IS 250.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Lexus IS 250 is a compact luxury sedan available in RWD and AWD trim levels, each of which corresponds to drivetrain. The more powerful IS 350 and the IS 250 C convertible are reviewed separately.
Standard equipment on the IS 250 includes 17-inch wheels, foglamps, a sunroof, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, eight-way power front seats (includes two-way lumbar control), leather upholstery, an auto-dimming mirror, the Safety Connect telematics system, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity as well as a 13-speaker stereo with a six-CD changer, auxiliary audio jack, USB audio jack (includes iPod interface) and satellite radio. The IS 250 AWD adds all-wheel drive and heated front seats.
Options on both models include adaptive HID headlamps, headlamp washers, an automatic parking system and adaptive cruise control (requires an automatic transmission and includes the Lexus Pre-Collision system). The navigation system, beyond the obvious, adds Bluetooth phonebook downloading, a rearview camera, voice commands, real-time traffic and other information and Lexus Enform enhanced telematics features. A 14-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound system can be added to the navigation system.
The Luxury package adds the HID headlamps, auto-dimming outside mirrors, automatic wipers, a power rear sunshade, driver and front-passenger memory functions and a power-adjustable steering wheel. On the AWD model, this package includes cooled seats, while the RWD model gains 18-inch wheels, perforated leather upholstery, wood trim and heated and cooled seats. Other than the wheels, these latter features are available on the RWD model as part of the Premium Plus package.
Also optional on the RWD model is a Sport package, which adds 18-inch wheels, summer tires, sport suspension, sport pedals and much of the Luxury package equipment. A wealth of Lexus F-Sport performance accessories are also available.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2010 Lexus IS 250 is powered by a 2.5-liter V6 that produces 204 hp and 185 pound-feet of torque. Rear-wheel drive is standard and it can be equipped with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic, while all-wheel drive is available and only attached to the auto. At our test track, a manual-equipped IS 250 went from zero to 60 mph in a leisurely 7.5 seconds -- by comparison, the Audi A4's turbocharged four-cylinder does the same sprint in 6.4 seconds.
Estimated fuel economy with rear-wheel drive and the automatic is 21 mpg city/29 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined. The manual returns 18/26/21, while all-wheel drive gets 20/26/22.
Standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and Safety Connect. The latter is a traditional telematics service with automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle locator and emergency assistance button. Optional is the Pre-Collision System (PCS) that comes packaged with adaptive cruise control. It determines when an accident is unavoidable and pre-emptively stiffens the suspension, retracts the front seatbelts and initializes brake assist.
In Edmunds brake testing, an IS 250 with 18-inch wheels and all-season tires came to a stop from 60 mph in a short 113 feet.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash testing, the IS 250 earned a perfect "Good" rating for its performance in both frontal-offset and side-impact tests. In government crash testing, the IS 250 managed four stars (out of a possible five) for both frontal crash protection and rear side-impact protection. Front-passenger side-impact protection received a five-star rating.
Interior Design and Special Features
The IS 250 boasts a finely wrought interior, with top-notch materials and an attractively sporty design. Fit and finish is generally excellent. Lexus also offers one of the best electronics interfaces in the business, with easy-to-use controls all around. The optional navigation system and accompanying touchscreen are particularly user-friendly, though the new iPod interface can be frustrating to use.
Most compact luxury sedans aren't generous with rear-seat legroom, and this is particularly true of the IS 250. Adults or even large children may not be happy in the rear seat on long road trips -- even with average-sized drivers up front. This is not a great candidate for family use, and despite its four doors, its interior space is more akin to what you'd find in a luxury coupe.
The 2010 Lexus IS 250's high cornering limits make it a capable sport sedan, but its uncommunicative steering and noticeable body roll will leave enthusiasts wanting. The IS 250 isn't all that quick; picking the manual transmission helps to maximize what power there is, but the manual's notchy feel makes the automatic the better choice overall. On the bright side, the IS 250 rides comfortably and the plush cabin is a peaceful place in which to while away the rush hour.