Full 2012 Lexus IS 250 Review
What's New for 2012
The 2012 Lexus IS 250 is unchanged.
You've no doubt seen them -- guys who wear all the athletic clothing, who look like genuine jocks but who are average at best after they step onto a court or ball field. In a nutshell, that's the 2012 Lexus IS 250. It has the style of a sport sedan, but actual performance once it's on the road is a bit underwhelming.
That's not to say the IS 250 is without its charms. Underneath the crisp contours the IS 250 is as refined as your typical Lexus. Comfort and luxury take priority over performance, and as such, the baby Lexus boasts a finely trimmed cabin, solid build quality and a quiet, isolated ride.
But that coddling comes at the expense of athleticism. Try to have some fun on a winding road and the IS 250 becomes a killjoy with its noticeable body roll, lifeless steering and 204-horsepower V6 that delivers good fuel economy but little excitement. In the 250's defense, one could always increase its jock quotient via the available F Sport package and dealer-installed accessories. But even doing that won't give it a sprinter's kick. For that you'll have to pony up for one of the 250's muscle-bound brothers, the IS 350 or IS F.
Unfortunately, all of the IS variants suffer from a lack of interior space, especially in the cramped backseat, which is notably short on legroom. As a result, the 2012 Lexus IS 250 remains a second-stringer among star athletes in the luxury sport sedan segment. Buyers who lean toward comfort will find similar luxury and more space in alternatives such as the Acura TSX, Audi A4, Cadillac CTS and Volvo S60. And if you want real performance to go along with the sporty looks, we suggest checking out the BMW 3 Series or Infiniti G Sedan.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Lexus IS 250 is a compact luxury sedan that is offered in rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive trim levels, which correspond to drivetrain choices. The other IS models, including the convertibles and the high-performance IS F, are reviewed separately.
Standard equipment on the IS 250 includes 17-inch wheels, foglamps, heated mirrors, a sunroof, keyless ignition/entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, eight-way power front seats (includes two-way lumbar control), leather upholstery and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Also standard are the Safety Connect telematics system, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a 13-speaker stereo with a six-CD changer, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB interface. The IS 250 AWD adds all-wheel drive and heated front seats.
The Navigation System package adds a hard-drive-based navigation system, 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 xenon headlamps, auto-dimming outside mirrors, automatic wipers, a power rear sunshade, driver memory functions, ventilated front seats, a power-adjustable steering wheel and wood trim. Rear-wheel-drive models gain 18-inch wheels. Front and rear parking sensors are optional.
The F Sport package (available only on RWD models with an automatic transmission) adds dark-finish 18-inch F Sport wheels, grille inserts, front and rear spoilers, a sport-tuned suspension and heated F Sport seats with microfiber inserts and leather bolsters. Front and rear parking sensors are a stand-alone option. Additional F Sport options include 18-inch wheels for AWD models, 19-inch wheels for RWD models, a performance air intake, a sport clutch (manual transmission only), a performance exhaust system, upgraded brakes, sport suspension components, a quick-shift kit and a carbon-fiber engine cover and shift knob.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Lexus IS 250 is powered by a 2.5-liter V6 that produces 204 hp and 185 pound-feet of torque. Buyers can choose between rear- or all-wheel-drive variants. Rear-drive models can be had with six-speed manual or automatic transmissions, while the AWD is only available with the automatic.
In a recent Edmunds test, an IS 250 with a manual transmission accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds; the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series are quicker by at least a full second. 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 the all-wheel-drive model gets 20/26/22.
Standard safety equipment includes antilock disc brakes with brake assist, 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 an emergency assistance button.
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. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the IS 250 a perfect "Good" rating for its performance in both frontal-offset and side-impact tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2012 Lexus IS 250's sporty interior is as good as you'll find in this segment. Supple leathers and wood or metallic accents are top-notch, with soft-touch plastic materials covering most every other surface. All of these elements are well assembled for an overall excellent fit and finish. Controls throughout the cabin are intuitive and easy to use, as is the optional touchscreen navigation system. The iPod interface, on the other hand, can be a bit frustrating.
The IS 250 is short on rear-seat legroom and feels very cramped overall compared to other compact luxury sedans. Even with an average-size driver up front, those relegated to the rear will likely find their quarters as unaccommodating as in the coupe. The trunk can hold a maximum of 13 cubic feet of luggage, which is about average for cars in this class.
As a sport sedan, the 2012 Lexus IS 250 is notable for its high cornering limits. They are even higher if you opt for the F Sport performance enhancements. Other aspects of the IS's driving dynamics will likely leave enthusiasts a bit disappointed, however. The uncommunicative steering does little to give the driver a feel for the road, while the noticeable body roll and lackluster acceleration further dilute the sense of performance. Otherwise, the IS 250 presents a comfortable ride in a tranquil setting that will insulate you from the distractions of the outside world.