What's New for 2013
For 2013, the Lexus IS 250 sees just a few minor changes. A manual transmission is no longer available and the navigation system now includes HD radio (with iTunes tagging) and a smartphone apps suite.
We've all seen guys sporting the official NBA/MLB/NFL-issue team jerseys and expensive running shoes who prove eventually to be perhaps athletes -- faux jocks, if you will. The automotive equivalent would be the 2013 Lexus IS 250, a vehicle that has the style -- but not the performance -- of a sport sedan.
Try to have some fun on a winding road and the IS 250 feels reluctant to participate thanks to lifeless steering and a modestly powerful V6 that's calibrated for fuel economy, not excitement. Sure, you could improve its athleticism in the curves by choosing a few of the F Sport options. But even if you checked off all the boxes, the IS 250 still can't give it a sprinter's kick. For that, you should choose the Lexus IS 350 or the Lexus IS F.
The baby Lexus is not without its merits, though. Within the chiseled body is the refinement you expect from the Lexus brand. Comfort and luxury take priority over performance, and as such, the IS 250 boasts a finely trimmed cabin, solid build quality and a quiet, isolated ride. Unfortunately, every member of the IS family suffers from a lack of rear seat space, notably meager legroom.
So while the 2013 Lexus IS 250 may make look pretty good while sitting on the showroom floor, a more comprehensive scouting report reveals it to be a second-stringer in the compact luxury sport sedan arena. One can find similar luxury and more space in alternatives such as the Acura TSX and Volvo S60, while those looking for a genuinely sporting demeanor should check out the Cadillac ATS, BMW 3 Series and Infiniti G Sedan. There's also the well-rounded, well-equipped Buick Verano Turbo with its strong value proposition.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Lexus IS 250 is a small 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 sound system 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 navigation system, Bluetooth phonebook downloading, a rearview camera, voice commands, HD radio (with iTunes tagging), real-time traffic/weather/sports/fuel prices and Lexus Enform enhanced telematics (with smartphone apps suite). A 14-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system can be added to the navigation system. The Luxury package adds xenon headlights, 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) 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.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2013 Lexus IS 250 is powered by a 2.5-liter V6 that produces 204 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic is the sole transmission and buyers can choose between rear- and all-wheel-drive variants.
Lexus estimates the 0-60-mph time for the rear-wheel-drive IS 250 at 7.9 seconds (the AWD version is estimated at 8.3 seconds). That's somewhat tepid for this segment, as the base versions of the Audi A4 and BMW 3 Series are quicker by nearly 2 full seconds. Estimated fuel economy stands at 21 mpg city/30 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined with rear-wheel drive. The all-wheel-drive version rates 21/27/23.
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 2013 Lexus IS 250's sporty interior is as good as you'll find in this segment. Supple leather and handsome wood and metallic accents are lavished throughout, while even the quality of the plastics is hard to fault. As expected of a Lexus, fit and finish is excellent as well. 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 to use.
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 tight. 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 2013 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 serve commuters and road trippers well.