If you're shopping for an entry-level luxury sedan with a sporty disposition, you'll undoubtedly come across the compact Lexus IS 250. Although modestly powered for a premium-brand sport sedan, the IS 250 offers all the other virtues of the current IS series, including precise steering, a high-quality interior and an extensive array of high-tech features.
However, choices are many in the highly competitive entry-luxury sedan market. The Lexus IS 250 is a respectable pick, but its lack of serious speed will deter hard-core enthusiasts. First-generation cars also suffered from a cramped rear seat and mediocre amounts of headroom up front. The newest-generation IS 250 is roomier, however, making it more appealing from a practical standpoint.
Current Lexus IS 250
The current Lexus IS 250 was redesigned for the 2014 model year and represents the third generation of the Lexus IS sedan family. Highlights of this new generation include new exterior and interior styling, increased rear-seat room and trunk space, revised suspension and steering tuning, and new safety features.
Lexus sells the IS 250 sedan in a single trim level, with either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. For power, the 250 comes with a 2.5-liter V6 rated for 204 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic is the sole transmission. If you're looking for more power, there's the more potent IS 350, which is reviewed separately.
The standard equipment list includes 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless ignition/entry, power front seats, a split-folding rear seat, leather upholstery, Bluetooth wireless phone connectivity and audio streaming, and an eight-speaker sound system with dual USB/iPod interface. Heated seats are also standard on the IS 250 AWD and optional for the rear-drive IS 250.
Major options include LED headlights, a rearview camera, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control and ventilated front seats. The optional navigation system includes the Remote Touch infotainment interface, which uses a computer mouse-inspired controller that's at once familiar and infuriating (placing the cursor isn't easy when you're on the move), Lexus Enform telematics and smartphone app integration. To this you can add a premium Mark Levinson audio system.
The other major option group is the F Sport package, which includes 18-inch wheels (with available summer tires), special exterior and interior styling details, a sport-tuned suspension, an intake sound generator (enhances the sound of the V6 engine), heated sport seats and upgraded instrumentation.
On the move, the Lexus IS 250 is smooth-riding and quiet but a bit light on emotion. Handling is sharper when the car is equipped with the F Sport package, but you pay dearly for that extra measure of capability, as the ride becomes quite stiff over bumps while road noise is excessive with the available summer tires. We advise you to stick with the standard setup.
Acceleration is adequate, but the IS 250 sedan's 7.5-second 0-60-mph time is below average for this price range, and significantly slower than most rivals' four-cylinder models. In the end, the best thing about driving the Lexus IS 250 is its precise and communicative steering, which arguably sets the standard for the entry-luxury class.
Inside, the leather-lined Lexus IS 250 feels luxurious even in standard spec. Seat comfort and passenger legroom are very good up front, but larger drivers might not like the cockpit's narrow feel. The backseat provides headroom and legroom on par with competing entry-level luxury sport sedans.
Read the most recent 2015 Lexus IS 250 review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Lexus IS 250 page.