By on July 9, 2008

Chicks love itThe Lexus IS250 is a chick car. Funny that. Its predecessor, the IS300, was such a guy car. In fact, every time I see a male of the species behind the wheel of a Lexus IS, I check my theory by scoping the badge. Sure enough: it's an IS350. Strange. The IS250 is a great entry-level luxury car. While it's slower than the 350, not everyone can afford to pay that much needs that sort of power. So why aren't more guys driving one?

On the outside, the IS250 is a Toyota Camry that's had some work done. The curves are tighter and less bulbous, the lines flow better, the taillights smirk a little bit more, and the front end doesn't make you vomit in your mouth a little. Despite the most transcendental color I've ever seen on a car ("Breakwater Blue Metallic"), the IS250 remains a perfect Lexus: uninspiring but attractive. If only Toyota could make all their brands so handsome (I'm looking at you Scion).

Sybarite's delight Inside, you wear– rather than sit on– the IS250's supple leather seats. Provided genetics are working in your favor, the glove-like thrones offer an irresistible embrace. Every interior surface feels soft and inviting, begging to be touched and stroked and savored. There's buttery smooth leather, cool precise steel, firm but yielding plastic… I'm sorry, where was I? Yes, the cabin. 

I'm tempted to deploy a Lexus cliché and compare the IS250 to a living room. But as I mostly hang with grad students and the lower middle class, I haven't seen a chillatorium that even comes close. Throw in a flat screen and a Wii the interior's non-incarcerational Hotel California: you can sit down any time you like, but you'll never want to leave.

The interior seats two happy adults and two pissed-off passengers. The rear smashes legs so badly that Lexus had to scoop out space in the front seats for occupants' knees and shins, lest the trip end with your patellas and the driver's kidneys getting restraining orders.

What we've come to expect from LexusPush the IS250's start button (keyless ignition, ‘natch) and the engine purrs to life. It sounds like a kitten, and it is, with only 204hp underhood. That may seem like a lot of power for a cramped four-seater, but the V6 mill's got 3435 pounds of rear wheel-drive Lexus to motivate. Zero to sixty takes a shade under eight seconds. To the average Joe– I mean Jane "moving up" from her Corolla, it's bitchin'. For anyone used to what we speed demons like to call a lick of speed, the IS350.

In fact, the IS250 only two advantages over the IS350 (since their gas mileage is nearly identical). Price and a manual transmission. In keeping with the Lexus tradition, the IS250's slick six-speed stick shift makes driving easy, not fun. 

The IS250 lives up to the Lexus bland… er, brand… with its comfortable, smooth, easygoing ride. The suspension poses a real danger to the local animal population; they'll disappear under the IS250's tires without the driver hearing or feeling a thing. Road noise? Bah! The interior insulates so well you'll wonder if you're ambling along in a Prius.

Perfect, if you're under four feet tallThe IS250's combination of the cozy interior and cushy ride is a narcoleptic's worst nightmare; the driving dynamics sure as heck won't keep them awake. Throw the IS250 around a corner and it handles… gracefully. While I'm sure the baby Lexus understeers like a battleship at the limit, who knows? There's nowhere near enough power to create the sort of stark terror that keeps the IS350 driver awake. 

Maybe that's why the IS250's a chick car: guys crave danger, excitement. Clearly, your mother-in-law isn't going to whip this puppy around a corner at top speed, heel-and-toe a perfect downshift, and run it up to the redline (at least my mother-in-law wouldn't… come to think of it, if she did, we might get along better). Lexus built an IS250 that's safe and comfortable. And safe. And comfortable. Just the way their customers like it. 

But wait, there's more! The IS250's option sheet will prove your wallet's undoing, and there are more airbags than the DNC.

Even in base trim, every iinch of the IS250 is well-appointed, smooth and satisfactory; it's miles above cars like the Acura TSX and Volvo S60. Buick? Don't make me laugh. In fact, the IS250 is perfect– as in "a perfect night's sleep." There's not a gram of excitement to be had in the whole car. 

Clean yet unispired stylingWhether you've got a Y chromosome or not or not, the Lexus IS250 is the single best entry-level luxury car for people who don't like driving. For anyone whose blood panel workups include an octane rating, it's unnervingly dull. You'll enjoy every pampered, luxurious minute, and then curse yourself for doing so. And then you'll lapse into a coma. Hang on; are we there already?    

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75 Comments on “2008 Lexus IS250 Review...”

  • avatar

    I think the chick-car stigma has more to do with Meadow parallel parking one of these in the final episode of the Sopranos.

    And why can’t we have the wagon back (a.k.a “sportcross”)? This time with the manual, please.

  • avatar

    So this car is very dull & has a nice interior. How does this merit 4 stars?

  • avatar

    Very interesting review, thanks.

    That car certainly feels very dychotomic. It looks like it wants to go fast. But then the IS350 has no manual?

    And why are all the C-segment luxury cars so cramped inside? What’s the point compared to smaller FWD cars, really, except for the “look at me, I’m driving a cool sedan” factor. And sedans are not cool anyway.

    Oh well, I guess I’m still in the minority of those who prefer a wagon.

  • avatar

    At the risk of getting flamed, here we go:

    The Lexus IS range always reminds me of Belgium. Belgium is clean, tidy, food is OK, transport system is fine and the people are OK (with a few flaws). But when you go home, you don’t find yourself saying “I miss Belgium!”.

    Same with the Lexus IS range. It’s well built, reliable (naturally), the materials are of a good quality and it looks good. But I just don’t find myself drawn to it. There just doesn’t seem to be any magic to it.

    This is why I like Jaguars better (here’s where the flaming starts). Jaguars have that spark which ignites my interest. They have that “something” which draws me to it. But they also have the good reliability, good materials and good styling too. So you’re not missing out on anything (a la Alfa Romeo).

    Lexus do some good cars (i.e GS range) but the IS range bores me. I think the 4 stars is an apt score for it. Theoretically, it is a great car, no problems there. But it loses one star because it lacks that certain something for me. It just seems like…..well….an appliance…..

  • avatar

    THANK YOU. I have removed it from my list of cars I am considering. I’ll keep the C43 a while longer. IT is not a “chick car”,although my daughter loves it.

  • avatar

    Is the IS250 really a chicks car? Does anyone know like via RL Polk registraion figures or is this simply opinion?

    I seem to remember that cars like the Nissan Pulsar was a chicks car with like a 70 30 split on registration figures.

  • avatar

    OK, so bascially this car is just about perfect as a small premium entry level sedan. It is nicely styled, well built, has decent power, good gas mileage, handles competently, and also has a price advantage against the other small German sedans. In additon to all of this it will still be worth a good amount of coin after 3 to 4 years of use.

    This is a win, win situation no matter how you look at it. Oh, and if the dynamics are not sharp enough for you Lexus does offer up a full set of factory warranted, dealer installed, suspension upgrades. There is a reason that Lexus does not set up its suspensions like BMW for the US market, simply most folks do NOT want to deal with the harsh ride, and many of us have to travel on roads that just do NOT work well with a stiff setup. It is called a compromise.


    I hope you are not comparing the IS250 to a X-type Jag? Can’t be! The problem with Jags today is that thet are NOT Jags anymore. They come off as to be cars attempting to look like Jags but once you have a good close look you will find that all of those qualities that once made Jaguar a unique brand are gone, No v12s, no inline6s, run of the mill switch gear, and dial faces, they do kinda have a lexus feel to them on the inside yet Lexus does it better!

  • avatar

    I drove an IS250 a few months ago. The impression I came away with is much the same as yours. The cabin is fantasticly crafted, the ride is pleasant. The exterior is handsome, probably my favorite Toyota product in that department.

    But the IS250’s powerplant isnt deserving of such a fine car, downright disappointing. The interior is seriously cramped, even the driver’s seat felt claustrophobic. Sure it fits like a glove, but there really is no other choice, there just isnt room for any other type of fit. I am 6 foot tall, and with the driver seat in a comfortable position, there wasnt even room to fit my ankle into the back seat. IMO, there is simply no point in having four doors in a car with only two viable seating positions.

    I didnt drive the 350, but I drove the Infiniti G35 Sport 6MT back to back with the IS250. The Infiniti lacks the interior polish of the Lexus, but has 4 functional seats, more attractive styling, and most of all… a fantastic drive. No contest, even vs. the 350 IMO.

  • avatar

    Nice review. Given the lack of driving excitement, I wonder what exactly are the advantages of the RWD IS250 over the ES. Seems overlappy.

    Sherman Lin,
    The problem with using registration figures is that the purchaser is often not the primary driver/owner, i.e. who do you think pays for the Lexus which Daddy’s little girl drives?

  • avatar

    Great review. I definitely like the looks of the IS line, but why do they even offer the manual transmission in the 250? If the appeal is to people who do not like to drive they should be all autos.

  • avatar

    I test drove a 2006 IS250 before I purchased my 2006 Acura TSX instead. I found the dealer arrogant, the car noisy (very surprised by that), and the back seat incredibly cramped. I liked the quality and presentation of the interior, the V6, and the exterior styling though. They had absolutely no manual transmission 250s on the lot to test drive though.

  • avatar

    I tested an IS350 for a week, and I really enjoyed the car. Other than price (~$45k if I recall correctly), the only thing that would have kept me from buying one was the size. Or lack thereof.

    I have fit car seats reasonably easily into every vehicle that I have tested so far except for the IS350. The 2009 Corolla and 2008 Nissan Versa sedan both allowed easier car seat fitment. The car should have four more inches of legroom in the back seat.

    Driving by myself, though, I was able to adjust the seat for plenty of room. The electric power steering is better than most, the transmission holds gears around curves in sport mode, and the 306 horsepower V6 kicks ass.

    But it’s just too damn small. I’ll take a CTS or G35 instead.

  • avatar
    Alex Dykes

    Great review Megan. I totally agree, the IS250 is a great car for two and the options of AWD, the manual transmission and the standard fuel economy that isn’t half bad make it probably one of the better buys in the Lexus stable… But I still like the IS350 more.

  • avatar

    I see plenty of dudes driving 250s every day. Perhaps you’re looking in the wrong places, Megan.

  • avatar

    great review, thanks.

    Comfort is nice. real nice.

    make it a wagon, put a 4 cyl in it to get great milage, i might – i said might -look at it.

  • avatar

    I drove the IS 350 and then the IS 250 with manual the month the cars arrived. The 350 was fun, the 250 was not. Aside from the total lack of power (204 horsepower usually feels stronger, especially with a stick), the stick felt clunky to me.

    So far TrueDelta is only collecting reliability data on the 2006, but the other years are getting close.

    If you know someone who owns an IS, send them here:

  • avatar

    Nice review Megan – I agree 100%. The 250 is a great commuting car and ideally suited for long distance travel as long as you only have two adults in the car. It safe, economical, reliable, comfortable and has good resale value. It is also deadly dull but that does not seem to stop people from buying them.

  • avatar

    Katiepuckrick: I guess you don’t like beer and chocolate, which are both ridiculously good in Belgium! :-)

  • avatar

    Nice car. And 30″ of legroom is typical in medium sized cars and small SUV’s (Forrester, Liberty, CR-V). I could totally see my wife craving it and me borrowing it occasionally (just to see, of course).

    Looking at the interior it has more shades of grey than a UAW vote count. Is there another color on the whole car? Since when did that become “luxury”?

    The chick car thing has a powerful sales effect. My wife currently drives a chick car and while I occasionally drive it I could not use it as my daily driver.

    The Toyota Celica is the same way. Any guy driving it never again allowed to wear a belt buckle heavier than 8 ounces…

  • avatar

    I have a 2007 IS 250 that seems like a different car from the one you drove. The IS is Lexus’s take on the BMW 3 Series. It is not a 3 Series, and really not a Lexus. If I had to do it over, I would get the IS 350.
    With sport tires and suspension, this car is not smooth riding and is not quiet. Everyone who rides in it comments on the deafening levels of road noise.
    The auto tranny (6 speed) is a beaut. My 0-60 times are a lot closer to 7 seconds. And the Hwy MPG is amazing…32-33.

  • avatar

    Megan: the IS250 is a Toyota Camry that’s had some work done.

    Good review, couple of my young engineers (one of each gender) drive the IS, both have the 350. Good car, agree about the cramped back seat.

    However, the main reason for my post was to quibble over this next statement:
    Megan: the IS250 is a Toyota Camry that’s had some work done.

    AFAIK, the ES 350 is built on the fwd Camry platform, and the rear-wheel-drive IS doesn’t have a platform counterpart in the U.S. Toyota lineup.

  • avatar

    As a male owner of an IS250, I feel compelled to speak up and defend my choice.

    First of all, I always though the IS (and its close cousin GS) was the most masculine vehicles of the Lexus line. The RX is commonly held up as the chick vehicle of the Lexus line, while the ES and LS hold up the geriatric angle. If the IS250 seems to be a “chick” car, it is probably a result of the “chickification” of the whole entry luxury segment: I’ve seen lots of A4s and 3-series being piloted by women.

    But stereotypes aside, this is really about the vehicle, and why I chose it over it competitors. The IS may not truly excel in any area (except maybe dealer experience and resale value), but it also does not have any major flaws of its competitors. To wit:

    TSX – probably the IS250’s closest competitor in terms of price and market segment. Acura basically ruined this car – see the comments in the 2009 TSX review, which basically speak for themselves. I don’t say this lightly, since I am a lifelong Honda fanboy, having owned (and loved) several Integras and Accords over the years.

    A4 – As a previous A4 owner (and owner of other VW products) the deal killer breaker is (and always been) the poor reliability. Most of the A4’s other advantages (high quality interior, exterior styling, all wheel drive) have been matched by the IS250.

    3-Series – No doubt the benchmark in this segment in terms of performance. Realistically, I spend almost all my time in traffic, and almost no time wringing out the maximum performance of my car. This might not be as big a deal if BMW weren’t the most expensive player in this segment, but since it is, I feel like I am paying for capability that I will rarely, if ever use. At my age, the quiet and comfort of the Lexus appeals more than the unused performance potential of the 3. 10 years ago, my answer would have probably been different.

    So there you have it, why I chose the IS250. I still love the car, and would choose it again in a heartbeat.

  • avatar

    It’s funny you should mention the gender disparity – I actually see very few IS350s here in Vancouver. Virtually every IS I see is a 250, and at least half of them are driven by men (mostly young Asian guys).

    I could tell just sitting in the IS that we weren’t going to get along, since I’m 6’1″ and it has little enough headroom that I could picture the headliner getting intimate with my forehead if I stopped quickly.

  • avatar

    Mitsubishi plans to sell its electric vehicle in Europe in 2010, while tests are planned for the U.S. for 2009. Subaru has not decided on overseas sales plans for its electric vehicle.

    I will just wait for the Mitsubishi electric car. It will be awesome!!!

    The review is great and being a fan of Megan.
    The car is absolutely a car for a Yuppie.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    Italianstallion: So this car is very dull & has a nice interior. How does this merit 4 stars?

    Read the review. There’s more to a car than excitement. Some people like dull, nice cars. Otherwise, the Camcord wouldn’t sell so well.

    I agree. I’ve never felt so conflicted after reviewing a car. I loved it, and I hated it.

    Give it a drive. You may like it. You can just rip the badge off and get a 350 badge. :)

    Sherman Lin, Scott Johnson, etc…
    I drive on some of Atlanta’s busiest roads. I rarely, RARELY see a guy driving a 250. I might see 20 in a day, and only see a guy driving one every few weeks.

    Beats the everloving crap out of me. If the 350 had a six-speed, my husband would be begging me for one. Why put that much power in a car and only give it an automatic tranny? The world may never know, but it seems to be an alarming trend among automakers.

    The new Forester has much more leg room than the old one. Funny, I always see guys driving Celicas, at least around here… they’re popular among the ricer set, nearly as much as the Integra.

    It *looks* like a camry. You don’t even have to really squint.

    Good on you if you love yours. It’s a great car, it really is, and you made a good choice. I just don’t understand why more guys aren’t driving them.

    I reviewed the stock version. That’s why it ‘seems like a different car’ than yours. None of the dealerships had one with the X-package (tighter suspension, etc) available for me to review. They only special order them.

  • avatar

    Scott Johnson Says:
    July 9th, 2008 at 11:34 am
    I see plenty of dudes driving 250s every day. Perhaps you’re looking in the wrong places, Megan.

    Perhaps Lexus provided the best trade-in value for their Preludes and WV Cabrios?

  • avatar

    The previous generation IS 300 wagon is a wonderful car that I purchased after a massive amount of research and test drives of other cars in the segment.

    At least for the previous version, handling is excellent, the automatic is very responsive, and the engine makes beautiful sounds when you hit the pedal and downshift.

    The 250 weighs about 100lbs more than the 300 and has 11 less hp. I could live with that based on current experience without thinking my vehicle is underpowered, especially given the MPG improvements.

  • avatar

    The review was quite good, and spot-on in my opinion. However, I think it’s a star too high, simply based on driving mechanics and engine alone. Why isn’t there a Turbo 4 in this car?

    And for all the flak that the TSX has taken (myself included on the 09), the handling blows away the 250, and it’s cheaper with more standard. That’s not to say the 250 is bad at all, as it’s definitely not, but I wonder why it gets what amounts to a free pass on certain things while other cars don’t. For example, the Steering on the IS is numb as hell. But it’s a Lexus, and Lexus has greater brand recognition than, say, Acura.

    BTW, as far as writing style is concerned, I’m convinced that Megan is really Johnny L wearing lace panties. And I love every second of it.

  • avatar

    I’ve always enjoyed looking at this car. It isn’t much for pictures, but in person, it’s definitely one of the strongest styling efforts in this segment. A real stunner in “Black Sapphire Pearl.”

    Pity about the choice between power and a manual, and the apparently nonexistent rear legroom. I’m sure some won’t mind.

  • avatar

    I haven’t had the opportunity to drive one but I really like the way these cars look. So does my wife. She rarely comments on cars but she pointed out one of these on the freeway not too long ago. “There, that’s a nice-looking car.”

    It’s doubtful I’ll ever pay to go up-market to a Lexus or Acura but the temptation is definitely there (we’ll probably get a Prius next time around). I’d be even more tempted by this car if they’d either switch to a thriftier 4 (180hp would be enough for me) or add a VCM-like arrangement for the V6 (better). A luxury car needn’t be wasteful.

    From the review: “There’s buttery smooth leather, cool precise steel, firm but yielding plastic… I’m sorry, where was I? Yes, the cabin.”

    This is like automotive interior porn. Now I really want the car. More seriously, this was well written and very descriptive; I almost feel like I’ve ridden in the vehicle myself.

    KatiePuckrick, I don’t see any reason why you’d get flamed for preferring a Jaguar. However, I wonder, is part of the reason for the attraction a connection to the heritage? A Lexus doesn’t have that. Maybe it never will. And there’s nothing wrong with valuing something like the heritage. A luxury car should make you feel good. That includes whatever the brand evokes.

  • avatar
    Joe O

    Lexus could make this car into a serious contender by sticking in it’s current 3.0 liter engine (or a revised version w/ some new tuning/direct injection/something special) and a more serious 6-speed.

    The first time I sat in this car I understood what pulls people to Lexus. It’s luxury in there. Driving it would probably take back that feeling. Stick a 3.0 liter that can compete with BMW’s 3.0 liter (non turbocharged version) and it’ll be good to go. You’ve got the parts Lexus.


  • avatar

    Awesome review, it was really fun to read.

  • avatar

    My sister in law (early 30″s, nurse) has one of these and loves it. I drove it once and it was well put together, but as others have said, boring. But she is happy with it and has the coin to replace it with another Lexus. She previously drove a Cabrio.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    Ronin317: The review was quite good, and spot-on in my opinion. However, I think it’s a star too high, simply based on driving mechanics and engine alone. Why isn’t there a Turbo 4 in this car?

    Read the star description. I gave it a 3 if you like driving, a 5 if you don’t, so it’s an average of 4. Toyota doesn’t even make a turbo 4, so that might have something to do with it. Maybe with their current partnership with Subaru. But if you could merge this car with the gearbox and handling dynamics of the TSX, you’d have a perfect entry-level luxury car. Or if Acura could just make interiors like Lexus does. *sigh*

    And I don’t wear lace panties. Too itchy.

  • avatar

    Not a huge fan of this car. 5 minutes in the miniscule front seat confirms its girliness to me. I was more comfortable in a Miata than in an IS250.

  • avatar

    Megan my girlfriend think the same thing with lace panties. lol!!!

    I always think about the TSX and this car.
    I always get confuse with the two of them when I see them on the road. I get confuse when I see TSX like;

    oh!!! is that a Lexus but it’s an Acura and when I see an IS250 is that a Acura? oh!!! it’s Lexus.

    I heard a lot complain about the rear seat my friend drives one and he is about 6’6. he said he forgot to check the rear when he bought his IS. because he was too excited and rarely has a passenger on his car except for his gf.

    3 brand of cars I like Lexus IS250, Acura TSX and our own beloved 2008 Ford Shelby GT500 Super Snake Mustang (you have to see this car)

    I think Lexus handling doesn’t have to be mention because it is A Lexus.

    I won’t compare a Mazda car with High end product like Lexus it is like comparing a Black Beans with a Mong Beans

    Toyota built cars that are quality, economically and realibility with a lesser price tag and will last at 500,000 miles. BMW is German made that’s why American consumer buys them but only in North America not in Europe’s list of best selling cars.

    It is still our very own Ford that is the number 1 car in Europe.

  • avatar

    thalter, your manhood is under suspicion…

    There is a good reason that BMWs cost more, they are built better than a Toyota. You must be out of your mind to spend that kind of coin on a car with mushy handling. I’m sure that’s why Megan’s evaluation makes no mention with regard to handling.

  • avatar

    So far as I can tell, no one has mentioned that the IS250 is available with All-Wheel-Drive, while the IS350 is not. I see a fair number of the IS250 AWD models here in Denver, many more than IS350s.

    That said, the styling of the IS remains a disappointment and the car has an unfortunate resemblance to a 2001-05 Honda Civic.

    I keep hearing that Lexus is planning other bodystyles, namely a coupe and a convertbile version of the IS which would certainly help sales. It is too bad that the previous IS300 sportwagon was so goofy looking. It would have sold better if had more traditionally station wagon-like styling, instead of trying to split the difference between a wagon and a hatchback.

    The IS250’s most direct competition would be cars like the BMW 328i and the Mercedes-Benz C300, but also cars like the Acura TSX, Audi A4 2.0 Turbo, Saab 9-3, and Volvo S40. The Jaguar X-Type 2.5 was also once a competitor. And maybe the Cadillac CTS.

  • avatar

    I haven’t seen more than 20 ISes total. Where I live is probably 80% BMW 3, 10% Infiniti G, and 10% everything else (mostly Mercedes or Audi)
    I would think men buy more IS350s because men are stupid. They give up a possibly better driving experience (manual transmission) for a higher number. Apparently the numbers are more important.
    KatiePuckrick- Unfortunately the X-Type has taken a leave from the US market so all Jaguars are much too expensive. I’ve always liked the styling of the X-Type.
    realtruth- since very often mushy handling= smoother ride it is a viable choice.

  • avatar

    I could see why this would be labeled a chick car, the moment I saw one at the dealership: it just LOOKS like one. The back seat is cramped as hell and the ratio of girls to guys that I’ve seen driving this car just confirms it. I’ve given the IS250 a whirl and the handling is pretty good, plus the stick (funny enough, the only stick shift equipped IS250 at the dealership among hundreds) was not as notchy as I expected and the luxury certainly is there.

    Review was spot on. Now if only Lexus would make a stick optional in the IS350, maybe a few guys would reconsider (no, I ain’t one of ’em).

  • avatar

    Theoretically, it is a great car, no problems there. But it loses one star because it lacks that certain something for me. It just seems like…..well….an appliance…..…

    I concur. But everybody owns appliances of some sort. If you really don’t put an emphasis on driving involvement, or should I say, don’t want any driving involvement, this is an excellent choice. As reviewed, it is well built, should be reliable, retains good value. It is comfortable, quiet, a relaxing place to be. If this is your idea of what a car should be, this is your appliance.

    Chick car? Tough one to call. When I brought home my first new car, a 1995 Probe GT, my friends broke out the “chick car” thing. I said, hey, this car (not year) was an Automobile All star, MT Car of the Year, and a Car and Driver 10 best. I even tossed in the virtues of the Mazda sourced engine and five speed drivetrain, as most of my friends were of the Japan only persuasion. Nope, still a chick car. After installing a 7/8 rear sway bar I took my mouthiest friend for a high speed ride through some serious switchbacks, and even got the rear end to swing out (not on purpose I might add). Scared the shit out of him, and myself. Well, I posed, “still a chick car?” His response? Yes. So I drove my “chick car” with pride and decided that who cares what anybody thinks. Buy what you enjoy and most certainly enjoy what you buy.

  • avatar

    “The Toyota Celica is the same way. Any guy driving it never again allowed to wear a belt buckle heavier than 8 ounces…”

    That last generation of Celica GTS had serious performance though. The handling was amazing, especially for a front driver. Lot of issues with that car, but I found the performance unimpeachable.

    As for the IS250… if it had good gas mileage I’d be interested. Why does a car with (supposedly) no interior room weight as much as a Camcord? This is another one of those cars that gets poor mileage and is slow to boot. Lose. Lose.

  • avatar

    I was looking at a new IS when they first came out. I guess that Toyota is still missing the mark even now. When the IS first came out, the AWD option was only available on the IS250.

    I do agree about the back seats. It is the main reason why I did not buy the IS350. I use my back seats regularly with the family and they were just too small.

  • avatar

    I loved your review. Thank you. I test drove the IS250AWD a couple of months ago. The interior is beautiful but in my opinion cramped. And I am only 5’5″ tall. I am a man and would have bought the car had I not felt cramped. Here is a video showing how they are made. It is very impressive!

  • avatar

    I like the looks of the IS. The previous-generation TSX struck me as a better value for its superior handling and better power-to-weight ratio, but I also like the idea of the small six, which is inherently smoother than a big four.

    Now that the TSX has been beaten with the ugly stick, the IS250 starts becoming more compelling. It’s better looking than a 3-series sedan or the ugly new C-class, and Lexus customer experience is generally better than BMW or Mercedes. If it were 200 pounds lighter and could be had with a good sports suspension package, I would be tempted.

  • avatar

    All these comparisons with the TSX are not quite right. I was in the market about a year ago and didn’t even consider the IS250 primarily because it was priced out of range. Throw in a few options (that make it equipped comparable to a TSX) and it’s in the mid to high 30’s, compared to about about 28-29 for the TSX. (that was then, now it’s a little worse).

    Smallest back seat of any of the other cars I drove, like A3, 325, G35 and not big enough for a rear-facing kid seat.

    So, if you want the luxury and don’t care that the steering is bad, why not just get an ES?

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    This car is so Toyota vanilla. I’ll take the Volvo S40, just to be different. I don’t like this kind of distilled “perfection.”

  • avatar

    I have the IS250 on my shortlist and this review is pretty accurate. A few thing I would like to add as well as contradict. On the negative side, the center stack, with it’s silver plastic, comes off as cheap and mars an otherwise upscale interior. Maybe ok for a 20K Toyota but not for a 35k Lexus. Also on the interior there is no usable armrest on the drivers door. Now for the 2 things that really have me considering this car. 1) Exterior styling. This car looks hot and is one of the most attractive sedans out there … at least to me. 2) Fuel economy. Unlike the reviewer, I do not consider the gas mileage between the IS250 and IS350 to be insignificant. (21/29 vs. 18/25). With today’s gas prices, that difference can be translated into thousands of dollars over the life of the car. Right now the IS250 appears to be the most fuel efficient 6cylider car out there regardless of class, and I have seen reports of people getting up to 35mpg on the highway at 55mph. Compare that to something like the G35 which seems to have problems breaking 25mpg. The IS250 isn’t just a good choice for those who hate driving. It’s also a good choice for those who like to drive but are realistic in the type of driving they do on a daily basis… not some Nurburgring wet dream.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    Samir, I can’t even fit behind the wheel of a miata! At least not without placing my knees at 10 and 2. My legs are just too long for it. The IS250 was a perfect fit though, and I was about 8 months pregnant and certainly not svelte at the time.

  • avatar

    I have to roll my eyes about some of the comments on here about the IS. I have been very pleased with my IS350. It’s a refined daily driver that can be a lot of fun when you put your foot in it. I only wish the 6 speed manual came in the 350. The 250 is pretty anemic though.

    I agree the back seat is cramped but I don’t get the comments about the front seats being a tight fit. I’m 6′-1, 265 lbs, and I feel quite comfortable in the driver’s seat. It’s certainly no worse than a 3-series or Infiniti G in that regard.

    My only complaint is rattles that Lexus can’t seem to eliminate.

  • avatar

    This car is so Toyota vanilla. I’ll take the Volvo S40, just to be different. I don’t like this kind of distilled “perfection.”

    Perfection is a car without flaws. Flaws are what give a car its character. The IS has no flaws, and therefore has no character. It’s what the car-buying public wants, it’s what the car buying public gets.

    On a side note, I do have to chuckle at any man who feels compelled to defend their IS from being labeled a ‘chick car.’ You guys should take a lesson from the Miata crowd, a comment like that would roll off of them like water off a duck’s back.

  • avatar

    There’s a 250 I pass by every day in my condo’s parking garage. The side profile is okay, sleek, probably the best in all of Toyota-dom, but the car looks too narrow for its length. Three inches or so more width would give it a better stance.

    The slanted taillamps remind me of an old Celica and I hate them. It wouldn’t be a glorified Toyota if it DID flow with either the side or rear sheetmetal. Naturally, it doesn’t. Toyota designers love dissonance.

    As for the interior space (or lack thereof) I chalk it up to typical Toyota packaging. The physically large ES has a disappointingly compact cabin, so it’s not a surprise that a smaller rear-drive car has even less space.

    It’s a shame Toyota chose not to repeat the chronograph watch-style gauges of the 1st-gen IS. It was psquashed as it has probably been decreed that no Toyota product shall even hint of character.

  • avatar


    A) My 60 year old mother found this car too boring. She is now driving a Legacy.

    B) The IS250 CAN handle – I think with the optional suspension package (18s + springs) it managed a 72+ mph slalom and over .9g on the skidpad.

  • avatar

    Sorry but I don’t see chicks driving this car in Vancouver, only Asian dudes. In fact, don’t see many of these on the road.

  • avatar

    Call it whatever you like: chick car, boring, etc. I think IS250 served its intended purposes: extremely high quality interior with good reliability, reasonable power and handling, for a very good price.

    Many of my friends (men and women) got great deals on IS250, some have $30k out the door for manual and $31.5k before TTL for auto with Nav. Try finding that for a 330 or C class, and good luck. No car out there has this level of quality for this price, regardless of brand, from Tata to (insert your preference here).

    Is IS250 a chic car? Maybe, but that’s like calling Starbuck drinks chic drink. I see more women driving 3 series than men, way more women driving Jaguars than men, so does that make all luxury car chic cars too? Oh, lots of people label Jetta a gay or women car too, does that means you should never drive a Jetta?

    Buy a car for what a car is, don’t let it stop (or start) your urge just because of these silly prestige thing.

  • avatar

    Since you brought it up, where I live the last-gen IS300 is the consummate chick car. It’s got to be about 5:1 female:male, usually college-aged. It’s like the BMW 3-series for people who value reliability…

  • avatar

    If you want something exciting, why would you be looking at a Lexus anyway?

  • avatar

    The IS250 and the Acura TSX are chix cars. They are because of the luxury features of each car. Most chix don’t care about engine or technical data. The IS250 out sells the 350 4 to 1.
    The IS250 40K 200HP car!!!! LOL

    When you think of Lexus most people think luxury. The IS250 RWD manual on the surface appeals to guys. However, once they drive it they realize it is not a sporty car. It is just a underpowered
    bland car.

    BTW, I have an IS350 w/sport package and I love it.

  • avatar

    Megan, I’m one of your biggest fans, but the strikethrough ironic redaction is soooo 2006.

    Looking forward to your next review.

  • avatar

    I notice no one has mentioned the Hyundai Azera and the new Genesis. I know most of you have a case of badge snobbery, but you really should give one of these cars a test drive and save yourself thousands of dollars while getting a car with excellent quality, driving characteristics and value. Something Toyota doesn’t seem capable of doing anymore.

  • avatar

    As a former Toyota employee, IS 250 is one of the default company lease choices among newly hired engineers (the other, immensely popular default is tC, a chick car if there ever was one).

    I was toying with the idea of leasing an IS myself (really, the only Toyota vehicle in their entire range that I would even consider), so I took out my former co-worker’s IS 250 Manual for a little thrashing. I walked away with a clear decision – no need to start the lease paper work.

    The IS was slow and the shifter was vague & rubbery (fun fact: the MT is from Tacoma!) Handling was typical Toyota – secure but never lets you have fun. At least the steering was more direct & suspension tighter than a garden-variety Camry, but that’s really not saying very much. While OK, I wasn’t blown away by the interior – quality & materials maybe on par with 3-Series and a notch below A4.

    I admit that I was disappointed with the IS – I really wanted to enjoy the badge snobbery that comes along with Lexus. My choice instead: Civic Si sedan. I forwent the Toyota special lease discount for a Honda… that tells you how much I like Toyota vehicles :)

  • avatar

    Great review as well. I have found the new IS models to be aesthetically pleasing but dynamically uninspiring. My only experience in one was an IS350, and, while it was fast, it was soulless.

    For your chick car counter, I sited a brand new IS250 two days ago here in H-Town, and tally one up for the middle aged men.

  • avatar

    Good info xantia. Interesting read.

  • avatar

    Both the review and the many responses are great reading.

    It’s amazing that a car bland – sorry –brand can stir up the emotions that much. “Chick car”, now that must be the ultimate insult in the USA. A car for people who don’t like to drive, no soul, no fun, no problems.

    I’m enjoying my second Lexus, a manual IS250. My first was an IS200, not available in the USA, the measly 2 litre engine probably consumed too little Iraqi-derived blood-for-oil-gasoline. Reviewing a car and living with a car are two different things. I just love to live with a car that you fill up with gas, drive and leave to the shop once a year for maintenance (leave it to Toyota and save $$$). Not a single problem ever occured with my IS200 during six years.

    Friends, relatives and collegues driving BMW, Volvo and Saab don’t share this experience. Many hate their cars. Sure, it was OK during a test drive at the dealer, but living with it day in day out in our harsh Scandinavian climate turned out to be a different thing. And when to problems start, the dealers run and hide. Yes, that includes Volvo, once our national pride, turned into cheap rubbish by Ford. (Saab was always rubbish.)

    My new IS250 is soooo beautiful. The rear seat and the boot are quite useless. But if you know how to drive (Americans don’t, I do) this car can be thoroughly thrashed. Reasonable km/l and very comfy on long drives. I not only love chicks, I also love chick cars.

    And there’s plenty of soul in the way a Lexus is put together, soul and pride. Car workers in the USA and in Europe seem to hate their jobs. Hey guys, try a chick for once, chances are you might like it…

  • avatar

    I wouldn’t say the 250 is a chick’s car, though I do see many many chicks whipping around the 250 but I it really depends where you’re looking. I live in NYC and see a good amount of chicks in C classes and 3 series out in Long Island and the tri-state, more so in Long Island though.

  • avatar

    well i’m from the Uk where we only get the IS250 option. I currently own 11 vehicles, all privately and my only other lexus is an LS which is superb however it’s a bit of a boat on wheels compared to my other sportier vehicles. I test drove the IS250 at the beginning of the month and my impressions were that it was a very well put together machine. power was never lacking, but at the same time I couldn’t describe it as a fast machine, but it is a plush capable luxury car. rear seat space is cramped in comparison to my LS or 5 series but does nothing wrong. My wife immediately fell in love with it and the multimedia system and I am now awaiting delivery at the end of the month. No doubt if there weas a 350 model available I would have gone for that, however that’s not to say im unhappy with the 250….looks wise it’s a cut above the competition and new wheels and a few more subtle changes are already in place such as the TOMs speed shifter and throttle response computer – I love my gadgets.

  • avatar

    An old article, I know.

    But I’d love to see how the reviews go with F sport parts… IS250 and IS350. Mostly cause I want something reliable and I like the looks of the IS over the 3

  • avatar

    This car did absolutely nothing for me…nice to look at, but wimpy engine, too-soft suspension, narrow interior, no back seat.

  • avatar

    It’s probably a chick car simply to it’s size and most women are shorter then men.

    This car does remind me of a Buick. On the outside it’s similar to a Lacrosse but with different styling, and on the inside it’s exactly what would be in Buicks today if they stuck with the interiors they used from 2000-2004 and improved upon them instead of completely redesigning them.

    The seats do look comfortable at least, and at least it looks a whole lot better than a Miata.

    I certainly wouldn’t compare a TSX to this. The TSX has a hard enough time justifying itself over the Accord, but the new Lacrosse can certainly give the IS250 a run for the money.

  • avatar

    I pretty much suggested that we bought an IS 250 because I’m intrigued by the 2.4 V6. It’s a marvelous powerplant. And indeed, my wife drives it, primarily because there’s no headroom for me.

    The car is not perfect, in particular there’s some distortion in the glass near the A pillar, which is doubly unfortunate because the driver has to look there a lot thanks to the pillar’s immense girdth.

    We cross-compared the IS with 2010 Acura TSX vith v6 and Infi G37 (Bimmers were out of the running because of run-flats and reliability concerns; ditto Mercs; and Volvos? don’t make me laugh). TSX is nowhere near as fun as IS. It’s a competent car, but not there in detail, and it’s bloated. Acura’s UI for the electronics is just bad. G37 is amazing, unfortunately the driving position is rather inconvenient. I think I like the suspension on G37 more, and of course DA PAWAH. You know, if only the seat went a little lower…. But it just does not fit, and that was that.

  • avatar

    I am not sure where the Camry thought comes from, and it seems to me a lot of the BMW drivers are mad there cars are in the shop.  I am not sure how are car that has great fitments and reliability warrants itself a chick car, but if so call me game.  I have owned both the IS300 and the IS250 and I think the latter is leaps and bounds above it’s predecessor.  The only complaint that I have is the dash rattle, which is a bit unnerving.

  • avatar

    I am a “chick,” true… But my husband (6’1″, 190 lbs) likes to drive my 2007 IS250 as much as I do. The truth is that as long as you find it physically comfortable, this car is a great “reality/adult” car – period.

    I have always loved power and speed and ALWAYS had power/stick cars in my teen years and my 20s. (Camero, Firebird, Mitsu 3000GT, etc) and was well acquainted with traffic school for chronic speeding. Somehow guys in motorcycles and fast cars would try to keep up and I have to admit I ended up with more than one boyfriend as a result… So you get the picture that in my reckless 20s and early 30s I would have felt like I was being punished to drive a luxury model of any kind. As a matter of fact I only bought the Lexus in the first place because I work in Finance and I felt that my clients expected to see me in a luxury car and this one didn’t break the bank, rated high on customer satisfaction/safety, got good gas mileage, and with nice shiny chrome rims and low profile tires it looks at least somewhat sporty.

    The reality is that with my 5 and 7 year old in the back seat and with gas at $3.25+/gal… the green-light drag race just isn’t my reality anymore.

    I still love driving though. And when the kids aren’t in the car and when Bluetooth is turned off, you can typically find me watching the navigation map, blasting the awesome sound system, soaking up the gorgeous CA rays (even in March) through my sun/moon roof, and if there happens to be a chill then chances are great that I am cuddled up in the heated leather seats. (a feature I literally laughed at when I first saw it – who knew???!)

    Two final comments: If you hear any noises then take your Lexus back! Mine is quiet as a mouse and purrs like a kitten. And finally, the back seats are perfectly roomy for young kids – booster seat and all, which is why many of us maturing “chicks” probably got a 4-door in the first place…

  • avatar

    This car is way too comfortable for my tastes lol.

    I can see why someone who doesn’t fully enjoy driving and simply wants to get to Point A to Point B as comfortably as possible: 1. Soft, quiet driving experience / 2. Luxurious and relaxing interior / 3. Convenient and useful gadgets to play around with / 4. Lexus reliability. The IS 250, especially AWD is no performance vehicle. Definitely a chick car or a man who simply prefers a sporty-looking but comfortable ride.

    If it were me though, I’d simply get the ES.

  • avatar

    I test drove a 2008 infiniti G35s, bmw 335i, bmw 328i and an IS250.
    I finally settled on a Black / Black 2008 IS250 with 225 front and 255 rear tires (the sport ones) with the tech pkg (Nav + rear Camera).
    It is smooth, it is light and the steering is very nimble. The turns I took in the Infiniti and the BMW, I could do the same in the IS250 with no drama. It just does it.
    Cramped? I feel cozy. I guess it depends upon the frame of mind. Maybe some are inherently claustrophobic.
    Btw, Car and Driver test reveals that the IS250 beats the BMW 335i in the Slaloms, albeit by a small margin. but it still beat it.

    And I am a guy.

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