By on November 5, 2013

2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior

After taking a sales hit due to tsunami-related production woes, Lexus has been trying to regain their mojo with a new product offensive. Things started out with the new Lexus GS sedan that Jack Baruth and I loved on and off the track, followed by a revised RX. With the redesigned IS, the bulk of their lineup has been overhauled. Initially, I was a little concerned that the Lexus IS sedan would receive nothing more than a new nose and some LED lights for 2014 but the Japanese 3-Series fighter came out swinging when we were invited to the launch event earlier in the year. I came away impressed with the IS 350′s road manners, but most buyers will be shopping for the less powerful IS 250 and it’s taken us this long to get our hands on one.

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 Exterior

Instead of refreshing the IS, Lexus decided to give their smallest RWD sedan a complete overhaul for 2014. Lexus crafted a new IS platform with a 3-inch longer wheelbase that addresses a big complaint about the old car – it was too small inside for American consumers. The result is an entirely new unibody that is three inches longer than the old model riding on a three-inch longer wheelbase. In addition to the stretch the 2014 model gets a hair wider, a hair taller and ground clearance drops by half an inch.

2014 Lexus IS 250 2014 Lexus IS 350, Exteruiotr, F-Sport Front grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

In addition to the Lexus “Spindle” grille up front, the IS sports an entirely different side profile that is easily the most expressive in the small luxury segment. Although I like Cadillac’s new ATS on the outside, I think the IS provides a more balanced blend of aggressive and luxury styling cues from the angry front end, to the almost-Swedish shoulder bulges. Unfortunately I just haven’t warmed up to the Lexus daytime running lamps which are now divorced from the headlamps and have their own cut-out in the bumper cover. Lexus says they are styled after the Lexus “L” but they just look like Nike “Swooshes” to my eye. Even so, if it were my money to spend I’d be torn between the restrained but elegant BMW 328i and the aggressive but sometimes questionable IS 250. I like Cadillac’s angular lines, but I slot the design just below the BMW and Lexus in my mental tally. Add the F-Sport package to the IS 250 however and Lexus breaks the tie with a more aggressive grille. (In the picture above.)

2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

Because the GS and LS share interior design cues I had expected the IS to follow suit, I was wrong. While the other Lexus models have opted for a more open and expansive interior theme, the IS feels tight and close to the driver. The feeling is amplified by a high beltline and a tall center console. If you like your car to make you “feel big,” then this is the sedan for you. Rather than the “double bump” style that seems to be popular right now, Lexus opted for a tall two-tier look with the infotainment screen positioned farther away from the driver than the gauges, and centered in the tall dashboard. Opting for the F-Sport package replaces the analog gauges with a configurable LCD cluster.

Cabin plastics in the IS lead the competition, especially those farther from the driver’s usual reach. While BMW cut a few corners with the current 3-Series by using hard plastics low in the dash, the IS maintains a quality feel no matter how low your hand wanders. As you’d expect from Lexus, one can still get acres of stained wood and soft leather. “Can” is the operative word here,since  real leather can only be found in the top two option packages in the IS, while all other models get Lexus’s faux-cow that is bonded directly to the seat foam to prevent stretching or folding as the seat ages. The imitation-hide is perfectly convincing and the only covering available in the IS 250 F-Sport.

Front seat comfort proved excellent during my week with the IS 250, easily besting the Audi A4, Mercedes C250, Cadillac ATS and the base seats in the BMW 328i – but if you want the best seats in this segment, you’ll find those in the Volvo S60 or the optional M-Sport seats in the BMW. Thanks to the wheelbase stretch, rear legroom is up by 1.6 inches over the last generation IS, while front leg room grows about an inch at the same time. The improved rear legroom is welcome as that has long been an IS shortcoming, but it’s obvious by both Lexus and Cadillac’s latest 3-Series fighter that nobody expected the 3-Series to grow as much as it did in this last generation. As a result the 328i beats the IS 250 by a whopping three inches of rear legroom. The Lexus does counter with a slightly larger trunk, but I found the overall trunk dimensions to be slightly more advantageous in the BMW balancing out the extra cube the IS offers.

2014 Lexus IS 250 Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment

Although I couldn’t find a single example on a dealer lot, the base IS with no options is the only way you can escape the infamous Lexus Remote Touch joystick. All other models use a small controller with haptic feedback to control a software interface originally designed for use with a touchscreen LCD. Regardless of the input method, all IS models get a 7-inch color LCD positioned far away from the driver. The base model sports a noticeable low resolution screen while all other models get a high resolution screen of the same size. The distance from the driver and the large plastic bezel conspire to make the screen look much smaller than it is. The problem is further compounded by the screen being actually smaller than the competition as well.

2014 brings some mild software updates to the infotainment software including a new home screen (shown above), HD Radio support and traffic information via HD radio instead of satellite so you don’t need an XM subscription to get a color-coded traffic map. If you can get beyond the input method, the system proved reliable and moderately intuitive. Overall however I am still forced to rank this system below BMW’s iDrive, Audi’s MMI, Infinit’s new two-screen setup, Volvo’s Sensus, and even Mercedes’ aging COMAND system. The only system to offend my inner-nerd more is with the Cadillac CUE system.

2014 Lexus IS 250 Engine, 2.5L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

Operating by the “if it isn’t broken, don’t fit it” mantra, there are no significant changes under the hood for the IS 250 this year. That means we have the same 2.5L, direct-injection, 60° V6 engine as before, good for the same 204 ponies and 185 lb-ft of twist. (The IS 350 gets a 3.5L version of the same engine, making 306 HP and 277 lb-ft.) Just as before, we have a 6-speed transmission on offer (The RWD IS 350 gets a newer 8-speed), with AWD commanding $2,535 more. Should you opt for the F-Sport package, Lexus will add a sound amplifying snorkel to the intake plumbing to amplify the engine’s growl.

With everyone else moving to forced-induction four-cylinder engines, the smooth V6 engine is what sets the IS 250 apart. I know that calling a V6 “smooth” or, dare I say it, “buttery smooth” sounds like sacrilege, but since BMW no longer offers their naturally aspirated in-line 6 under the hood of the 328i, the refinement crown goes to Lexus.  There is more going on here than just the numbers however, because the small turbos not only deliver more torque, they do so across a much broader RPM range than Lexus’ 2.5L V6. Even the Mercedes 1.8L turbo in the C250 blows out more torque across a broader band than the six cylinder mill in the IS 250. For reasons known only to Lexus’ product planning team, the 220 horsepower IS 300h, which mates the same engine to Lexus’s RWD hybrid drivetrain, remains forbidden fruit on our shores.

2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

The IS’s 2.5L V6 may be down on power compared to the Americans and Germans but it is no contest when it comes to refinement or engine note. Sadly refinement isn’t what propels you to 60, so when the light turns green you’ll have a whisper quiet view of the competition’s rear bumpers. Our tester ran to 60 in 7.02 seconds, a full 1.3 seconds slower than the 328i and 1 second slower than the ATS 2.0T.  Even the 1.8L turbo in the Mercedes C250 and the bargain-basement BMW 320i beat the IS 250 to 60 MPH by a few tenths.

The responsiveness of the IS in tight corners demonstrates how much time Lexus spent engineering the 2014 model. The old IS came across as isolated, perhaps even sloppy, while the third generation chassis is sharp and crisp. Every system in the IS feels like a team player from the numb suspension to the transmission shift logic and the revised double-wishbone front suspension. While the IS isn’t the hard-core corner carving machine the ATS 2.0T is, the IS 250 feels more harmonious and balanced on the road. Oddly enough, the BMW is the wild card. The E90 3-Series (previous generation) was precise and engaging, but the F30 (current generation) has traded handling prowess for a softer ride and a ginormous back seat. Meanwhile the Audi and Volvo plow like a John Deere when they encounter a corner and the Mercedes feels just as you would expect: heavy and soft. That’s not to say the IS is the performance winner. The Lexus is a hair heavier in the nose than the BMW, so at-limits handling is not as neutral as the ATS and because of the power deficit, the 328i is faster around the track. While the Lexus feels more precise and engaging than the BMW, the 328i’s better weight balance means it is both faster in the straightaways and holds its own in the corners. How about the Cadillac? It beats both the Lexus and the BMW hands down.

2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior-004

Without taking price into consideration, the IS 250 makes a compelling argument for those that value smooth drivetrains, excellent steering feel and chassis dynamics. If however you value performance, luxury amenities and cabin room, the BMW is your best bet. If you’re a BMW shopper that is after the “ultimate driving machine” then you need to visit the Cadillac dealer.

Reviews are nothing without pricing information however. The IS 250 is the cheapest car in this shootout by a long shot. The IS undercuts the BMW 328i by $3,600 (adjusting for feature content) and even manages to be $1,700 less than the BMW 320i. Option up the BMW and Lexus with navigation, sport pack and leather and the delta grows to more than $5,000. The story is the same with the Cadillac and Mercedes with the ATS ringing in $4,200 to $7,500 more and the C250 a whopping $5,500-$7,500 more. The Infiniti Q50 may seem like a natural competitor but Infiniti has yet to release a model that competes directly with the low output options in this segment.

After a week with the IS 250 and a few hours in the Cadillac ATS and 328i in the same week something dawned on me. Lexus and Cadillac have managed to do what they set out to: beat BMW at their own game. Cadillac has nearly replicated an E90 3-Series in terms of handling and chassis performance, Lexus has crafted a drivetrain and steering rack that are superior in smoothness and feel to what BMW is selling. But just when the competition caught up BMW decided to play a different game. By chasing luxury, roominess and fuel economy, BMW has shifted the focus away from driving dynamics. (Yep, I said that out loud.) And in the process BMW is laughing all the way to the bank. By chasing BMW Lexus has created the finest IS 250, yet the sales indicate what Lexus should have been chasing is the customer.  For a car guy like me, the way the IS 250′s systems seem to work in perfect harmony combined with the low sticker price make it a winner. For the average shopper however, Lexus is an 8-speed automatic and a four-cylinder turbo away from true competition.

 

Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.58 Seconds

0-60: 7.05 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.37 Seconds @ 89.1 MPH

Cabin Noise at 50 MPH: 66 Db

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 27.5 MPG over 591 miles

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113 Comments on “Review: 2014 Lexus IS250 (With Video)...”


  • avatar
    Dan R

    What a ridiculous looking grille. Still looks like a tarted up Corolla.

    • 0 avatar
      fredtal

      You can’t see the grill from the drivers seat.

    • 0 avatar
      84Cressida

      “Still looks like a tarted up Corolla”

      Even though it doesn’t and it isn’t.

    • 0 avatar
      rockit

      The new IS looks very similar from the side compared to the 2014 Corolla:

      http://postimg.org/image/q14bfs3e9/

      • 0 avatar
        juicy sushi

        If I ignore all details and proportions and only focus on the idea that they both share 4 doors and 4 wheels. Yes.

        Honestly, this styling critique method of dismissing anything Japanese by claiming it looks like a Corolla or Civic is pretty lame. There are plenty of things to like or hate in the design which can be discussed on their own merits. Trying to claim that the car looks like a Corolla only shows that rather than articulate thoughts, the poster would rather lob wise cracks and run away.

        The points Alex makes about where Lexus and Caddy went, and where their customers are is a great one, and speaks to the issues people making cars face, and what we as consumers want out of our cars. I think that the premium market is ripe for major disruption in the near future, as premium increasingly becomes only about badges and acceleration times given the content now available in compact and mid-size mainstream cars.

        • 0 avatar
          rockit

          I understand what your trying to say, but in this case the IS does indeed look too closely to the new Corolla.

          It shares a similar overall shape, similar character crease, similar side surfacing on doors, similar door handles. The rear doors also have the same bend at the end of the window.

          This is a huge step back from the previous IS which didn’t look a Corolla.

  • avatar
    twotone

    I took a new IS350 out for a test drive at a Lexus dealer yesterday. Not a bad car, but not good enough to pry me out of my BMW 328i.

  • avatar
    chiefmonkey

    I think this is a brilliant review. While I’m not particularly fond of Lexus’s new design language on its other offerings, in the IS it seems to work better. It’s bold and cool if not 100% cohesive, it’s still nice overall. It wouldn’t surprise me if Lexus swapped the 2.5 for a turbo in a year or two-actually it seems inevitable.

  • avatar
    rehposolihp

    At risk of coming across as pedantic:

    Spell check missed some of your spelling errors that would have jumped off the page at you if you had re-read your article. Mater = matter, fit = fix.

  • avatar
    jmo

    Did it feel like a premium car?

    I’ve driven the last generation IS250 a couple of times and it seemed like a Corolla with more sound deadening and a nicer interior. But, it lacked a premium feel.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    “…the IS250′s a winner.”

    Surprise!

    Props to anyone who can find a car Alex reviewed that he didn’t at least like.

    Big up yourself if you can find one he actually DISliked.

    Alex, you seemingly put a good housekeeping seal of approval on just about everything you drive unless I’m totally Solomon Grundy.

    It’s gotten stale.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I’d hate it if he started to feel compelled to wobble into dislike simply for the sake of it. It seemed like a fairly balanced review that didn’t forget to mention any shortcomings.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/review-2010-mercedes-c633-amg/

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Hey, that new Corolla that is basically the same as the old Corolla, but with a new dress is awesome….

      • 0 avatar
        brenschluss

        And the people who would have bought the old Corolla probably think that’s fantastic. Hell on wheels for you or I, but Alex deserves praise for taking dull cars at face value, understanding why someone would buy them, and being realistic about perceived positives and negatives.

    • 0 avatar
      brenschluss

      Most cars these days are only made to appeal to a certain subset of folks, and from a neutral perspective, they’re all pretty much fine. Infotainment and ergonomic novelties aside, I can’t think of a new car that is obviously irredeemable crap. Even an Avenger serves well those who want a new midsize sedan in exchange for pocket lint.

      Alex is probably more aware of what the hoi polloi look for in a car than anyone in any major publication, and I think he does a commendable job laying out the main purpose of the car and how well it achieves that. For the purposes of being a Lexus, this is probably a good car. Someone who likes the way it looks and wants a Lexus will probably love it.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        + This.

        Except for maybe the Yaris.

        • 0 avatar
          brenschluss

          But even the Yaris is A Car, and if you’re determined to receive sheetmetal alone, in the bare minimum quantity required, it’s like they made it just for you.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            I concede…I can remember a time when I would have gratefully bought even a Yaris had I the credit history. Of course, they weren’t around then so let’s say a …Cavalier? Escort?

          • 0 avatar

            Well, it’s not quite how it works. Remember that Yaris is fairly inexpensive. Last time I shopped a Yaris, the bracket was 1) cheap, 2) reliable, 3) fun. It very much came down to Fit, Fiesta, and Yaris (being a TTAC disciple, I advocated Accent, which I think was a very nice car, but it failed on some kind of technicality). The 2013 Yaris was very competitive. I was already mentally sizing up what it could do with proper wheels and tires — I know, I know, the I-beam in the rear. Bah. The point is though, people with small budgets look out for these things just like buyers of BMWs.

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            I’m sure they’re fun to throw around, but for long-term ownership my $15,000 would go to something lightly used and either a little bigger, or a little more entertaining.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        “For the purposes of being a Lexus, this is probably a good car. Someone who likes the way it looks and wants a Lexus will probably love it.”

        But this isn’t The ‘Truth About Lexus’ and I want to know if cars being reviewed are good, bad, fantastic, awful, or where on the sliding scale they are, and in what respects.

        It’s not only acceptable to use extreme adjectives and even superlatives where warranted, but welcome.

        Not every car can be claimed to be satisfactory or better overall, objectively.

        Imagine if Jack had written this review.

        • 0 avatar
          brenschluss

          It would be totally different. But that’s why it’s good to have them both writing.

          generous adjectives are cheap and plentiful in auto journalism. I like having at least one guy around who’ll give us just the facts.

          And in fairness, if any car is going to inspire superlatives, it wouldn’t be an IS250, would it.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Why?

            Even if falling short of superlatives, I can think of cars priced in affordable territory that have particular characteristics that warrant extremely high praise. Here are just a few examples:

            Ford Mustang GT – The 5.0 Coyote is the equal of any motor in any car costing as much as double, especially given its modification friendly nature.

            Mazda RX-8 – Handles better than cars costing multiples more.

            Corvette C7 Stingray – It can hang with cars costing much more in several respects.

            Chrysler 300 – see above.

            Jeep Grand Cherokee – As solid, comfortable & capable as SUVs costing much more.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            I just read Consumer Reports test drive review of the IS250 (December 2013 issue) and it’s no exaggeration to state that they eviscerated it, from vague, lifeless steering, to unimpressive interior materials, to rode quality and road noise “not befitting a $40,000 car.”

            They gave it a DISMAL road score of 52 points.

            This is what I’m talking about. Alex gave this car a much better review by gobs and gobs than Consumer Reports, which isn’t exactly known for totally ripping on Lexi in the past.

            It’s not just this car that Alex has written a puff review on lately, either. Alex find’t exactly roundly criticize anything about the Acura RXL except for the price, a d I’d argue his’review of it was fairly positive, yet Consumer Reports eviscerated that vehicle, as well, going so far as to state that cars costing 1/2 as much drive and perform better.

            Alex either has really, really low standards, or many other reviewers & publications, including what once was a pretty even-keeled Consumer Reports, have become incredibly harsh.

            I firmly believe it’s the former.

          • 0 avatar
            Dan

            I read Consumer Reports’ article. It’s a textbook example of why nobody should take Consumer Reports’ advice on cars that aren’t appliances.

            They bought the AWD edition. And then proceeded to complain that it was plowing and sluggish with dead steering and bad mileage without ever seeming to realize why that was.

            That’s what 200 pounds of front drive afterthought does to a sporty car.

            This isn’t Alex having lower standards than CR. It’s judgement on a different car.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            You had better break this revelation to Audi & Infinity. Stat.

    • 0 avatar
      typhoon

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/review-2014-acura-rlx-with-video/

      His review of the Acura RLX from just a couple months ago basically concluded that no informed person should want to buy that car. That’s not exactly glowing. If you read his point-by-point breakdown of the car, he fairly praises it for what it does right, criticizes it for what it does wrong, and his conclusion puts it all in greater context. His reviews are thorough, informative, and balanced; if you just want a straight hit piece, well, you can find those in the shooting-from-the-hip “Capsule Reviews.”

      You can’t just say “this car sucks” without taking into account its price, its intended market, and its position in that market. So you end up with cars like the Acura RLX that aren’t bad cars but cost too much for what they are, cars like the Toyota Corolla that aren’t competitive on content but but sell on reputation or reliability, or cars like this, where really any choice in the segment is a good one and where Alex simply can’t tell you which one to buy because it depends on what you personally value.

      His reviews aren’t as dumbed down as “this is a good car” or “this is a bad car”; but if you read his detailed impressions of them, you can get a pretty good feel for what the car is like and decide for yourself. That is to say, you don’t need Alex to give you a meaningless thumbs up or thumbs down on the Corolla; you can read the review and decide for yourself that it probably isn’t the car for you.

      My own take-away from this review wasn’t “Wow, sounds like a great car!” so much as “Sounds like I’d probably like the ATS best in this segment.”

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        You raise some fair points in rebuttal, but Alex’s only hard criticism of the Acura RLX was that it was overpriced by 10k (when most of us agreed that it’s just a much more poor vehicle than he concluded, and a much worse Acura than its predecessor…which was worse than its predecessor, and so on).

        Alex’s reviews remind me of Mike Karesh’s reviews. As an example, whereas Jack would criticize numb, lifeless steering by stating something along the lines of “[I]f steering feedback is a priority, this IS250 does little, if anything, better than a Camry LE,” Alex never roundly criticizes something that deserves it.

        Even by today’s standards, this car isn’t exactly inexpensive, and more importantly, it purports to be a true sports sedan contender that can hang with the best, so take the gloves off when critiquing it.

        • 0 avatar
          juicy sushi

          Taking the gloves off doesn’t mean you need to be insulting or sound like Clarkson.

          Many of us feel Alex does a great job of highlighting positive and negative points of the cars he reviews in a very neutral manner, leaving the assigning of values and choices up to the reader. I think it’s a virtue as he isn’t project “his wants” onto the car, which is a major problem most car journalists never get over.

        • 0 avatar
          tonycd

          Funny, before you said it, I was thinking, “Alex’s reviews remind me of Michael Karesh’s reviews.”

          Except I meant it as a compliment.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Let me blow your brain up: what if the cars he’s been driving are quite satisfactory when used as he needs them?

      It’s like Jack’s Caravan and Camry reviews: a quibble here and there, but overall a solid review in how people use their vehicles daily.

      Nothing wrong with that.

      You know what pisses me off about my new car? The Homelink buttons aren’t lit, and I can’t adjust the clock.

  • avatar
    Prado

    I was a big fan of the previous generation IS when it came out for 2006. This one, not at all. The exterior is very bland with a ‘look at me’ grill tacked on. A 25k Mazda3 or Kia Forte has a more premium look. The powertrain is dated. Sure, it may be refined and put up respectible performance numbers, but this is 2013, not 2006. Efficiency is severely lacking with a rating 21/30 mpg running on premium. The interior looks like an improvement, but certainly nothing special for a 40k car. This may seem like a bargain compaired to a 3 series, but I look at it from a different perspective. This car offers nothing special that would make me want it over a loaded mainstream midsize car at 30K. Pet peeve (to Lexus and serveral other manufactures)….stop cutting out the center console armrest for cupholders! move the cupholders and other crap further up.

    • 0 avatar
      84Cressida

      A loaded mainstream car like a Camry or Accord will not handle as well, be built as well, have as nice of an interior, nor have the luxury badge on it.

      I’ll grant you that the IS250 is a bit of a dog, but not much more will get you into an IS350 and that’s a completely different animal and miles above any mainstream family car.

      Cup holders you can “Thank” those who insist on bringing 195340 water bottles and Big Gulps for 4 miles trek to work.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Ok B&B hypothetically you’re shopping for a tiny RWD sedan like this IS250, so what’s it to be?

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      C-Class or a Q50.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Why those over other offerings?

        • 0 avatar
          jmo

          BMW: too expensive to get the latest gadgets.

          IS 250: Will have to test drive the latest version to see if they did something about the tarted up corolla feel.

          Cadillac – Ride and power are great, but too small. Also, not a fan of the touch sensitive radio and HVAc controls.

          C-Cass – has a premium feel and feels and drives like something “special.”

          Q50 – ride and power are great and it has the latest gadgets. Also likely to be more reliable than the C-Class.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I was thinking Infiniti myself but I must confess I couldn’t even remember the names of the model that’s how little I know about them. There are a few I4 Cadillacs in the parking lot here, not sure how they drive but they don’t look very impressive. Much like the 3 series, it would have looked so much better as a coupe only as the sedan is just too small to fit actual people into comfortably.

            Hmmm after perusing the Internets I see the G37 is still being offered and *gasp* a V6 is actually standard!

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            “not sure how they drive ”

            Very well. Perfect combination of smooth ride and great handeling.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I’ve heard that, I’d have to drive one if I was seriously in the market. Looks like though the G37 wins in my book on V6 alone at msrp 32.5 vs 33 and Cadillac I4.

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            “Looks like though the G37 wins in my book on V6 alone at msrp 32.5 vs 33 and Cadillac I4.”

            It’s a lot of car for the money. Also, you don’t feel like the skimped on anything. It’s not like it has all the gadgets and a plush interior, but as soon as you hit a bump you feel the mainstream sedan bones. It has a premium feel overall.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Which one, the ATS or the G37?

          • 0 avatar
            jmo

            The G.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I may have to go waste some salesman’s time.

          • 0 avatar
            GiddyHitch

            I can’t say that the G37 loaner I had had a very premium feeling interior, but the engine and new shifting algorithm was loads of fun.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            I’d get (and have gotten) the BMW because I don’t WANT the latest gadgets.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I actually really like the ATS with the 2.0T. There I said it, and I feel dirty.

      I do agree with jmo that its too small for me to actually purchase.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        If they bring out a coupe it becomes a much more attractive proposition, IMO.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Yeah, somehow—as the 3-Series matured in its F30 iteration—Cadillac came up with this excellent chassis, but forgot that people actually like to use the rear seats once in a blue moon. It’s remarkably similar to what happened with the 2013 Malibu…

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      Lexus IS350 RWD. It combines long term reliability, sport, refinement and an old school NA engine – this is a great combination.

      Infinity Q50/G37
      The new generation feels twitchy and unrefined on the road. It is also now much more expensive.

      BMW 3 series
      Great engine and drive train but the chassis is not as good as it used to be. The long term reliability is also an issue. After having 4 of them this will be my last for these reasons.

      C Class
      Uninspiring base engine and the same reliability issues as BMW. There is a new model on the horizon but expect it to be a good deal more expensive now that the CLA has arrived.

      Cadillac ATS
      The best chassis by far but is let down by GM first generation lack of attention to detail. Some ergonomic annoyances and not the best interior in this class.

      IS250
      Not enough cowbell – needs the 3.5

    • 0 avatar
      Noble713

      Already own 2 RWD Toyota sedans (JZX100 Chaser 5speed manual and JZX110 Mark II 4speed slushbox, both turbocharged inline-6 1JZ-GTE ~280hp), but I’ll bite:

      -BMW E36 sedan w/LS swap
      -Pontiac G8 GXP
      -used last-generation IS-F

      If I *MUST* buy new? Cadillac ATS.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      E36 off Craigslist.

    • 0 avatar

      G37 while it’s still available alongside Q. A Subie, probably. And that’s about it, everything else is FWD these days, large like BMW, or both. I think cross-shopping with FWDs is inevitable in this class.

    • 0 avatar
      22_RE_Speedwagon

      Current 2008 G35 owner tempted by the new lower price on the g37 — I can’t seem to find the sport package on dealer’s lots very much which makes me wondering if they’re still shipping the g37S or if the slim pickings are leftovers from the pre-Q50 era. It’s a great car and a great value.

    • 0 avatar
      tjh8402

      @28 cars later – were it me, I wouldn’t buy any of the new ones. I’d get the CPO E90 or G37. My requirements are at least cylinders (I refuse to buy a premium car like this with a 4), RWD, and a proper clutch pedal manual. The 335 is the only one to satisfy those requirements, but I’m just not sold on the F30 being the Ultimate Driving Machine anymore. I’m very disappointed that Cadillac only offers the stick on the 2.0t because if you could get the 3.6 it would be the top choice by a huge margin even though I think the GM 3.6 is the worst 6 cyilnder in this class. Similarly disappointed in Lexus dropping the stick from the IS250, and especially at Infiniti for what they’ve done to the G37/Q50. This class has gone from the stuff of enthusiast dreams to one of the most depressing market segments.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        tjh, welcome to the new quasi-malaise era, where clattering 4 bangers (at least the IS250 has a 6), touchscreen operated rather than honest knob controlled essential functions, syrupy electronic steering, many automated “manual” transmissions and/or lack of manual gearboxes altogether, and full-retard gimmicky such as stop-start rule supreme in premium “sports sedans.”

        • 0 avatar
          kvndoom

          I second your cynicism. Infiniti still offers the best options.

        • 0 avatar
          tjh8402

          @Deadweight – I realize this is the future but I don’t have to like it. I can’t find the comment, but I thought someone up above said that there were no bad choices here, or something to that effect. I couldn’t disagree more. I think are are no good choices. If I had to buy new, I’d try to figure out how to survive on 2 doors and a smaller back seat and get a G37 Coupe (Q60 now I think?) or Hyundai Genesis Coupe, since those are still configured the way I require, and both are genuinely good cars. Otherwise, I’d likely just buy a Focus, Fusion, GTi, or Mazda 3 or 6 and use the $ saved to buy an e36 M3 as a second car.

          I will defend the infotainment to a degree…if I could change only one thing about my e46, it would be to have iPhone and Bluetooth integration. It wouldn’t subtract anything from the driving experience, and everytime I rent a car, I think thow nice they are to have. Otherwise, you are spot on. @Kvndoom, the Q50 has gone completely away from it sports sedan roots. Even C/D and Consumer Reports have been less than enthusiastic about it.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        @tjh8402

        I’m giving the G37 some thought here, stick or no. My ex boss had an ’11 3 series till recently. Very nice and less crampt for rear passengers than its predecessor, but yet it was a shop queen which turns me off. I think Cadillac did well with their Alpha, er ATS, but its just to small to be a sedan (as E46 was) and I’m sad to hear there is no stick available on the V6. ATS as a proper coupe with manual available on all engines for sub 30K with rebate, now there’s an enthusiast’s wet dream.

  • avatar
    gakoenig

    What Lexus (and all the BMW wannabes) missed is the same thing the automotive enthusiast and automotive writing communities have also missed – cars got fast enough.

    I drive an X5 diesel that I absolutely love. Recently, it was in for a new set of brake rotors (for free!). Light went off on Thursday, dealer scheduled me for Friday afternoon but the schedule slipped, so (with much apology), they told me to keep my brand new, 126 miles on the odometer 328 loaner.

    The weekend was spent driving the piss out of it. Highways, around downtown, twisty back roads. This was a luxury line sedan with no sporty BMW intentions what so ever and it was cutting up the twists and running through traffic at seriously extralegal speeds with zero issues. Of course, driving an SUV most of the time likely re-calibrated my speed sensitivity, but looking through the HUD display at the MPH numbers going by, it was clear that nobody had any business driving at the speeds I was going.

    I’m not going the ask the tired rhetorical question of who “needs” more car. Instead, I would ask – “What would even a vaguely responsible person possibly ever even DO with more car?” We are at the point where modern, base line, stripper optioned BMWs are basically offer far more performance than could ever be used on a public road. What’s the point of adding more at the expense of fuel economy and comfort?

    BMW got that memo. Everyone else is still chasing boy racer fantasy buyers who’s numbers are dwindling.

    • 0 avatar
      brenschluss

      Mark Donahue once said, “It will never have enough power until I can spin the wheels at the end of the straightaway in high gear.”

      He was talking about a 917, but it applies to anything. Until every car on the road can light ‘em up at highway speed (passing power, you know,) cars aren’t fast enough.

      • 0 avatar
        gakoenig

        And Donahue was talking about race cars on a race track.

        The dream of open roads or attacking the twisty stuff has long since faded into a bleak reality of high costs, traffic cameras, toll roads, potholes, $4 a gallon gas, asshole/incompetent drivers and general misery. BMW was smart enough to see that coming, so they stopped emphasizing the speed of their vehicles (which, by the way, have gotten faster and faster over the years) and started emphasizing luxury, convenience and cabin technology. You know, stuff that actually matters during the 45 minutes a day most BMW owners are stuck in traffic trying to get to and from the place that allows them to make their lease payment.

        • 0 avatar
          Grahambo

          Fun to drive is what BMW used to “get,” but not so much anymore. Rarely did they emphasize speed, nor were they typically the fastest alternative (save for the M cars). For years their performance (as in numbers) was criticized in light of cheaper, more powerful options. Yet they won most comparisons due to their feel, in spite of typically inferior performance numbers. Fun to drive is what Cadillac and Lexus now (incredibly) “get” much better than BMW based on recent evidence. I submit that if comfort, luxury and gadgets were what buyers really cared about, then far more customers would have bought Acuras or FWD Lexii over the past several years. In reality, it’s the badge that most care about. The enviable value of BMW’s badge was built on qualities it no longer has to anywhere near the same relative degree and, as the years go on (unless it reverses course), the enthusiasts will gravitate elsewhere, and eventually those who purchase (or perhaps more aptly, lease) them for the perceived prestige afforded by the roundel will follow.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      “BMW got that memo. Everyone else is still chasing boy racer fantasy buyers who’s numbers are dwindling”

      What makes you think BMW got that memo? I agree with your “cars are fast enough” argument, but the above quote makes no sense to me regarding BMW. At all. That 328 you drove hits 60 in about 5.5 secs. The 335 will do it in, what, 4.5? It seems to me that BMW and Audi are the brands perpetuating the horsepower-at-all-costs race, not Lexus, whose quickest engine barely catches the 328.

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        The Germans have become numbers obsessed. They turn in class leading acceleration and cornering grip numbers that will get plastered on the covers of car magazines as well as get approving blurbs in non enthusiast lifestyle magazines (like say mens health) to establish their alleged enthusiast “cred” and sell to those people wanting that image while still making the toasters and washing machines they really prefer to drive.

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    Nice video review. You get a new camera or video recorder?

  • avatar
    TMA1

    So what is the price on this car? I like the price comparisons between competitors, but I’m still not clear on what the final cost is. The ATS is $4-7K more, but are we talking about the 2.5 here? Because the 2.5 ATS comes in two trims at $34K and $38K. I doubt the IS250, as equipped, is going to be in the very low 30′s.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    The Cadillac ATS is indeed more of a styling milquetoast than anything else in the segment. I myself constantly confuse it with the second-gen CTS that it replaced. However, I cannot get over the Lexus’s gaudy styling, and so the crown—in my opinion—goes to the sporty, but stately S60, especially in R-Design flavor. The Infiniti Q50, which I thought I’d hate, does the shocking-but-classy school of design much better the the IS.

    As far as the IS itself goes, it would be a lot better without such an underwhelming power train. But I think it will do a lot better than the old model did.

    • 0 avatar
      sckid213

      I agree the ATS isn’t the most exciting, but it is a nicely resolved design that will age well. It’s begging for a more aggressive Vsport version (rumor has it that the 3.6 will become the Vsport in 2015). Just like the body kit on the existing CTS-Vs transforms the car, so too will the right tweaks to the ATS.

      I think the IS is very “wow and now,” but won’t age well. At least it has an identity, though. Have already seen tons of new IS250s here in LA.

    • 0 avatar
      GiddyHitch

      The upward sweeping accent line that starts on the rocker panels and continues up to the lower edge of the tail lights ruins this car for me. Following this line reveals all of the inelegant details in the design and leftover surfaces that result. You would never see this crap on a BMW or (especially) an Audi. The interior is pretty heinous as well.

  • avatar
    TMA1

    I can’t unsee the Nike logos on the front of this car. Total deal-breaker for me.

  • avatar
    84Cressida

    I’ve driven the last IS250 and while it was nice and suitable for most people, along with being way more refined than any turbo 4, driving the IS350 right after means you can never go back. A complete night and day difference. I wish the 2.0 liter turbo was ready at the IS’ launch so that the 4GR wouldn’t be carried over.

    Lexus lowered the IS350 price this year, hopefully buyers have taken notice. The new IS is starting to pop up around here and it’s been 60/40 IS350, so it looks like they have.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    TV ads here show a much fancier instrument cluster, sort of LCD screen 1st gen inspired. I still like the Swiss-chronograph like cluster of the 1st gen.

    Does this come with mechanical or electronic park brake?

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    I’ve looked at the IS at my dealer’s and the optioned models are quite nice. I never got the idea of the 2.5L though, especially making it the only offering for AWD. Just go with the 3.5L and give it some cred.

  • avatar
    montyz81

    Infiniti does have a price competitor. G37 is still on sale and it is a damn good value!

  • avatar
    redav

    I really miss the looks of the prior IS.

  • avatar

    I wish the headroom were increased instead of the length. It would be a good excuse to trade my IS in for a current one. But length gives me nothing, I’m an empty-nester.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      I always find headroom more of a problem than legroom as well. Even in my E46 I can sit behind myself with plenty of legroom (I’m 6′). Headroom is a different story though.

      Everyone keeps stretching the wheelbase and adding legroom, but as long as they keep the roof low, I don’t see the point. Are they targeting people 5’8″ that somehow have a 36″ inseam?

  • avatar
    Ion

    Does it Still have that weird bump in the floor pan by the drivers foot. I could never get comfortable in the last gen because I had to move around that bump.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Well, so far as I can tell, this small Lexus V6 has gasoline direct injection only. Still. Only.

    Five minutes of searching brings up pages of problems with carbon build-up with this engine. In 2010, Lexus extended warranty on it because of the problem. The IS350 has the D4-S dual port/direct injection and no problems with coking.

    So Toyota gives you 2 1/2 inches more legroom in the new model, a mug only a mother could love, and nothing much else, certainly no bucks spent on the engine.

    The perfect car for the modern tweeting young fluffs of the world: “Oh, it’s a Lexus. Nothing ever goes wrong!”

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      You’re sort of right. This is a Lexus that is only somewhat more reliable and durable than a BMW or Cadillac. Sure, it sucks by Lexus standards. It’s still a Checker cab by class standards. If Lexus ever gets around to offering an IS350 with a 6-speed manual, my car will find itself on a used car lot.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    This car is confusing. Lexus worked hard to tune the steering and chassis to near class-leading levels of feedback and involvement, but then left the outdated 2.5 in there. You have a car that handles better than the BMW benchmark but will disappear into its rear view mirror. Time and sales figures will tell if that is a combination anyone wants.

    That said, I see about as many prior IS250 AWD as I do 328x in my area, so this powertrain hasn’t turned as many people off as I would have thought. But I’m sure those buyers don’t care about steering feel.

    Considering the BMW 320 posts similar 0-60 and quarter mile times and yet is reportedly number, softer, and has a cheaper interior, I’d take the IS250.

    • 0 avatar

      The old IS 250 was outselling the IS 350 and it was a fact enough for Nissan trying to sell G25. So, clearly, something was going on. In the same time, G25 was a massive flop. I cannot guess if this new IS 250 is something many people want.

      I can share what our thought process was. The ES was the “houswife car” which our houswife didn’t want. The IS was different, nicer, less decontented Lexus which we could afford. It was not annoyingly big and unaffordable like GS. In the same time, the 3.5L costed more. So, by deleting the 3.5L we got the money for the Navi and some other options. The refinement of the 2.5L mill helped, but I’m pretty sure a boosted 4-cylinder would work just fine too.

      So that was the sale: purely on the budget. So, how did G25 flop, then? Perhaps (we’re extrapolating from one data point, here, caveat emptor) it was clearly a down-value car, which Nissan tried to sell to people who could not afford G37. The 250 is different in that it trades the power for electronics. It’s entirely not obvious from Alex’s review if the same kind of positioning is going to continue.

      Oh and now that we do have the 250, its driver started asking how to take corners, what’s braking point, entry speed, apex, etc. I feed her info from Ross Bentley’s book in small dozes. But the sale was not on the handling that Alex is so heavy about!

  • avatar
    DrGastro997

    Despite some features of the IS being a bit mundane, Toyota gives it a great balance between performance and impeccable quality. Toyota doesn’t give its owners a compromise between performance or quality. It’s a satisfying experience for those demanding both in balance.

  • avatar
    Jacob

    I kind of miss the lighter V6 engines we used to have a decade ago, the 2.5L in BMW, 2.5 Duratec in Fords, etc. They were smoother than the I4s with the same displacement and normally had a bit more power output. Now, only Lexus continues with one of those. However, the EPA estimate of 30mpg on highway looks horrendous. What happened here? Is the top most gear long enough? While people buying these for 35grand probably don’t care about fuel economy too much, a geek inside of me kind of wonders if this represents Toyota’s freshest technology available.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s a 3400+ lbs car, so no surprise here. Note that the mileage was improved from 26 to 30 with the switch from the old 2.4L v6 to the 2.5L v6 with direct injection. Basically, there’s no free lunch. You want 40, buy Elantra.

      • 0 avatar
        Jacob

        3400lbs is not too much IMHO.. about the weight of a Ford Fusion with 2.0L engine. It seems like perhaps this is the best you can get out of a naturally aspirated V6 engine and this is why most of the competition has already switched to turbo I4 motors in their entry level models. However, Honda somehow managed to squeeze 36mpg highway out of 2.4L engines in its Accord with CVT, which still weights over 3300 pounds.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        The IS250′s engine is not competitive. Being more refined than BMW’s turbo 4 is small consolation when it spots the bimmer 40hp and 3-4 mpgs. The performance difference in real life might be even bigger than the 40hp suggests too, as the 328 has a 1.3 second advantage to 60 as well as in the 1/4 mile. As far as refinement goes, the latest 328 might not be on par with BMW’s old I6, but I doubt it sounds like a piece of farm equipment either.

        I like what I hear about the IS250 otherwise. Hopefully Lexus does something about the engine, because giving up significant performance and fuel economy despite the BMW being two years older is kinda sad.

        • 0 avatar
          tjh8402

          The fuel economy is pretty poor. I don’t get why cars like the V-6 Mustang, V-6 Camaro, Genesis Coupe 3.8, Taurus, (previous gen) 3.6 Impala, and Accord V-6 all weigh as much, if not more than this Lexus, have at least an extra liter of displacement, and 100+ more horsepower and yet still equal or exceed its highway mpg.

          As far as the engine in the 328 goes, I’ve not driven a 3 series with the N20, but I have a 5 series, and it doesn’t sound like a piece of farm equipment…it doesn’t sound like much at all. it was smooth, powerful, and rev happy, but no noise or personality. It has no place in a sports sedan. If you could hear it, the best 4 cylinder will have a proletarian sound that’s out of place in a $50k car compared to a six.

          Add me to the list of those missing the small sixes. I wish BMW had done what Ford does with the ecoboosts, and offer a choice between the different engines. In most applications, you can get either the ecoboost i-4 or the duratec v-6, and in the F-150 you have a choice between the ecoboost 6 and the Coyote V8. Would’ve been nice if BMW had given the choice between the N20 and N52.


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