Test Drives

Lexus IS 250 Luxury review



SINGAPORE – Right now there are six versions of the new Lexus IS on sale, and going from bottom to top in price, this is the third model on the ladder. You’ll find it listed as the IS 250 Luxury on the price list.

Or let’s consider things another way. Say you’re keen on the new Lexus IS, but for some reason you’re suspicious of hybrid technology, or maybe you want six cylinders (instead of four and an electric motor). The IS 250 Luxury model is the car to buy, then, if you want something better equipped than the base model, but can live without the racy F Sport styling features and chassis tweaks.

So you start with the basic IS 250 (which costs $237,000) and add $16,000. That brings to the party such driver aids as a navigation system, a blind spot monitor that proves surprisingly handy on our increasingly crowded roads, and a rear parking camera.

The creature comforts add up too, with the Luxury pack adding auto-dimming mirrors, driver’s seat memory, wipers that switch themselves on and off, and a 15-speaker Mark Levinson entertainment system that very likely sounds better than anything you have at home.

So far, so nice. But all of these features would be fairly meaningless if they went into a car that were, say, a Chinese econobox. Instead, they help to weave what is a genuinely coherent tapestry of luxury, with the IS 250 helping to provide the kind of experience that is good for the blood pressure.

The interior is more vault-like than those of the German competition so you waft along generally insulated from the bustle of the outside world. It’s all very nicely built, too, and apart from some shiny plastics here and there, the cabin is made up of materials that look and feel expensive. This plushness is pretty much everywhere, too. You notice it when you climb aboard and your feet sink into what feels like carpets from a Bentley.

Indeed, there’s a gravitas to the Lexus that’s absent in a 3 Series or C-Class. That’s evident in the way it drives, too. In town, it feels like a larger, heavier car than it is. Yet, if you come across a twisty bit of tarmac, it’s actually quite game about letting you dive in and exploit its well-balanced nature and stable body behaviour.

The engine is similarly versatile, spending most of its time being unobtrusive, and saving everything for when you hit the high revs, where its stirring voice pipes up and the torque comes in. Even the gearbox is tuned in a similar way. It’s not as rapid in its shifts as rival units, but it’s so smooth that you imagine it’s filled with French butter instead of transmission fluid.

To use a bit of shorthand, the IS 250 feels as if it has a chassis from BMW, while the steering and drivetrain came from Mercedes.

Why no turbo, no slick twin-clutch gearbox? Because, to be blunt, Lexus is one stubborn carmaker. But it’s basically obstinate about preserving the character of its cars, and to making sure that they deliver luxury in a complete and harmonious way. An IS 250 with a smaller turbo engine might be faster or more exciting, but it would feel different, perhaps not palpably different, but systolically so. And it wouldn’t be very Lexus.

NEED TO KNOW

Engine  2,499cc, 24V, V6
Power 207bhp at 6400rpm
Torque 252Nm at 4800rpm
Gearbox 6-speed automatic 
Top Speed 225km/h
0-100kmh 8.1 seconds
Fuel efficiency 9.0L/100km
CO2 213g/km
Price $237,000 with COE
Available now

Also Consider: Audi A4 2.0 T, BMW 320i, Mercedes-Benz C 250

Photos by Derryn ‘Dingdong’ Wong and ‘Gentleman’ Gerald Yuen

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Leow Ju-Len
Leow Ju-Len is a lot older than he behaves. He's been writing about cars for 23 years. Someday he might do it coherently. Ju-Len believes in world peace and V8s, but not necessarily in that order.