Vital Stats

Engine:
2.5L V6
Power:
204 HP / 185 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Auto
0-60 Time:
8.3 Seconds
Top Speed:
131 MPH
Drivetrain:
All-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,649 LBS
Seating:
2+3
Cargo:
13.8 CU-FT
MPG:
20 City / 27 HWY
Base Price:
$38,485
As Tested Price:
$44,140
"Ooh, this looks fun!" my otherwise car-ignorant friend said as we walked up to the 2014 Lexus IS 250 F Sport. And yeah, it does look fun. In fact, despite my initial strong negative reaction to the design, I've really warmed up to this new IS, especially with the flashier F Sport package found on this test car (unique front fascia, 18-inch dark alloy wheels and appropriate badging). Even though that rear end still looks a bit Droopy Dog to me (stop frowning, Lexus), the IS is sharp, though I'm not entirely sure that such a bold design will age well.

"Looks can be deceiving," I told my friend, and we hit the road... slowly. You see, despite looking like a fresh, modern sport sedan, the IS 250 still uses what is, quite frankly, a dog of an engine. And that, combined with dynamics that are just so-so at best, makes for a sedan that's all show and no go. Say hello to Jennifer Slowpez.

Driving Notes
  • Lexus employs a 2.5-liter V6 here in the IS 250, good for 204 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. That means this all-wheel-drive version will sprint to 60 miles per hour in a leisurely 8.3 seconds.
  • To put that in perspective, the BMW 320i xDrive, which uses a 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline-four good for 180 hp and 184 lb-ft of twist, will run to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds – 1.2 seconds quicker than the Lexus you see here. And while the IS 250 AWD only returns fuel economy numbers of 20/27 miles per gallon (city/highway), the all-wheel-drive Bimmer is rated at 23/35 mpg.
  • Lexus is reportedly working on a small turbo-four engine, and it can't come soon enough, especially if the IS 250 wants to remain competitive in its segment. BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi all offer modern, turbocharged engines here, and driving the Is 250 only shows how sorely this lump of a V6 needs to be swapped out.
  • When Senior Editor Seyth Miersma drove the more powerful IS 350 earlier this year, it didn't exactly wow him with its driver feedback, but he was far from unimpressed. The same sort of thing can be said here with the IS 250 F Sport – it's a solid car to drive, just super slow. The steering is just okay – nicely weighted, sure, but lacking a lot of the feedback you'd expect from a top-tier small sport sedan. What's more, the IS is first and foremost a Lexus, meaning the ride quality focuses on being more supple than sporty. And while the IS may be a relatively decent steer, it doesn't quite pull off the sport/luxury thing as nicely as the aforementioned BMW 3 Series or a Cadillac ATS.
  • Other parts of the IS 250 driving experience are also pretty milquetoast. The 2.5-liter V6 comes on with a sound that's more woosh than roar, especially at higher revs (which is where you need to play, considering the fact that the 204 hp and 185 lb-ft aren't delivered until 6,400 and 4,800 rpm, respectively). To its credit, brake feel is solid and linear.
  • Lexus fits its IS 250 with a six-speed automatic transmission, with steering-mounted paddle shifters that are best left alone. This gearbox is fine, and will hold gears up into the high end of the rev range (especially in Sport mode), but shifts aren't exactly quick. A more modern eight-speed unit (as on the IS 350) would be great here. One thing at a time.
  • Getting back to its appearance, that modern, edgy exterior design carries over to the interior, to what is easily my favorite Lexus cockpit in recent memory. The mix of red leather seats and black leather upholstery on the doors and dash does a lot to convey that "sport" message, as do the aluminum accents, high-tech-looking steering wheel, and the reconfigurable gauge cluster. Even the angled center stack is sort of cool, with its easy-to-use controls, though once again, Lexus' computer mouse-like controller for the infotainment system is sort of finicky to use. A proper touchscreen system would be a win here, but it wouldn't allow Lexus to house the large display screen so deep in the dash.
  • Interior refinement is, as you would expect, great – standard Lexus fare, really. The cabin remains quiet, even at highway speeds, and while some passengers complained about front seats that you sort of sink into, they're incredibly comfortable and supportive. There's a decent amount of room for rear seat passengers, though some taller adults did ding the Lexus for a lack of head- and toe-room, which is par for the class.
  • Pricing for the IS 250 is competitive, but not exactly a bargain. This AWD model starts at $38,485, and loaded up with all the F Sport trimmings, my test car rang in at $44,140, including $895 for destination. The 320i xDrive starts at $34,750, and a fully loaded example will set you back $46,275. That represents a price premium of $2,135, and it's one I can easily see paying up for. If you don't need all the trimmings, the 320 xDrive seems like a better deal to me, with a more modern powertrain and a substantial increase in fuel economy. Of course, I'll need some back-to-back time with the IS 350 to see if we I say the same thing about preferring it over a 328i or 335i – I suspect that race may be a lot closer.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 172 Comments
      Man of men!
      • 1 Year Ago
      The front grill looks so "ugly"! It hard on the eyes!
      Gorgenapper
      • 1 Year Ago
      The AB reader's wishlist: Diesel [_] Manual [_] Wagon [_] AWD [X] Cheap [_] Powerful [_] Light [_] Score: 14.28571429%
      Scooter
      • 1 Year Ago
      I've seen a few around town, I feel sorry for the schmucks who bought a $40,000 car with the thrust of a Kia Rio. Especially when a better turbo 4 replaces it.
        jtav2002
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Scooter
        You do realize you can get a 3 series with less than 200hp, right? Not everyone is buying for horsepower figures or to look cool trying to race people at the stop light. Would I buy a luxury car with the lowest engine choice? no. But plenty of people do.
        kontroll
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Scooter
        don't feel sorry for them...idiots deserve what they get. this is an ugly POS either fast or slow!!!
      Mike
      • 1 Year Ago
      The 350 has always been the way to go.
      ROLO
      • 1 Year Ago
      1Le money...
      Fonin
      • 1 Year Ago
      Infiniti did not keep the G25 around long (USDM), same story, less power, poor MPGs and barely a savings.
      jonnybimmer
      • 1 Year Ago
      I remember when a friend of mine received the previous gen IS250 equipped with a manual as a birthday present (wealthy parents). In less than a month, she told me she couldn't stand how slow it was any more and was thinking about turning it in for the IS350 with the auto. I thought she was being too picky for a car that was just supposed to be a daily (she had an E30 track toy for the weekends) and got me to drive it. She was not kidding, I've driven CUV's and Minivans that felt livelier than that thing. Heck, Camry's have more kick than that thing did, and the manual didn't do a thing to help with the experience at all, ended up being more of a tease than anything else. Lexus really can't get a turbo four cyl. soon enough for this model. I think the only thing that I could imagine being worse was the G25, and look what happened with that model.
      Max Bullo
      • 10 Months Ago
      Winston Braithwaite of The Truth About Cars has written a glowing review of the 2014 Lexus IS 250 AWD: After spending a week with the 2014 Lexus IS250 AWD it took me another couple weeks to shut up about it. That rarely happens, and when it does, it means that the car is simply fantastic. You’re probably all incredulous now, especially since this isn’t even the F Sport version with its stiffened suspension tune. This IS should be the least exciting of all, except it’s not. Here’s the highest praise I can give a car: I would buy this.
      MechE
      • 1 Year Ago
      What happens when someone bump and taps the front of this car while parking? That front grill and bumper looks prone to easy damage.
      Koenigsegg
      • 1 Year Ago
      they tried way too hard to make it looks "stylish"
      Avinash Machado
      • 1 Year Ago
      The Grille looks like a monster.
      1STH
      • 1 Year Ago
      UGLY, SLOW, and EXPENSIVE: is this the worst car in the world? very possibly.....
        suthrn2nr
        • 1 Year Ago
        @1STH
        At least looks are subjective (I like this style a lot), but it's hard to believe that Toyota couldn't launch this car with a new engine, either a new V6 or a new Turbo I4. This engine is really old, and really dissapoints that it is so uncompetitive. I don't need more than 200 to 250 HP, since I dont drag race on my commutes, but I dont understand why this old engine is still in this otherwise great car.
        Brent Jatko
        • 1 Year Ago
        @1STH
        The back end looks like the face of someone who is in great pain.
        tylermars.design
        • 1 Year Ago
        @1STH
        not the worst....they still make the prius.
          • 1 Year Ago
          @tylermars.design
          [blocked]
        19nomad56
        • 1 Year Ago
        @1STH
        According to Top Gear, right car company but wrong car. They picked the Lexus SC430 as the worst car in the world, which makes me laugh inside every time I see one on the road...
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