Tuesday, May 5, 2015

2015 Lexus IS 250/350: The Brand’s Sporty Looking Entry-Level Sedan

HighlightThe IS offers a 2-door hardtop convertible, which is known as the IS-C.

Test vehicle’s MSRP: $37,485 (IS250 Base Price $43,715)

Seating Capacity: 5

Standard Safety Features: airbags; LED daytime running lights; fog lamps; ABS; electronic brake distribution; a brake assist system; a traction control system; a first aid kit; and Lexus’ Enform Safety Connect System (automatic collision system, collision notification system, emergency assistance and enhanced roadside assistance)

Standard Equipment: 17-inch wheels; steering wheel mounted paddle shifters; a manually-operated tilt/telescopic steering wheel; dual chrome exhausts; push-button keyless ignition starter system; an automatic rear view mirror; power front seats; pseudo-leather; and a power sunroof

Options On IS 250 Review Model: 18-inch wheels; LED headlamps; rain sensing wipers; auto dimming exterior mirrors with reverse auto feature; leather interior; heated and ventilated front seats; power tilt/telescopic steering wheel; driver’s seat memory (mirrors and steering column); blind spot monitoring system with rear cross traffic alert system; a navigation system, a rear back up camera; parking assist aids; trunk mat; cargo net; and wheel locks

Suspension System: double wishbone (front); mult-link (rear)

Standard Audio On Test Vehicle: an 8-speaker, 293-watt AM/FM/HD/CD with satellite radio

Bluetooth Connectivity: Yes

Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty: 4 years or 50,000 mile warranty

Powertrain Warranty: 6 years or 70,000 mile warranty

Standard Engine/Horsepower: 2.5-liter, 6-cylinder/204-hp

Recommended Fuel: Premium

Standard Fuel Mileage: 21-city/30-hwy

What’s New: The entry-level premium compact sedan offers a more sports- like instrument gauge similar to that found on the brand-new RC coupe, when the F-trim package is selected. A heated steering wheel is available for all-wheel drive models. And for the first time, vehicles equipped with the F-Sport package now include heated and cooled front seats.

Pros: The sporty designed IS is a solid built four-door compact, luxury sedan that is available with two powertrains, in either a rear-wheel drive or an all-wheel drive configuration. Whether on opts for the 2.5-liter or the larger 3.5-liter both are quite adequate. However, for approximately $2,500 more, one can get an extra 102 horses by stepping into IS350, while only losing 2-mpg.

Like all Lexus vehicles, the IS is available with a number of high-tech safety driving aids like a rear camera with a cross-traffic alert system, blind spot mirrors and a radar-activated cruise control system.

Moreover, the maze of information available through the instrument gauges and the infotainment screen, which can be accessed by either using a mouse-like application or the touch screen, or both helpful and easy-to-use.

The IS also can be accessorized with a high-end 15-speaker audio system. We did find the standard audio system to be more than adequate for IS we reviewed.

And for those seeking a more sports oriented vehicle in either the IS250 or IS350, they can opt to add-on the F-Sport package, which includes larger brakes, a sports tuned suspension system, a modified grille (and taillights); an intake sound generator; a black headliner; aluminum sports pedals; and F-sport badging throughout the vehicle. This package runs between $3,200 to $3,400, depending upon the model selected.

So for those who want the sporty look, but not necessarily the performance, they can opt for the IS250. And for those seeking a combination of luxury and performance, the IS350 fills that niche, especially, when throwing in the F-sports package.

Cons: The IS luxury, compact sedan has a higher starting point than two of the newest entries in the segment, the Audi A3 and the Mercedes-Benz CLA, which both have starting prices near $30,000. Besides the price, this compact’s interior space leaves minimum legroom for rear occupants. In fact, when the IS AWD is selected, the driver’s side legroom is severely limited, as a result of a lack space due to the engineering design.

Furthermore, it’s shocking that Lexus has a 6-cylinder engine that produces less horsepower and mpg than many of today’s more powerful and fuel-efficient 4-cylinder turbos. It’s time for Lexus to follow the crowd, offering a fuel-efficient turbo that doesn’t require premium fuel.

Lastly, it’s too bad the IS isn’t available with a manual transmission. This would be great for the F-sport package, heightening the fun-to-drive factor. While the design is sporty, many critics won’t say the same for the performance, especially when the F-package is added on the slower IS250. That just doesn’t make sense to us, especially when the goal is to emphasize performance, which the IS250 lacks, when compared to the IS350.

Verdict:  The solid built IS is a worthy luxury contender in the growing compact, luxury segment. Unlike some of the competitors in the segment, it has a proven track record in the quality arena. The IS also offers a number of luxury and high-tech amenities that easily reminds one that they are buying a Lexus. Furthermore, Lexus even offers their pseudo-version of a high-performance vehicle, with the F-package. While it’s not Caddy’s V-package, BMW’s M-package or the Mercedes-Benz’s AMG package, it's still a worthy start for a brand that is trying to drive more toward the lane of BMW, offering a more engaging driving experience in a luxury brand.

Competition: Audi A3; BMW 2-Series; Cadillac ATS; Infiniti Q40; and Mercedes-Benz CLA

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