2009 Lexus IS250 AWD

A suit for every occasion

2009 Lexus IS250 AWD
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Imagine there was a suit that was versatile enough for you to wear it anywhere and everywhere you wanted. Whether you were attending a first date or funeral, keg party or charity function, you would feel confident that your attire suited your surroundings while offering all of the comfort and versatility you crave. This is precisely how I felt while driving the Lexus IS250.

FAST FACTS

1. The IS250 is powered by a 2.5-liter V6 with 204 hp and 185 ft-lbs of torque.

2. Fuel economy is rated at 21/29 mpg (city/highway)

3. Traction Control (TRAC) and Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) come standard with an optional all-wheel drive system.

Whether pulling up to the office or the opera, onlookers will be suitable impressed by the sleek, sophisticated lines of the IS and acknowledge that you have indeed arrived. No one will comment about your lack of environmental concern or apparent need to overcompensate for being poorly endowed. No matter what environment you may enter, the IS can assimilate seamlessly by looking suave, sporty and stylish without being pretentious.

MODEST 2.5-LITER V6 DELIVERS 204 HORSEPOWER

Boasting a fuel-efficient 2.5-liter V6 mated to either a six-speed manual or automatic Super ECT gearbox, output is rated at 204 hp and 185 ft-lbs of torque, which should amply meet the needs of most drivers. Engaging Sport mode quickens the pace, but those wishing for more aggressive performance should look towards the IS350 or IS-F. Be warned, however, as doing so will be at the cost of both fuel efficiency and affordability, as the 250 is the least expensive avenue into the Lexus lineup.

Fuel economy is rated at 21 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway with the automatic, which compensates for the fact that the 250 can feel underpowered at times. (AWD manual transmission models get 18/26 mpg). The IS250 is also available in all-wheel-drive (as on our tester), but that option is only offered in conjunction with the automatic transmission, which takes an extra half a second or so to hit 60 mph. Fuel economy for AWD models is 20/26 mpg (city/hwy).

IMPRESSIVE HANDLING, BRAKING AND INTERIOR

While acceleration may not be as potent as other options in the entry-level sport sedan market, the 250 more than makes up for this shortcoming by offering impeccable braking and handling, in addition to one of the finest interiors I have experienced in this segment. The fine ivory-colored leather seating and black door panels and dash along with brushed aluminum accents complimented the Smoky Granite Mica exterior incredibly well.

My lone grievance with the interior is that the foot wells are narrowed by the transmission tunnel, which is inconvenient and annoying for the driver.

The Lexus IS250 may be an entry-level sport sedan, but does not skimp on the luxury. The front bucket seats offer excellent support while the brushed aluminum pedals provide exceptional feel to what the car is doing.

The IS walks a fine tightrope, successfully finding a critical balance that will please those who crave something sporty and luxurious at the same time. Somehow it manages to offer an impressive amount of everything while compromising very little.

The options list offers such upgrades as adaptive bi-xenon HID headlights, heated and ventilated front seats, a Mark Levinson sound system with a CD/DVD changer, navigation with an integrated backup camera, cruise control and Bluetooth capabilities. An X package is also available exclusively on RWD models, which also includes the addition of bigger wheels, high-performance tires, a firmer suspension, aluminum pedals and a front lip spoiler.

AWD AND ELECTRONIC AIDS MAKE FOR SURE-FOOTED PERFORMANCE

The combination of AWD, Traction Control (TRAC) and Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) mean that the IS is sure-footed and confident throughout the various weather and road conditions I managed to experience over the course of the week. Additional safety features include dual front airbags, front-seat side airbags and full-length head curtain airbags.

With all of the safety initiatives in place, there isn’t really an option for funny business in the 250. When push comes to shove, it places luxury over performance, but this shouldn’t concern the majority of the buying public. Having the potential to spin the rear tires off the line or experience the exhilaration of stepping out the rear-end around corners may be priorities for some prospective buyers of their next sport sedan, but that isn’t what the entry-level IS is all about. Those seeking such a stirring experience will likely stray towards sportier German options like the new Mercedes-Benz C300 or BMW 328i rather than the Japanese luxury brand known for being somewhat conservative.

And if you’re looking for an AWD model like my tester, then getting the rear-end loose is quite the opposite of what you’re after in a car.

THE VERDICT

The IS250 and 350 were launched in time for the 2006 model year in order to phase out the original IS. Launched in 2001, the IS300 was a departure from the traditionally stuffy models available from Lexus at that time by offering sportier more dynamic driving capabilities, rear-wheel-drive and an optional manual transmission. The 250 and 350 have evolved to become more sophisticated, luxurious sedans, which still keep the driver in mind.

The IS250 demonstrates that entry-level luxury doesn’t have to be a compromise and at a base price of $34,785 it really is a suit for all occasions.

PLUS

Interior and exterior fit and finish
Affordable entry-level luxury
Impeccable handling

MINUS

Narrow foot well
Not-overly peppy
No option of manual transmission AND all-wheel-drive

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