The 2015 Lexus IS250 nails the sport-sedan fundamentals so hard, you forget all about mainstream mid-size cars after a block in the driver's seat.
That is a fact.
A pure-cornering, rev-loving fact. Drive position in the Daytona GTB/4-style tan seats is instantly flawless, as are the major pedal anc control inputs. Crank up the SXM, rotate to sport mode.... and never look back.
4K Drive Video - 2015 Lexus IS250 Review
The 2015 IS250 is such a fantastic sports sedan that we wanted to drive a 320i right afterward to confirm the RWD love for this Lexus was real.
The 2.5-liter V6 option versus the 3.5-liter six in the IS350, this IS250 is pooh-poohed by outsiders as underpowered at its $36,000 base pricing.
We're here to tell you that the IS250 is no wimpy variant. It is a strong engine that feels much stronger its 205HP on-paper specs. The engine is ultra smooth with a sonorous and smooth ping up the tachometer, a sport mode to pop off kickdowns on command, and a high-revving nature that loves a floored throttle.
The IS250 drivetrain is part of a playful and sophisticated overall package that we loved bombing around country roads, slicing highway fastlanes and zinging around town.
Whatever. Haters gonn' hate no matter what.
You should really know the truth via a fairly objective source. A week and a few hundred miles in the IS250 conclusively proves something big: a rear-drive entry luxury sedan tops any front-drive mid-size one for car guys and gals -- with or without massive horsepower.
We have a fun HD drive video and 120 photos of the superb IS250 to illustrate how and why the Lexus is worlds better than any midsize sedan. And why its engine outputs are a moot point thanks to the 2016 IS200 turbo.
The design of the IS looks bang-up-to-date, even with the new RC Coupes and next RX in the mix. The free-standing arrowhead LED element is still delightful, especially so on the white IS250 Crafted Line. The IS comes standard with those LEDs, of course, but the test car has the luxury pack and its twin LED head- and fog-lamps.
2015 Lexus IS250 Crafted Line
Individual projector elements form a double stack at the edges of the hoodline, with all four lit when high-beams are engaged. Automatic highbeams too -- silly feature to describe, but fantastically effective at keeping brights on or off without any manual flicks needed.
Individual LED brake light tubes glow a double L into the sharp, chiseled trunk and shoulder lines in almost a 3D way when lit. When out, the lamps are just dark red slashes in a sea of black flash and V6 exhaust bellow.
The IS really catches your eyes and attention in the summer Georgia light of day too. Perfectly rear-drive in its look; almost zero front overhang and a pert tush. From dead ahead it has a boxer's mean glare. From behind, progressively more chopped triangular forms look low, wide and expensive. From all sides, the design of the IS is a winner.
[That's good... as the 2016 IS will look exactly like this one, but come as the IS200t, IS300 AWD or IS350 options.]
As the base rear-drive IS, the test model shows pure lines all over its low ride height and menacing proportions. Just the the $925 wheel upgrade to 18-inchers in liquid graphite finish dresses the exterior up, but it still impresses.
This wheel is not as dark as some of the IS F Sport options, but looks sharp over the black/tan colors here. Liquid graphite for those rims is a light and bright silver during the day, but very moody and reflective by night.
The cabin is Ferrari-esque!? Something about black over a rich caramel tan leather just says V12 GT car, does it not? The sporty buckets have horizontal ribwork that is a more overt nod to the famous Daytona leathers, but the who comparison is lofty. =]
You sit low like the Daytona, too....
The IS makes its own opportunities inside. As you sit down and motor the seats and tilt/telescoping wheel around, you already feel pretty well set to drive hard. But then... even more, even better driving positions! Whirrrr... and find your butt-down, leaned-back bliss in here.
Good bolsters in the side keep you in place, as does the transmission tunnel and wide, enveloping center console. It feels fresh in terms of dashboard design and carved-out aesthetic, too.
The new Lexus infotainment controls at hand let the screen sink into the dashboard. It is a well-conceived control area, with Sport, Normal and Eco drive modes. Just brutally effective as you snick the gearstick into Drive.
Then the wheel and pedals do their salesmanship. A one-block wonder, this IS!
Tactile and heavy steering is full of feel and dead-accurate. Throttle seems true and analog, while brake and dead pedal are world-class.
The V6 starts singing for its supper right around 4000-rpm, so that is the ideal time to floor it.
Ideal time? The IS is always ready for full throttle. This six-speed auto plus high-revving V6 means it loves the redline. We enabled this behavior constantly to feel the great slack-free upshifts and intake acoustics.
Sounding unlike the Infiniti V6 lately, nor like any BMW turbo inline-six... the IS250 has the evocative howl of perhaps a first-gen Acura Legend, or BMW 325i from before....
All meant in praise. It's sonorous, I tell you!
We fell for its charms hard -- even thinking it was a 3.0-liter unit all week. Even in the video above... we got its stats wrong.
The 2015 IS250 runs a 2.5-liter V6 making 205 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. Sounds low, right?
Tis true. Whatever the output, it feels quick, fun and efficient -- a tempting gateway drug to the IS350, perhaps.
As noted, the V6 IS250 retires for 2016 in favor of the IS200t. All great news thanks to the turbo's extra 30 or so ponies, and much larger lump of torque. Should be even more of a blast to drive.
The turbo will not come in AWD, however. So a new model replaces the IS250 AWD for 2016: the IS300 AWD.
This engine actually has the stats we erroneously cited in the video above... 255HP via three liters.
A base powertrain, but this car is loaded in other ways. From $36,550 we climb to $44,555 including destination charge. Feels like great value versus Buick Regal GS.
The $3,500 luxury pack is the biggest hit to the invoice, but adds a dozen cabin upgrades that feel worth it. Then navigation system for $1900 and parking assist for $500 could be skipped for a $43k OTR tally.
The age-old argument of loaded mid-size V6 sedan vs entry luxury car is rich with nuance. Big-engine midsize owners will crow about quicker overall sprint paces and much cheaper prices. They might also brag on their larger back seats than RWD luxury cars or myriad other benefits.
But drive any Camry, any mid-size sedan back-to-back with the Lexus IS250. Be scientific, even!
The IS will win 98-percent of hearts/minds in just a brief spin. It's that night/day.
Lexus makes the IS250 and IS200t as a tempting low-hanging fruit not just out of the kindness of their Big L hearts, after all!
Some things are just better.
The rear-drive 2015 IS250 is one of them.