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MOTORNET: Sexy Lexy? – Lexus IS250

Sexy Lexy?

SCOOP MOTORNET with Karl Ferguson
Images by Neil Mackenzie -

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“You know, that really is a good looking car,” my boss said rather wistfully as he stared out my office window at the car-park five floors below. “In fact, it’s probably the first Lexus I would seriously consider buying.”

He was commenting of course on the IS250, the baby sedan from Lexus. I was reviewing it at the time, ergo it was parked in my spot in the office car-park. Love of the Lexus was quite an admission from a man who drives a Rover 75 (bought new), has owned Morgan’s previously and is not so much a self-confessed Anglophile as a full-blooded Pom and proud of it. But he is certainly right about one thing – the new Lexus IS250 sedan is one good looking car. I might even go so far as to say it’s sexy.

This is not something usually said about Lexus. Well built and reliable, yes. Comfortable and technologically advanced, check. Sexy, no. The previous IS250 was a good car, but a bit ordinary in the looks department. Like many of its Lexus brethren, it lacked distinction or style. The IS250, by contrast, has originality in spades. From its sculptured front-end to its taut rear and curvy hips, it looks both special and yet still recognizably a Lexus.

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Just as importantly, it’s also a good drive – thanks in large part to the fact that it is driven by its rear wheels. Push it in the tight and twisty stuff and it will reward with its impressive grip and relatively neutral turn in. Steering, fairly lifeless in the bigger Lexus siblings, is actually quite responsive and provides a reasonable degree of feedback. Neither do the handling characteristics corrupt the ride which still manages to cosset passengers like a true sporting luxury sedan should.

Technologically, like you might expect, the IS250 is cutting edge. Thankfully, the cabin still manages to be both comfortable and welcoming, and avoids the sterile trap that some car makers suffer from when technology is too much of a focus. But it’s not perfect mind. I found the proximity key – which allows drivers to simply have it on their person, automatically unlocking the door once in proximity – to be downright annoying. The best place for a key is an ignition slot, which the Lexus lacks, and I found I was always looking for a place to stash it other than a pocket where it could dig painfully into ones flesh.

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Interior space wise, the IS250 is not huge, but is comparable to a BMW 3-Series. The pews upfront are comfy and never feel cramped, but the steeply raked C-pillars have impacted on headroom in the rear which is only adequate. Similarly, three blokes across the backseat is a real ask – best left for two.

Standard equipment is first rate. The more expensive of the two models on offer, the Ltd at just over $80k, has leather upholstery, cruise control, climate air-conditioning, a brilliant 13 speaker sound system and electric everything. Special features include an automatic rear-sunscreen blind, heated and ventilated seats, a pre-crash system, and paddle shifters for those who like to do it themselves. They’re actually quite good to boot.

Of course, all that kit does tend to add pounds around the middle. And that equals less spirited performance. At a fraction over 1600kg, the IS250 needs everyone of its 153kW to move the mass. Not that it feels slow, just that the engine needs to work. Which isn’t a bad thing as the nicely tuned 2.5 V6 with variable valve timing does like to rev and sounds quite nice doing it. Performance is respectable rather than staggering. NZ Autocar recorded a 0-100 km/h time of 7.9 seconds. Not super quick but still faster than a BMW 325i on the same test.

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The lack of cubic metres under the bonnet is helped by a really very good six speed gearbox. It’s tremendously responsive and always feels sporty even if actual speed doesn’t necessarily bear out the sensation. No doubt it helps the IS250 in the fuel economy stakes too. With mostly round town driving, I was recording 11.2 litres per 100 kilometres – a figure that could no doubt be improved upon with a lighter right foot.

So, well built, well equipped, competitively priced and damn fine to look at – the IS250 is definitely a winner for Lexus. You can even pick up a manual Sport variant (albeit with less kit) for a smidgen under $70k making it an even more attractive proposition. Let’s just hope that somewhere in the not too distant future, Lexus see fit to equip the IS with something a little bigger under the bonnet. It can only improve the appeal.

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