2011 Lexus IS 250 First Impressions Review

Friday, March 4, 2011

2011 Lexus IS 250 By contributing editor David Colman
  • Revised airflow nets 0.28 cD and helps improve fuel economy
  • LED daytime running lights
  • Wheel and tire upgrade package transforms handling from ho-hum to almost exciting
  • Mo’ money for “F Sport” performance goodies
  • Rear seat space only comfortable for munchkins and smurfs
Just what is entry-level luxury, anyway? If you pony up $34,627 for a base model Lexus IS sedan, what do you get above and beyond having your basic transportation needs met? Since it’s based on the Toyota Camry platform, is an IS 250 worth the Lexus surcharge?
The answer is yes, and here are some of the reasons why it pays to buy this Lexus. To augment comfort and wear, a full leather interior is included as standard equipment on the IS. To silence unwanted noise, sheets of asphalt line the roof and floor pan. To energize your driving, a 6-speed, manual transmission puts this 2.5 liter, 204hp sedan on the same map as BMW’s 3 Series. To update the roadside presence of the IS, Lexus has fitted the 2011 version with projector bulb headlamps and LED brake, tail and license plate lights.
Stylists have so successfully revamped airflow around the sedan that its coefficient of drag now stands at a remarkably low 0.28. All these subtle touches may not become immediately apparent to you on first glance, but in the aggregate, they move the basic IS a couple of rungs higher on the luxo-ladder than before. If the previous version opened the portal to luxury living, the latest version whisks you through that door and plants you in the foyer. It’s not an LS460 by any means, but it’s a lot closer to prime cut Lexus than it used to be.
Standard wheel size fitment on the IS 250 is a 17 inch diameter, 10-spoke alloy carrying 225/45/17 front, and 245/45/17 rear, all-season rubber. If you want to bump the IS into BMW handling territory, be sure and opt for the bargain $830 set of “Liquid Graphite Finish” alloy wheels which transform the handling of the IS from prosaic to outstanding. These handsome wheels measure 8” x 18” front, and a hefty 8.5” x 18” rear. They carry 225/40/18 front and 255/40/18 rear Bridgestone RE 400 all-season tires, with shorter sidewalls than the 17 inch stock offerings. The upgraded wheels and tires are quicker to react to steering input, more stable in corners, and impart a welcome sporting demeanor to the IS 250.
Even better news awaits Lexus sports sedan pilots this coming year. Lexus will be offering a complete line of hi-performance goodies borrowed from the company’s ultra-quick IS-F street racer. The “F Sport Package” upgrades suspension and steering of the IS 250 to IS-F specification, and also includes the 18 inch wheel and tire upgrade. Additionally, the package brings you front and rear spoilers, F-spec heated sports seats, plus F-spec ID on the steering wheel, door sills and shift knob. Price for the F Sport Package is $2,440.
Until now, the base model IS 250 has offered a way for luxury acolytes to test the spa water without ordering the full treatment. Now that Lexus has decided to go after BMW by offering a bevy of sports options, the incentive to buy entry-level luxury has taken on new significance at Lexus.