In 2001, Lexus gave us the wonderful IS300 with the infamous 2JZ engine. When the IS300 was all the rage amongst the younger enthusiast crowd, I was a mere teenager who really wasn’t able to have any appreciation for it. A few years after I got my license, the 2007 IS250/350 were introduced, and what a breathtaking car it was! I always assumed that the IS250 was underpowered, but the 350 just flew.
In 2001, Lexus gave us the wonderful IS300 with the infamous 2JZ engine. When the IS300 was all the rage amongst the younger enthusiast crowd, I was a mere teenager who really wasn’t able to have any appreciation for it. A few years after I got my license, the 2007 IS250/350 were introduced, and what a breathtaking car it was! I always assumed that the IS250 was underpowered, but the 350 just flew. It may never have been at the top of its class, but I was raised in a family where Toyota products were essentially worshipped, so I always had a soft spot for it. When I contacted Lexus to discuss the all-new 2014 IS’ arrival on the press fleet, I was told that I absolutely had to try out the outgoing model. I happily obliged, and the 2013 Lexus IS250 AWD Special Edition turned up in my garage for the week.
Just over six years later and at the end of its model cycle, the IS250 is still amongst the best-looking cars on the road. It’s gorgeous. My tester was finished in a fantastic Matador Red Mica, and it stood out in the sea of beige Corollas and Sentras in my condominium parking garage. The interior of the “Special Edition” was finished with two-tone leather seats in black and orange. While it didn’t exactly match the red exterior, Lexus somehow made it work. The “Special Edition” is a $6,200 package that essentially honours the outgoing generation of IS. Adding to the base AWD car, it comes with the likes of heated/ventilated leather seats, unique body cladding, HIDs, and 17″ wheels with a more premium look.
Being in the IS250 is a wonderful feeling. The interior is bright and all the functions are easy to access. The stereo, while not quite up to par with the Mark Levinson applications in the higher-end Lexus models, is adequate and provides great sound quality throughout the cabin. The engine note sounds great inside the car when you stomp on the throttle, and in typical Lexus fashion, is library-levels of quiet when cruising. No surprises there.
The engine, however, a 2.5L 6-cylinder, is where the IS250’s issues begin. With just over 200-horsepower and a 6-speed automatic transmission, the IS seems to be right on par with the Acura TSX. However, when you factor in the fact that the IS250 is slowed down by all-wheel-drive and the TSX has a slick 6-speed manual that makes it feel a lot peppier than it is, the Acura seems to take the cake. The IS’ paddle-shifters are a great companion to the automatic, but they’re far too slow to respond. When combined with how I feel about the powertrain of the car, it’s simply a case of more bark than bite.
On the other hand, when there’s snow on the ground, the IS250’s all-wheel-drive system begins to shine. The car is an absolute blast, whether you’re only trying to get yourself and a couple of loved ones home in the white stuff, or getting it a bit skittish in an empty parking lot at night. The electric power steering gives you the perfect amount of control in whatever situation you land yourself in. The baby Lexus may not exactly win any races (seriously, it won’t), but the handling makes up for its straight-line shortfalls.
Another area the IS seems to be lacking is fuel economy. With the manual transmission-equipped TSX, I managed to get well under 10L/100km. With the IS250 AWD though, combined economy couldn’t be brought under 11L/100km, even on the recommended premium fuel. I understand and respect that a full-time all-wheel-drive system sucks some fuel economy out of a car, but this was a bit worse than I expected. I had better numbers with both the GS F-Sport and the new ES.
All in all, I definitely am glad I got some seat time with a car I have always liked. I still like it, but I’m having that whole “never meet your childhood hero” effect. The Lexus IS was never a dream vehicle of mine, but I definitely did come away slightly underwhelmed. That being said, the upcoming 2014 model looks especially promising; promising to a point where I seriously need to drive it. If anything, spending a week with this outgoing model lowered the bar for the new one, so it should be an interesting perspective.
2013 Lexus IS250 AWD Special Edition Gallery