What it is about
It is hard not to take notice of the fresh Lexus onslaught on the local market with a complete range of new cars which all feature striking designs. The model that stands out most, and which is also the brand's "bread and butter" derivative, is the IS250.
This car is Lexus's main weapon against the German gang as it attempts to steal sales from the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class.
The IS is an all-new car and takes over from a model which has been around for seven years but which was never really competitive to take on the Germans.
However, the new model is not only bigger and better looking but also stiffer, making it a more realistic rival.
Currently one engine derivative, a 2.5-litre V6 is available, but buyers can choose from two trim levels. Our test car was the range-topping SE version.
Externally, the IS is beautifully finished, with flowing lines and tight panel gaps. On the inside fit and finish are good too but the perceivable quality isn't quite yet on par with that of the Audi A4, which we regard has one of the best interiors.
Furthermore the interior appears still a bit "Japanese" and are there one or two elements, such as the digital clock, which reminds of its Toyota genes. The flashy plastic centre console is also a bit too much for our liking.
One of the IS250's biggest selling points is its comprehensive list of standard features, of which most are usually optional extras on its German rivals. The SE model is super luxurious and has all the bells and whistles one can dream of
Keyless entry is standard with a start/stop button on the dashboard, and the interior is trimmed in smooth leather.
There are one-touch electric windows all-round, electrically heated mirrors, dual zone automatic climate control, eight-way adjustable electric seats with lumbar support, and a multi-function steering wheel that is manually adjustable for reach and height.
Cruise control is standard, controlled on the steering column, and there is an on-board computer displayed in the instrument binnacle with various functions controlled from the steering wheel.
The SE model rides on 17 inch alloy wheels shod with 225/45 tyres on the front and 245/45 tyres on the rear.
Furthermore the SE designation comes with park distance control front and rear with a rear-facing camera. Other key features include adaptive HID headlights with headlight washers and automatic levelling. Not only are the front seats able to heat up but they also come with coolers, which is really useful.
Then there's a 14-speaker digital surround sound system with a 6-CD front-loader, while you can also connect your iPod too. Satellite navigation with a 17.8 cm LCD touch-screen system and voice recognition is standard too.
The IS250 is powered by a 2.5-litre quad cam 24-valve V6 engine, which develops 153 kW at 6 400 r/min and 252 Nm of torque at 4 800 r/min.
The torque curve is very flat with virtually all its torque available from 2 000 r/min all the way to 6 000 r/min. The free-revving V6 is refined but when you are in need of a bit of "oomph" it is a bit flat.
Our test car had the six-speed automatic transmission, with well-judged ratios, which drives power to the rear wheels. This transmission is quite smooth and actually suits the IS very well.
The IS sits on a track that's 40mm wider than its predecessor at the front and 50mm at the back, which is good for the car's dynamic stability. There's a new double wishbone suspension up front and a multi-link set-up at the rear.
In general the IS offers good handling with great body control, while the accuracy and feel of the electric power steering is acceptable too.
Despite that that car's looks are sort of radical the driving experience is again on the conservative side.
Although the IS250 is also being portrayed as a "sport sedan" the ride is actually on the soft and comfortable side instead of sporty and nimble. It isn't quite as entertaining on the road as a 3 Series and a comfortable ride is more the name of the game.
Value for money
Interior a bit tacky
Rear space limited
The new IS250 is quite a competent car and does deserve a second look if you are in the market for a luxury sedan.
It definitely isn't dull either thanks to its eye-catching design. But it isn't quite able to match the driving experience of the Audi A4 or BMW 3 Series.
Although the IS250 is not a class-leader the car is good, classy and a good value for money alternative to the German squad.