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Headline:FastSaloons.com Lexus IS250 Sport Road TestDate:14/07/2006
Source:FastSaloons.com   (Click Here for more details).OurRoadTests
   
Review:FastSaloons.com Lexus IS250 Sport Road Test  
 
 

FastSaloons.com
Review

 

Lexus IS250 Sport



Our Thoughts
Following up a great car is always tough. Can Lexus improve on their IS ?
 
   
 

Background

The original Lexus IS has been widely regarded as a good car. The only criticisms tended to be that it was perhaps a little under powered, apart from that though things were pretty good.

Back in November (2005) Lexus introduced the second generation IS with the initial model the IS 250 (and its SE SE-L variants). Subsequently the IS250 Sport and IS220d were launched in January and finally the IS220d sport was launched in April.

Exterior Styling

The first thing to strike me about of our test car is the colour, called Mesa red, an almost maroon colour that suddenly sparks into life when the sun shines on it. Its certainly not my favourite colour but it is distinctive and on a positive note, the new IS shape can carry it off. In fact the new shape seems to suit most colours that Iíve seen it in. In total there are ten colours to choose from with four classed as Ďcharacterí premium quality paint finishes: Glacial Blue, Ice Blue, Sargasso Green and this colour Mesa Red.

The new car is not surprisingly longer (175mm) and wider (75mm) than its predecessor. Front and Rear track is also wider 40mm at the front and 50mm at the rear.

 


Lexus moves on the IS with enhanced looks
The styling follows the same design ethos as the Lexus GS although as an overall design is far more accomplished in my mind. From every angle the car looks dynamic and purposeful. Immediately obvious is the deep front spoiler with the inset fog lights. From there your eyes follow the strong bonnet lines that lead from the top of the grille outwards to the A pillars and beyond to the rear of the car. The effect slims the top of the car and reinforces the wider sporty stance of the car below the glass line. Both front and rear arches are flared again enhancing the effect.

From the side I think the shape works better on the IS than on the GS mainly because the styling Ė the use of convex and concave surfaces is more pronounced. I also like the way the bodywork of the door rises at the rear to complete the lines, and to produce the triangular piece of glass which adds another dash of dynamism. Importantly the carís short overhangs front and rear also communicate the right impression.

The rear was where I felt the GS shape was let down the most. On the IS I actually think it is one of the cars best angles. Again this is due to the stronger styling, if you mentally take these away the rear looks quite bloated add them back and you can see how they really work to make the back as dynamic as the front and sides. I particularly like the way the rear lights stick out and emphasise the boot line. Twin pipes are almost mandatory these days and the IS has these in the form of pleasingly large oval ones.

One aspect that you donít initially notice but once you do, you canít get out of your head. (skip this paragraph if you donít want it to! - the door mirrors which are actually huge. In fact they look even bigger from inside the car and if you look at them in isolation they appear to be too big for the car. However they somehow work or are lost in the whole package (well until you notice them that is!)

On a technical note the car has a drag coefficient of 0.27 making it one of the most aerodynamically efficient cars in its segment. Interestingly enough the door mirrors are mentioned as a contributing factor in this, along with flush-fitting windscreen, Ďduck tailí profile of the boot and finally Ďstrategic underbody elementsí. Another achievement that Lexus has managed is a substantial reduction in the gaps between the panels Ė of particular note is the bumper to panel gap has be cut to just 0.35mm.

 

Interior Styling

  Inside the IS the design continues, our test car had a light ivory coloured leather interior. The dash and doors is split between a dark grey upper and light ivory lower. This works well and as Lexus has continued its attention to reducing the gaps between the different components the fit is very good.

 

Good cabin, console looks better with sat nav.
I particularly like the way the upper part of the dash extends down and the attention to detail of the front side air vents. Which are housed on the dash, but thanks to their shape and a recess in the internal door padding, make the two parts fit together in a far more pleasing manner.

Things arenít all wonderful however and it may be a sign of the times but I felt that the central console looked a bit cheap without the optional sat navigation which fits in place of the Stereo and heating controls. This panel looked a bit out of place in the car.

Another aspect of the centre console that I didnít like was on the left hand side of the hazard warning button. It is a safety feature, the passenger airbag indicator. Now Iíll be the first to admit that the ability to switch on and off the passenger airbag is a very useful function and as I found to my own cost an expensive problem if the car doesnít have it. My own Mini Cooper doesnít have this feature and so I had to fill in three pieces of paperwork before BMW would switch it off and even then had to pay over £100 for the privilege. So Iím not complaining about the facility, just the cheap 1980ís style indicator which is continually on. Basically the indicator is a piece of red Perspex with a light behind it. Itís ever such a small thing to moan about but the indicator is too big and clunky and really did annoy me.

All the IS models feature keyless entry and keyless go. The later allows you to start the car. As long as key is detected within the car it will start the ignition and start the car if clutch pedal is also depressed. If you exit the car with the key and the engine is on Ė it will bleep a lot at you Ė not sure if you walk far enough away it will stop the engine? Uses an engine start / stop button.

The keyless entry system, now in its third generation, works by detecting the key when it is between 0.7m to 1m of the car. At this point the smart key communicates with a transmitter built into the door handle and matches identity codes. A touch of the handle is all that is needed to unlock the door, or, when leaving the vehicle to lock it. At night the key also activate the ISís sequential entry lighting: first puddle lights integrated into the bottom of the door mirrors; followed by the main interior dome light.

As features go I would not pay extra for it but given it is provided as standard I reckon it is pretty good. You do actually get used to it, very quickly and after a while normal keys do begin to look very dated.

Like in the GS the car utilises LED lights map lights in the roof. Conventional bulbs are used for the main interior lights. The gearstick puddle light and front footwell lights also use LED lighting.

Continuing with lighting, the dash utilises Optitron technology which consists of a dimly lit white ring set inside the rev counter and speedometer. In addition to the white light it can also change to a brighter amber and red light. On the revometer amber is used to indicate optimum revs c. 5,000rpm and red is used to indicate maximum revs. On the speedometer, orange indicates the first speed limit (c. 80mph) and red indicates a secondary speed limit (c. 100mph).

Ergonomically the Steering wheel wins high praise, it utilised very soft leather and feels great in your hands. The gear stick scores lower and in our test car tilted heavily over to the right. This firstly looks a little odd but also doesnít feel quite right in your hand. The stick action is ok but not great. The gear changes themselves feel fine.

Another ergonomic issue is the drinks holder in centre console which is just behind the gear stick. If you plan to use it will you are driving youíll be just about ok with a coke can in it. However a bottle of water would seriously impede any gear change. On a plus point the driverís door has a flip out pocket, with a contoured bit suitable for a bottle. The driverís door arm rest is comfortable and the handle fits well into the hand. On the flip side the controls on the driverís door are a bit awkward to get at because of that door handle. This is mainly to do with the door styling as the surface is angled down and outwards.

I was really impressed with the stereo which is very good and the standard system uses 13 speakers. The bass and overall depth of clarity is superior to that found in most cars. It also features an MP3 capable multichanger located in the centeral console and also an auxiliary input located in the center arm rest perfect for storing your MP3 player. An optional Mark Levinson system is also available but as the standard system is so good it hardly seems necessary.

Finally, the seats the car has are electric, heated and cooled

 
 

Ride, Handling & Steering

  Lexus has thoroughly approached dynamics with the new IS. The car features a double wishbone front suspension and an advanced multilink system at the rear. Without going into the actual specific this means better steering and steering feel, increased negative camber on the outside wheel when cornering, less body roll, better high speed stability. Aluminium is used throughout the suspension to decrease weight and increase rigidity.

 


Baby Lexus handles well and rewards.
The sport that we tested has its own suspension setup which includes stiffer spring and damper settings Ė accounting for the 10mm drop in the cars height and improving handling and reducing body roll further.

The IS also uses a new speed-sensitive, electronic assisted power steering system. This is more fuel efficient, noise free and thanks to the location (ahead of the front axle) gives smooth, linear feedback to the driver. The system works like conventional systems using vehicle and engine speed to determine the amount of assistance. However the system also uses steering angle and torque to further determine the amount of assistance required at any time. In addition the number of turns has been reduced from 3.0 turns in the previous model to just 2.91 turns (lock-to-lock) in the new one. The result of this is that the turning radius of the car is now a class-leading 5.1m.

Sitting in the car the first thing you are conscious of is that you seem to sit very low in the car. This is thanks to the carís high window line. The result is a feeling of security and it makes the car feel lower too, increasing the sporty feel.

So how does the IS drive? Well, it handles well, comfortably taking corners at speed. The car maintains its shape and remains tidy and in the dry at least does not rely on any of its stability / traction control systems. A high speed roundabout test reveals that the car maintains its line very well; and sharp changes of direction also reveal the absence of unwanted roll.

Iíve already mentioned the steering wheel, praising itís ergonomics. This isnít merely skin deep though, excuse the pun, it really adds to your feel when driving and thankfully in practice its nicely weighted, meaning you can feel the resistance and most importantly its not overly light or assisted.

Overall this meaning the car feels really good on the move. The baby Lexus is really a car you can attack a road with. A car that is more than just a comfortable mode of transport, it can actually satisfy a driver.

Another important note for the people who like to drive unabated is that unlike the GS in the IS the traction control does for the most part stay off when it is switched off.

 

Engine, Gearbox and Performance

  The IS250 gets a 2500cc 24-valve V6 petrol engine. The engine produces 204bhp at 6,400rpm, and 186lb ft at 4,800rpm. Official 0-62mph time is 8.1 seconds and the car has a top speed of 144mph.

 


Characterful 2.5-litre V6. Nice Legs - Shame about the face.
The engine features D-4 direct injection. This improves power and increases economy. The system controls both injection timing and volume and uses high pressure fan-nozzle slit injectors (improve fuel-air mixture).

The engine also benefits from a two-stage Acoustic Control Induction System (ACIS) this allows the length of the intake manifold to be altered dependant on engine speed and throttle valve angle. The effect of the ACIS is to increase power output at all engine speeds.

Finally, the engine also features dual variable valve timing (VVT-i) on both intake and exhaust camshafts which also significantly improves engine performance as well as benefiting low end and top end torque performance.

In practice the engine pulls well. Its behaviour is not frantic and far more torquey in its delivery. The car revs to a maximum of 6,750rpm and the power delivery is strong throughout. The engine itself sounds good and whilst Lexus majors on refinement they have given the car some character.

Transmission wise the IS250 come with either a 6-speed manual, as fitted to our test car, or a 6-speed automatic.

In practice the manual box is nice to used and the shifts are very smooth. One thing that did take some getting used to was its behaviour at certain speeds. On slow or fast changes the box worked well with seamless changes. The thing I found tricky was ones with medium throttle when the power tended to come in quite harshly after the change. This was something that obviously improved when I got used to the power deliver/ gearing but for a while seemed a bit odd.

 

 

Practicality

  The cars cabin is spacious with good legroom. The boot equates to 378ltrs which isnít massive, the packaging is useful though, with two underfloor compartments.

 

Small but clever boot
Economy in the IS250 is officially 20.9mpg urban, 36.7mpg extra urban and a combined figure of 28.8mpg. Uncannily our test carís average for one tank was bang on that figure 28.8mpg with an average speed of 51mph pretty impressive. Over the full period of just under 6,000 miles the figure was a slightly higher 29.4mpg. Interestingly this is one of the first cars that weíve tested that actually got close to the official figures let alone beat them.

Having said that, a sub-30mpg figure is not brilliant figure. If economy is your main priority then the IS220d is a better bet its figures are 35.8mpg urban, 52.3mpg extra urban and a combined figure of 44.8mpg.

Emissions wise the car scores 231g/km (168g/km in IS220d)

Safety wise the IS features a front passenger dual-chamber airbag, designed to inflate and create a central depression, which effectively cradles the passengerís face. The car also features driver and passenger knee airbags, large seat-mounted front side airbags (Torso Abdomen Pelvis (TAP)) which are 30% bigger than previous designs. Curtain shield airbags run the length of the interior are also fitted. In total eight airbags are fitted as standard to all IS models.

The new IS is fitted with Adaptive front-lighting system, which swivels one projector (both on high and low beam) of the bi-xenon headlamps through up to 15 degrees, helping to illuminate a bend as the driver steers into it. The new bi-xenon headlights now have four high-beam bulbs, widening the high beam pattern from mid to long range.

 

Conclusion

  The Lexus is a great car, it certainly makes it high up in our charts of the best saloons. It combines traditional Lexus values with a real driversí car. The car is well specified both in terms of kit you can see and technology you canít. It competes directly with BMW, Audi and Mercedes and punches a good fight. In the looks department too itís no donkey, and is a real credible alternative.

Prices start at £22,445 for the IS250. The IS250 SE costs a further £3,000 (£25,4450). The car we tested the IS250 sport costs £26,545, above this car is the SE-L model which costs £28,045 and comes with virtually every option.

For the record the IS220d is price just under the IS250: IS220d £22,200; IS220d SE £25,200; IS220d Sport £26,925; IS220d SE-L £27,800.

 
Neil
 
 
Related Links:         



Our review of the Lexus GS430


Full Set of Photos taken during the test


Lexus's UK website

Quick Section Links:         
1. Background
2. Exterior Styling
3. Interior Styling
4. Ride, Handling and Steering
5. Engine, Gearbox and Performance
6. Practicality
7. Conclusion









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