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The logical alternative. Image by James Jenkins.

The logical alternative
Lexus is now firmly established in Europe. The new IS 250 takes the fight to the 3 Series and A4 with more vigour than ever.

 



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| A Week at the Wheel | Cambs, England | Lexus IS 250 |

When Lexus first launched in the late eighties, it was the upper echelons of the executive market that were targeted. Over time the targets of Lexus' not inconsiderable arsenal were lowered until inevitably the small executive saloon market was in its sights. Here, the long time established contestants from the usual suspect German manufacturers were enjoying a sales boom and it was only natural for Lexus to want to nudge in to the trough.

Lexus' first effort, in the guise of the previous IS, was a very fine car; not quite a match for the more seasoned rivals, but a worthy contender. Here, with the second generation IS model Lexus aims to eradicate the shortcomings and truly bring the fight to what is an ever increasing market niche.

Styling has been evolved with Europe in mind. Smooth rakish lines and complex concave and convex shapes are easy on the eye and give the Lexus an appropriate air of class. Panel gaps of as little as 0.35mm reinforce the ideal of quality. It works very well overall and is a reflection of the need to succeed in Europe and the US as well as Japan.

The car has grown in most aspects to offer improved interior space, a wider track for improved handling and significantly more stiffness in the shell for further enhanced dynamics and safety. The interior has been revamped too, apparently using techniques favoured by furniture makers, and featuring improved levels of design, fit and finish. Equipment levels are generous as you'd expect with the ubiquitous 13-speaker hi-fi soothing the ears as the car takes care of the body and mind.

The chronograph style dials of the original IS have gone, which is something of a shame in our opinion as they were a unique feature and we felt they worked well. One can only assume that buyers' feedback was less positive and Lexus reacted accordingly by reverting to a much more conventional instrument panel. There are still some nice touches though. For example, a central band of light on the rev counter illuminates as the engine speed swings around to the red line. It's a sign of the V6 engine's manners that without this feature it would be all too easy to kiss the limiter.

This all-new power unit boasts as many technical features and innovations as any of its rivals. As the model name suggests, it's a 2.5-litre in a vee-configuration with direct injection and variable valve timing. Thanks to its aluminium construction it weighs no more than the old model's 2.0-litre unit, but produces 204bhp at 6,400rpm, a healthy leap relative to the old car. The enlarged capacity pays real dividends in torque as well with 186lb.ft (252Nm) available at what seems a high figure of 4,800rpm. However, the variable valve timing ensures that the torque is spread much more evenly than that figure suggests.

In practice, the engine is as refined and subdued as you'd expect a Lexus to be; near silent at idle with no sign of its running other than the rev counter sitting at a rock solid level. Moving away, the auto 'box combines with the engine to provide an almost eerie step off and the shifts up and down the 'box are equally seamless. A Sports mode and column-mounted paddles enable keener drivers to extend the engine more and control their own shifts, aided by a large clear gear indicator in the centre of the dash.

The chassis feels like it's setup somewhere between a standard and M Sport suspended BMW 3 Series. It is firm, but also well damped and strikes a very good balance between ride and handling. Ride quality around town is good and body control remained solid even when extended on some of the less forgiving sections of road we test on - some of which have found M Sport suspended BMWs a little lacking in terms of compliance.

Ultimate handling on ideal roads does fall short of an M Sport 3 Series though, as the steering lacks the same degree of precision, and the softer suspension doesn't inspire or offer the same dynamic thrills as the German car, the Lexus understeering a little earlier and not quite reaching the same degree of composure and balance. However, many buyers would never notice this and what may be interpreted in some cases as shortcomings are actually positives in this context.

Equally impressive are the levels of comfort and refinement. A drag coefficient of 0.27, courtesy of the carefully crafted lines and underbody coverage, pays dividends in terms of economy (Lexus claims 31mpg for this model on the Combined Cycle) and minimal wind noise. It also plays a part in the impressive 141mph maximum speed.

The Lexus IS 250 is a difficult car to get excited about, but it's a very easy one to appreciate. The thought and execution shine through in many aspects and the degree of engineering quality and precision are equally evident. Many will buy the Lexus because it offers an alternative to the almost default choice of a small German saloon and the negative connotations some of those cars can suffer. However, it isn't difficult to envisage that it also has the all-round ability to convert owners from those other marques on merit. Backed up by the promise of premium service from a dealer network and rock solid reliability, it represents a very solid all-round package.
2007 Lexus IS range overview

ModelUK (£ on-the-road)Ireland: (€ on-the-road)
Lexus IS 250£23,960€46,650
Lexus IS 250 Automatic£24,865€49,185
Lexus IS 250 SE£26,610n/a
Lexus IS 250 SE Automatic£27,515n/a
Lexus IS 250 Sport£27,710€53,510
Lexus IS 250 SE-L£28,710n/a
Lexus IS 250 SE-L Automatic£29,615n/a
Lexus IS 250 Executiven/a€50,930
Lexus IS 250 Executive Automaticn/a€54,025
Lexus IS 250 Sports Automaticn/a€55,905


Dave Jenkins - 13 Jul 2007









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2007 Lexus IS specifications: (250 SE-L Auto)
Price: £29.615 on-the-road.
0-62mph: 8.4 seconds
Top speed: 141mph
Combined economy: 31.0mpg
Emissions: 214g/km
Kerb weight: 1625kg

Full technical specifications

2007 Lexus IS. Image by James Jenkins.2007 Lexus IS. Image by James Jenkins.2007 Lexus IS. Image by James Jenkins.2007 Lexus IS. Image by James Jenkins.2007 Lexus IS. Image by James Jenkins.

2007 Lexus IS. Image by James Jenkins.2007 Lexus IS. Image by James Jenkins.2007 Lexus IS. Image by James Jenkins.2007 Lexus IS. Image by James Jenkins.2007 Lexus IS. Image by James Jenkins.



2007 Lexus IS. Image by James Jenkins.
 

2007 Lexus IS. Image by James Jenkins.
 

2007 Lexus IS. Image by James Jenkins.
 

2007 Lexus IS. Image by James Jenkins.
 

2007 Lexus IS. Image by James Jenkins.
 

2007 Lexus IS. Image by James Jenkins.
 






 

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