* Prices may differ from that shown
The current generation Lexus IS was introduced in 2005 and was aimed squarely at the BMW 3 Series, Audi A4 and Mercedes C-Class. In this company the car had to be good and in many ways in achieved this. My review is based on the 2007 model IS 250 SE. The sits ahead of the basic no trim model and the SE-L model.
The IS is a beautiful looking car (although standard spec only has 16" wheels and they do look too small) with good proportions and handsome from every angle. The interior is equally interesting in design. Whilst it doesn't have the flair of some of it's rivals it does have some nice design touches of it's own. My car has the Multimedia pack installed and it blends so well into the car's fascia.
The car drives as you would expect a Lexus to drive. Surefooted and smooth but never harsh. I did find the newer F-Sport model which has 18" wheels and sport suspension did prove a little out of character and didn't fit the brand well. I would certainly recommend the 250 over the 220 diesel as the cars are very different when compared. The 250 Auto is smooth and refined, quiet and relaxing whereas the Diesel only comes in the Manual box and has strange gearing, more engine noise and vibration. Too very different animals. The car does get a little fidgety over uneven surfaces and I've found the steering track to be pulled when on adverse camber. Despite Lexus persuading otherwise, the car doesn't offer a sporting drive so if you're wanting a real drivers machine I would opt for the BMW 3 Series. I would say Lexus is more Mercedes than BMW or Audi as the main car's characteristics are poised around comfort. Fuel economy isn't that great giving me an average of 29MPG of 60,000 miles. Long trips can give me nearly 40MPG but driving in town traffic hits the economy badly. Performance is good getting from 0-60 in just over 8 seconds anf the mid range pull is good if you stamp on the throttle. The Auto comes with a Power mode selector which comes in three modes. Normal, snow or power. The Snow mode dumbs down all the throttle responses for winter use and the power mode performs the opposite sitting in lower gears for longer. The Auto also has paddle shift control option which is usable when in sequential mode.
The equipment levels are very generous if you don't buy the basic car. As mentioned earlier, my car has the Multimedia package which comes with DVD touch screen navigation, 6 disc DVD changer with 5.1 surround sound, 14 speaker Mark Levinson sound system (which is awesome!), rear view camera with park assist, bluetooth hands free and a voice command system. If you're buying used I would recommend you get all this kit along with leather seats and the automatic transmission as these options would be costly when new but give the car a premium feel. I have experienced some rattles in the cabin but this is down to the fact the stereo is good enough to listen to at high volume levels.
The Lexus is a very different car to its rivals. I say this as a previous taker of German rivals of which I thought I would never leave. Turning Japanese from a German brand is one of ambivalence. On the one hand you're assured of reliability but on the other you're a little put off by the image. I must say that I haven't looked back and I've enjoyed every mile we've traveled together. Sitting there in wafta-matic listening to my tunes through the great hi-fi (for me at least) is pure bliss.
The latest generation Lexus (which is basically a minor face lift) has revised the product trim lineup. The SE is now the base model and comes with slightly less kit than previous. This is followed by the SE-I, F-Sport and finishes with the luxurious SE-L.
Would I buy again? I would although, Lexus will be unveiling the new IS in 2012 and will probably have a Hybrid power train alongside a smaller engine. I just hope it will be a creamy six!