2014 Lexus IS250 AWD

2014 Lexus IS250 AWD, our new, favourite compact premium luxury sedans

2014 Lexus IS250 AWD, our new, favourite compact premium luxury sedans

New 'spindle' grille is distinctive and looks aggressive, but it's hardly beautiful

New ‘spindle’ grille is distinctive and looks aggressive, but it’s hardly beautiful

Bottom Line:  The 2014 Lexus IS250 AWD is my new, favourite ‘entry level’ luxury premium sport sedan.  It’s remarkably solid, feeling like it’s carved from a block of billet steel.  Handling is impeccable, yet the IS250 has an impressively comfortable suspension.  F-Sport package seats are perfect, ‘cushy’ with just the right amount of side bolsters to hold one firmly in place during hard cornering.  Build quality and luxury is top notch, and Lexus’ iron clad reputation for reliability is something Audi, BMW and Mercedes can’t touch.  I want one!

Perforated leather steering wheel, sport seats, body kit and 18-in. wheels are part of the F-sport Package

Perforated leather steering wheel, sport seats, body kit and 18-in. wheels are part of the F-sport Package

18-in. staggered wheel/tire combo look great, but wider rear tires on a 204 horsepower sedan?  In this instance, style apparently beats function

18-in. staggered wheel/tire combo look great, but wider rear tires on a 204 horsepower sedan? In this instance, style apparently beats function

 

Love at first sight

The moment I slid into the driver’s seat and closed the door, I fell in love.  This is one of those cars I instantly bonded with.  The cabin oozes quality, instruments are clear and legible, and the front buckets are supremely comfortable with just enough bolstering to remind you this is a sport sedan.

Instrument cluster display is changeable.  This . . .

Instrument cluster display is changeable. This . . .

. . . or this

. . . or this

 

What’s new for 2014?

Just about everything.  Most obvious is the new, large, spindle grille.  It gives the IS a distinctive, aggressive face.  The grille makes the Lexus instantly recognizable blocks away, but it can hardly be described a beautiful.  Large, functional brake cooling ducts visually ‘anchor’ the lower outboard edges of the front.  And sheetmetal is new, with a strong character line starting from the rocker panel mid-door sweeping up to blend in with the tail lights.  The new look is handsome, but I have my doubts as to whether the IS styling will hold up eight or nine years from now.  The Audi A4, BMW 3-series and Mercedes-Benz C-class all have more traditional style, and arguably, will likely still look terrific a decade from now.

One of the big changes for 2014 is the wheelbase has been stretched some 2-1/2-in., significantly increasing rear seat legroom.  (We criticized the last gen IS350 for its very tight rear seat.  The new IS remedies that complaint.)

What hasn’t changed is the IS250’s powertrain.  The 204 horsepower 2.5-litre V6 and six speed automatic transmission is carried over from last year.  Hard core driving enthusiasts may sneer at the base engine, but we found the engine quite respectable.  Most drivers spend the majority of their time tooling around town and in this role, the baby V6 performs perfectly well.

We ran the car from Calgary to Edmonton at a steady 120 km/h and the Lexus returned an admirable 6.9 L/100km, that’s 41 mpg (Imperial) for our British readers.

Our IS250 AWD came with optional F-Sport Premium package (MSRP $43,550) that includes moonroof, body aero kit, sport suspension, different instrument display, navigation, backup camera, heated seats, sport steering wheel and various other trim pieces.  It also includes ‘staggered’ 18-in. wheel/tire combo – P255/35R18 rear, P225/40R18 front.  Huh?  Such a high performance wheel/tire set for a puny 204 horsepower car?  I could understand that if the IS had, say 400 or more horsepower, but for 204 horsepower?  (Mercedes offers the same staggered wheel set on its ‘base’ AWD C-class, the C350 4Matic.)

I have to admit, it LOOKs good, but the cheapskate in me shudders at the thought of buying odd size winter and replacement tires.

What’s the IS250 AWD like to drive?

It’s nearly perfect.  Apparently, the project engineer who headed up the IS’s redesign was instructed to make the new car sportier, more ‘BMW 3-series’-like, if you will.  To that end, the new baby Lexus is undoubtedly a success.

The car feels like it’s been machined from a chunk of billet steel.  Superbly solid and even with the sport suspension, it delivers a superbly compliant ride, absorbing potholes with aplomb.  The steering is precise with fast turn in, and very good feel.  Surprisingly, the IS offers a nicely firm brake pedal, a nice change.  Even most of the German sedans feel like their brakes are overboosted to me.  In short, the IS’s chassis has the perfect balance sporting performance and luxurious comfort.

For me, the 2014 Lexus IS250 AWD is my top pick in the compact premium luxury sport sedan segment.  With a superb chassis tailored for the enthusiast driver, fulltime all-wheel-drive, and excellent build quality, the IS250 is a winner.  And if you intend on keeping the car for a long time, legendary Toyota reliability makes choosing the Lexus over Audi, BMW, or Mercedes a no-brainer.

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