2008 Lexus IS 250 AWD with Nav from North America
Sporty, stylish, and reliable with useful luxury options, albeit cramped on space
Had dealer switch brakes due to excessive dusting (Optional Service Bulletin).
I've had this car since new living in the New England area, and have driven it now through all 4 seasons into the second winter that I've had it now. This is the AWD version, which comes with a smaller 205hp V6.
Performance wise the car is not going to rocket off the line, but the power is perfectly adequate for "normal" driving. The cornering ability has been excellent. The motor is generally kept quiet, but has a nice low growl when overtaking and under heavy acceleration. The semi-automatic shifting ability comes in two flavors: paddles and the shifter, but I've found the fully automatic mode highly satisfactory in making gear decisions, and have left it be 95% of the time.
Fuel economy is generally outstanding for an AWD vehicle. On the highway, I have averaged as much as 31mpg on one extended 150 mile trip. In the city or driving through heavy stop and go traffic expect in the low 20s. Generally each fill up has averaged between 24-28mpg. This is on premium fuel, which is required. There is noticeable 2-3mpg drop when not using premium fuel.
Overall fit and finish is typical Lexus, but less refined and a bit more sporty feeling than their full size sedans. The driver's position feels a bit like a cockpit, just as you would expect out of a small sports sedan. Other features and functions are easily accessible and work well. The heated and cooled seats option, which is included in the NAV package, works very well.
I have 3 complaints:
1) The steering wheel telescoping doesn't come out far enough. Another 2" would be good so that elbows can rest more comfortably on the center console and door sill.
2) The onboard display especially the TPMS does not give enough information. I would at the very least expect individual reports on tire pressures from all 4 corners, engine temperature, etc - after all this is a "sports" sedan. Instead only "errors" are shown when encountered, which in the case of the TPMS can mean you are riding almost 10 PSI too low before any warning appears.
3) As in ALL cars I've seen in the last 10 years, the rear-defrost option is a one touch button which can't be "preset" before you shut the car off. This means that if you are in inclement weather and have a remote starting system, you will not be able to automatically defrost the back window.
The navigation system option as in other built in vehicle setups will not fully allow every option while driving, but unlike other vehicles with built-in navigation, a set of voice commands can be used to set new destinations en-route. The rear backup camera is also built into the system and works well both during the day and at night.
In terms of space and also evaluating the car to peers such as the 3 series, A4, 9-3, etc, it is great for the front seats (I'm over 6'2" and still am OK) but the amount of rear room is more akin to a non-king sized cab pickup without 4 doors. The trunk is of a fair size, but alas Lexus removed the ability to fold down seats in all of their sedans. There is a pass through that with negotiation can fit two pairs of skis. This is an area where all other competitors are either on par or clearly win over the Lexus.
The lighting system via adaptive headlights and HID are also notable. What initially sounded gimmicky in that the headlights turn in the direction that you are turning, actually has a very noticeable effect when you are on streets without street lamps, and especially if those streets are windy.
General traction has been excellent as well. The all season tires that come with the car don't do the AWD justice, and if you live in serious snow land, you are best served to still get a set of dedicated winter tires. Remember that at least in the U.S. now this means because the car has a TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system), you will end up also having to purchase those sensors if you intend to have a complete extra set of winter tires and wheels.
Scheduled maintenance is very reasonable with the default oil/tire change interval being 5K miles on conventional oil. It also bears mentioning that the transmission is sealed and not serviceable for fluid changes (lifetime fluid - or so it says). The traditional power steering pump is also gone in favor for a electric system. The initial rotor/pad and tire setup disclaimers suggest the life of all three is under 20K miles.
Lastly, dealer maintenance is, well dealer maintenance in terms of compatible pricing, and unfortunately the car's various plastic garb under the hood can make simple tasks an unnecessary chore, and may not be appreciated by DIY's and other car services.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 22nd February, 2009