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2011 Lexus is250

Is the 2011 Lexus IS250 Your Perfect New Car Match?

By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

Have you got champagne tastes but a beer budget? With a starting price of $32,145, to put it plainly, the Lexus IS series are Toyota’s idea of an entry-level luxury sedan lineup. The IS 250 comes with the smaller 2.5-liter engine as opposed to the larger 3.5-liter found in the IS 350 and both can be had as convertibles. These 4-door sedans offer the thrill of fancy looks and performance but remain reasonable modes of travel, both in reflection to price and everyday functionality.

I drove a 2011 Lexus IS 250 with a 204-horsepower 2.5-liter DOHC 24-valve V6 engine and Dual VVT-I paired with a 6-speed manual transmission. Standard equipment on all IS 250 vehicles include: push-button start; 10-way power driver’s seat; moonroof; wood and leather trimmed interior; 13-speaker premium audio system; Bluetooth capabilities; integrated turn signals in side mirrors; and dual-zone climate control. Optional items like $830 18-inch alloy wheels and all-season tires; plus a $640 Premium Package with heated and ventilated seats and wood interior trim; can send the price to a manageable $33,752.

If you’re seriously considering the IS series, the 2011 model sees some slightly revised front styling and interior trim (like new wood grains and silver finish on the steering wheel). A new F Sport Package (available for the 250 or 350) offers special suspension, 18-inch wheels and F Sport badging.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: As always, Lexus offers a refined interior feel found in the center console, leather seating and overall cabin design. The IS series is a smaller sedan, so don’t expect to stretch out too much like you would in the ES series. With 10-way power seating and a titling steering wheel, it doesn’t take long to find your optimal position. The dash cluster is intuitive to read, along with the center console commands. Navigation or the upgraded audio system, which I experienced in my IS 350 test drive, was not missed (as nice as these optional features are).

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates the 2011 Lexus is 250 as “Good” in frontal and side impact crash tests, but “Acceptable” in rollover or roof strength. The IS 250 has all the Lexus safety goodies including: ABS; Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM); Smart Stop technology; EBD; advanced airbag system; and safety connect.

Cost Issues: Having driven the IS 350, which was fully loaded with a $4k navigation package and another $1k-plus spent in special seating and interior trim for a total cost of $46,392; it was interesting to experience the IS 250 as feeling complete with less expensive optional packages. This is practically the same vehicle (omitting the engine sizes), so the IS 250 price seems like a steal – even with a few tacked on optional packages at $33,752.

Activity & Performance Ability: Although the IS 350 might get more attention for having a larger engine, under the 6-speed manual transmission the 250 proves itself to be a thrill-filled commanding ride. The gearshift is smooth and predictable, making quick acceleration something to be sought after. Steering feel was never stiff but offered the ease of a wide turning radius. Braking was composed. The IS 250 has pep and cadence. Note both the IS 350 and 250 are available with AWD.

The Green Concern: The IS 250 and 350 get roughly the same fuel economy at 19-city/27-highway for an average of 22-MPG. When equipped with AWD, the numbers turn to 18-city/25-highway for an average of 20-MPG. The Acura TL with SH-AWD (competitor) claims to get an average of 21-MPG.

Practically $10k less than the IS 350, the Lexus IS 250 offers a punchy and performing smaller V6 engine with interior sedan traits – like room for four and good cargo space – but is wrapped up in a sports car exterior.

2011 Katrina Ramser