2014 Lexus IS 250 AWD F Sport – Wheels.ca

29 Jan 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on 2014 Lexus IS 250 AWD F Sport – Wheels.ca
Lexus IS250

2014 Lexus IS 250 AWD F Sport

Posted on October 26th, 2013

BMW obsession is a good thing.

Thanks to Cadillac’s steely determination to romp in the same sandbox as the BMW 3 series, we get the Caddy ATS compact sports sedan, featuring a chassis that out-Bimmers the newest BMW 3.

And to Exhibit B. The Lexus IS sedan has played BMW wannabe since it launched in 2006, but never really had the right stuff. For 2014, the Lexus IS gets an all-new treatment that elevates this rear-/all-wheel-drive sedan to a decidedly BMW-ish dynamic plane.

Of course the irony of all this lies in the that fact that BMW, with the latest iteration of its 3 series, has backed off the sport and ramped up the comfort, emphasizing cabin space, compliant underpinnings and fuel economy over touchstone handling and steering feel.

It’s almost as if BMW is saying, “Knock yerself out kids. Been there done that. The game has moved on.”

Whatever the case, I “got” what the new Lexus IS is all about within a few hundred meters of leaving Toyota’s corporate headquarters. Its sharp chassis, alert steering, truly fantastic seats and harmonious cohesion of all three immediately telegraph the car’s virtues.

This being the F Sport model with AWD ($46,150, as tested), it has a sport-tuned suspension, 18-inch wheels with staggered width performance tires, sport seats and a heated F Sport steering wheel.

So all the bits you want for an engaging drive.

The engine? Well, not so much.

As the entry-level and economy-minded IS, the 250 offers a modest 204 hp and 185 lb.-ft. (at a high 4,800 r.p.m.) from its 2.5-L direct-injected V6. This is versus the IS 350’s more robust 306 hp, 277 lb.-ft. 3.5-L V6.

Both engines are unchanged from the outgoing IS.

With many competitors adopting turbocharged four-cylinder engines in this class of car, the 250’s paucity of low-end torque is a bit off the pace. You have to get north of 4,000 r.p.m. to find any meaningful thrust.

The extra weight and drag of the all-wheel-drive system knocks a couple of ticks off the performance, too, although the payback is confidence in inclement weather and absolutely unflappable cornering.

The six-speed auto is fine, and responds with reasonable alacrity to paddle-shift inputs, but this engine would really benefit from the eight-speed auto that only comes with the rear-drive 350. It would mitigate the wild r.p.m. swings when calling for some geddy-up. No manual transmissions are available.

My fuel use of 10.5 L/100 km is far from the 8.3 I achieved in a BMW 328i xDrive, with its torquey 2.0-L turbo four and eight-speed transmission.

On the plus side, this little six-pot is smooth and makes a nice growl when hoofed, thanks mostly a “sound optimizer” that pumps engine noise into the cabin.

The IS is built on a scaled-down version of big-brother GS platform. It retains its front suspension from the outgoing car but gets the multi-link rear setup and steering rack from the GS.

Lexus IS250

Wheelbase is stretched by 70 mm, which improves legroom in both front and back. There is also a 60/40 split rear seat back — apparently a first for Lexus.

While the old IS was handsome in a somewhat reserved manner, the 2014 model throws subtlety to the dogs. It comes at you with a highly sculpted and aggressive snout, baring a huge “spindle” grill and a riot of intakes.

A character line sweeps up from the rocker panel, leading the eye to the integrated rear lip spoiler. The whole package is bold, dramatic and especially fetching in Atomic Silver.

The interior is perhaps not quite so successful. The dash is a busy multi-layered and multi-contoured affair, with enough nooks and crannies to give even the best California Duster a migraine. The style of switchgear is inconsistent and there are too many textures and hues of dark plastics.

And this car could really use some life-saving radio preset buttons, as the annoying Lexus mouse-type controller that has the little icon flying about on the LCD screen is distracting and imprecise.

Okay, there is one very cool bit of F-Sport specific gee-whizziness that has come directly from the Lexus LFA V10 supercar. Press a button on the steering wheel and the central gauge ring that houses the virtual tachometer and digital speedo glides a few centimeters to the right, exposing a new set of vehicle info menus. Gimmicky, yes, but super slick.

The new Drive Mode Select controller on the console calls up three driving modes: eco, normal and sport. They alter steering weight, throttle response and shift mapping. In Sport, this car is an absolute joy on your favourite back roads.

All this talk of the 250’s sporting nature does not suggest Lexus has abandoned its core values here. The cabin is quiet, the build quality high, and the ride, while controlled and sporty, is still on the right side of comfortable.

But if you’re serious about your Lexus IS and want the most out of this striking car with the excellent chassis, pony up for the rear-wheel-drive, eight-speed IS 350 F Sport at $45,650.

2014 Lexus IS 250 AWD F Sport

Lexus IS250
Lexus IS250
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