2006 Lexus IS250

2006 Lexus IS250

Lexus, Toyota’s luxury marque, has redesigned it’s IS sedan for 2006 in order to attract new, younger buyers. The IS sedan was originally packaged to compete with the perceived class leader, the BMW 3 series.

For this road test I drove the rear wheel drive Lexus IS 250 equipped with a 2.5L V6 engine that is rated for 204 horsepower. An all-wheel-drive option is available on the IS 250, a choice that does not come with the more powerful IS 350 and its new 3.5L V6, pumping out 304 hp.

This test vehicle came equipped with a six-speed manual transmission that was easily one of the sweetest shifting gearboxes to work through. A six-speed automatic transmission with steering mounted paddle shifters is also available. Having briefly driven an automatic equipped IS 250 earlier, I was equally as impressed with the refinement of that auto box and I doubt anyone will regret choosing either transmission.

Inside the vehicle, Lexus maintains its top notch fit and finish that includes: A three-spoked steering wheel; the audio and cruise control buttons were so well integrated into the design, with perfect uniformity, that they seemed to have been part of a solid molding. The rest of the switch gear and controls in the car are impressive in design and execution. The entire feel of the car conveys the impression of upscale motoring.

IS250 Interior

The standard smart key feature, is a neat addition which allows a driver to keep the key fob in a pocket, walk up to the car and unlock the door, open it and start the car by pushing a button, all without fumbling for a key. The feature was previously reserved for much more expensive cars, such as the $200,000 BMW Z8, but the technology has now filtered down to the entry level of the luxury car market.

Driver and passenger seats were supportive and comfortable with excellent side bolsters to hold occupants in place when cornering. Compact sports sedans are not noted for rear seat legroom and the IS carries on this tradition. Room for adults is marginal and fine for short rides. Our two kids, that require booster seats, need more room than an adult as their legs are not long enough to tuck under the front seat, so they constantly had their feet up against the backs of the front seats.

Exterior design is a strong point with the IS adopting styling cues from the larger GS model and its L finesse design. Gone is the boxy semi-Corolla looking IS 300 of days gone by. The old IS 300 was a funky vehicle with a cult following, but Lexus has not built a reputation for funky and the outgoing model had more Toyota written on it than Lexus. From every angle, even from within the cabin looking out, the new IS design looks fast and expensive. The comparison has been rightly made to the BMW 3 series.

On the road, the 2.5L V6 is a real honey of an engine, with a linear power band and a willingness to pull right up to the electronically limited redline (the orange ring that illuminates the tachometer as you approach the redline is a nice touch). Going from 0-100 km/hour was done in the 8 to 9 seconds range. At the same time, the vehicle was just as composed rolling through rush hour traffic as it was charging up through the gears. The more powerful IS 350 reportedly returns 0-100 km/hour times in the 5 to 6 second range.

A heavy foot and spirited driving failed to upset the IS 250’s composure as the vehicle’s stability control overlooks just enough to put a smile on your face, then gathers things together without any fuss. The traction control worked seamlessly in mixed spring weather. Winter driving with a set of quality snow tires should not be an issue based on our experience with the vehicle. Overall, this is a well balanced package and a treat to drive.

Safety equipment that is standard on the IS series includes 10 airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution, and optional adaptive Bi-Xenon HID headlights.

2006 Lexus IS250 Front

Fuel economy averaged almost exactly 10 litres per 100 kms, during our driving in and around Toronto, which for the level of performance returned was amazing.

Lexus has redefined luxury and instead of trying to copy Teutonic sports sedans, it has gone out and created its own niche of the luxury market. The IS 250 is not so much a competitor to the Audi A4 and BMW 3 series, as it is a peer. Buyers looking for the sensory input from a BMW will not find it in the Lexus, but the more restrained driver looking for a luxury sports sedan with decent performance can look no further than the IS 250.

The base IS 250 with manual transmission is retails for $36,300, while the optional automatic transmission will add another $1600. An AWD equipped IS 250 starts at $41,900 and the IS 350 starts at $48,900, but expect to pay upwards to over $9,000 extra for any IS sedan if you want packaged goodies in either a leather or sports package.