In the current automotive climate, entry-level luxury sedans may not be everyone’s first choice.
But at the same time, buyers have a lot of selection and dealers are very anxious to sell.
One good example of such a sedan that combines sophisticated engineering and design is the 2009 Lexus IS series.
The IS 250 starts at $31,500 for the rear-wheel-drive (RWD) with six-speed manual transmission or $33,100 with a six-speed automatic. The IS 250 all-wheel-drive (AWD) as tested starts at $37,650. Also in the IS series is the IS 350 rear-drive at $42,950. Lastly there is the potent IS-F high performance car at $65,450 that is really in a class of its own.
A 2.5-litre DOHC V6 producing 204 hp and 185 lb/ft of torque powers the IS 250. The IS 350 has a DOHC 3.5-litre V6 making 306 hp and 277 lb/ft of torque.
Canadians are migrating to AWD, making the IS 250 one of a handful of luxury AWD sedans you can buy for under forty grand.
Fuel consumption numbers for the 2009 IS 250 AWD are 10.5L/100 km city, 7.6L/100 km highway. By comparison, numbers for the IS 250 RWD are 9.8L/100 km city, 6.7L/100 km highway, so the AWD does use slightly more gas.
For 2009, all IS models are equipped with Lexus’ Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) that is combined with Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and traction control. VDIM in simple terms takes information from sensors and compares it to the way the IS is being driven against what the driver is doing. The system then can anticipate when a slide is starting to happen and make little corrections to the steering, braking and gas pedal. In most cases, it is transparent to the driver.
When the driver gets in over his/her head that’s when the VSC and traction control come into action. When this is combined with AWD, you get a sedan that can think, and more importantly, react faster than you can when comes to road holding.
To all this is added ABS, Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) and brake assist (BA) as standard. IS models have vented discs front and solids at the rear while the IS 350 have vented discs at all four corners.
I took the IS 250 AWD up to speed over a long section with undulations and frost heaves coupled with cold patches that had been applied over many years. Add in the high crowning to speed water runoff and you have a piece of pavement that is a test for any suspension.
At an indicated 60 km/h I knew the wheels were going up and down like a jackhammer, but you wouldn’t have known it in the cabin.
Lexus calls the six-speed automatic in the IS its Super Electronically Controlled Transmission. The concept is to electronically link up and down shifts to pedal position and power demand for best fuel economy and performance. In real life, unless you hammer the gas, you will never feel the gears changing.
The passenger compartment is typically Lexus in that not a panel, seam or stitch is out of place. The leather and plastics are wonderful and the seats themselves are supportive without that cushy feeling you get with some leather interiors.
Outwardly, the same styling you find on the LS premium luxury sedan is evident on the IS, letting people know that, yes, you do drive a Lexus.
2009 Lexus IS?250 AWD
Type: Entry-level luxury sedan
Price: $37, 650 (as tested)
Engine: 2.5L DOHC V6
Torque: 185 lb/ft
• Luxury sedan at an affordable price
• Several safety features