Driving Impressions

By September 23, 2006

The Lexus IS in both rear- and all-wheel-drive forms is quick and easy to drive. It can pull serious Gs in the corners and it stops with authority. In short, these cars are serious sports sedans that rival the BMW 3 Series cars.

The IS 250 AWD is the best choice if winter weather invades your neck of the woods, when the all-wheel-drive system's increased grip is most welcome. The AWD model is heavier than the two-wheel-drive versions, but the IS 250 AWD hauled us over the San Gabriel Mountains on Angeles Crest Highway above Los Angeles without exposing any dire penalties due to its weight.

The IS 350 is the quickest model. Its muscular torque and free-revving engine delivers strong acceleration performance, something we saw driving one at Willow Springs raceway.

We drove several examples of the IS models at competition speeds relentlessly in temperatures that rose above 110 degrees and not one of them stumbled or misfired. Because of the hot, slippery track surface, the tires constantly fought for grip, but the advanced chassis electronics made it easier to keep the cars on the pavement. The inherent balance of the IS models made it easy to push it to the limit, causing the electronic aids to step in and dampen the thrill.

We prefer the automatic over the manual. The automatic is very responsive and offers the driver the ability to shift semi-manually using paddles on the steering wheels. The IS 250's manual six-speed isn't quite good enough to make us opt for it in lieu of the optional automatic. The automatic offers the driver more control over shifting when desired, but the computer steps in to protect against potentially damaging mis-selection of gears.