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#6

in 2011 Upscale Midsize Cars

Avg. Price Paid: $22,327 - $31,351
Original MSRP: $33,295 - $46,640
MPG: 19 City / 27 Hwy
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2011 Lexus IS Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

The IS gives buyers the choice of two flavors: a speed demon or something more laid back. The IS 250 is the slower of the two while the 350 picks up the slack. Although testers agree the IS has more sporting credentials than the rest of the Lexus portfolio, the IS can’t run with the best in the midsize class. To combat this criticism, Lexus added an optional F Sport package for IS 250/350 models with rear-wheel drive. The package modifies the IS’s suspension, steering and wheels, and make the IS a sharper car on curvy roads.

  • "The IS 250 C maintains all of the static accolades of the sedan, but it left us bereft dynamically with tuning that emphasized luxury over sport." -- Autoblog
  • "IS 350s are strong in all situations." -- Consumer Guide
  • " Lexus IS 350 has what sport-sedan shoppers are looking for. At least, that's how it appears on paper. However, driving the IS 350 may be something of a letdown from the dyed-in-the-wool enthusiast's perspective." -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

The two available engines on the Lexus IS are very different. The IS 250 comes equipped with a 2.5-liter V6 engine that makes 204 horsepower. That makes it one of the weakest motors in its class. The IS 350, on the other hand, is like a rocket. With its 306-horsepower V6, some test drivers managed 0 to 60 times under six seconds. Testers are less-than-impressed with the 250’s engine but find the 350 packs more-than-adequate punch.

IS 250 buyers have a choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. IS 350s only come with the automatic. The cars have different appetites, too. The EPA estimates that an IS 250, in rear-wheel-drive form, should get 21 mpg in city driving and 30 on the highway. The IS 350, on the other hand, gets 20 city, 27 highway mpg.

  • "IS 250s feel sleepy on takeoff, strained up steep grades, and are shy on midrange passing power despite a responsive, silky automatic transmission. Lexus says an IS 250C convertible does 0-60 mph in 8.4 seconds, and that seems reasonable based on our tests; the lighter sedan should be quicker." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The 2.5-liter V6 seems rather crude and underpowered compared with the BMW 328i's silky smooth 3.0-liter inline-6, and while the IS 250's steering is accurate, it's notably lacking in feel. Handling is certainly competent, but the IS 250 bounces up and down like a softly sprung luxury sedan over bumps, even with the optional sport suspension. As for the stick shift, fuggedaboutit -- it's easily worst-in-class." -- Edmunds
  • "At 3,840 pounds when equipped with a manual gearbox, [the IS 250C] weighs almost 400 pounds more than the sedan, and every one of those pounds is devoted to sapping life out of the convertible. To our enthusiast minds, the 306-hp IS 350C makes a lot more sense. The additional 102 hp and another 66 pounds over the IS 250C makes for a significantly better driving experience." -- Autoblog
  • "Acceleration in the IS350C feels manly, although the open-air exhaust note is just a humdrum hum." -- Car and Driver

Handling and Braking

Reviewers find both Lexus IS models sharp in the corners. But those who have tested the sport suspension generally say it isn't worth the added investment and the IS’s available all-wheel-drive system seems to lag behind what competitors offer at this price point. Convertible models handle much like their sedan counterparts when the roof is in place but things change when you drop the top. Once you lower the roof, the added weight behind the rear axle makes for a sloppier drive.

  • "Convertible edition's 'spring and shock tuning were changed from the sedan's, as were some suspension bushings, to transmit less impact energy through the body. That's a technical way of saying the ride is a little mushier so the body will flex less. You feel it in corners where this weighty ship rolls and porpoises a bit more than the sedan." -- Car and Driver
  • "IS corners with little body lean, secure grip, and an agile feel. The optional sport suspension and 18-inch tires furnish little cornering advantage, nor does AWD on dry roads." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The IS 250 C maintains all of the static accolades of the sedan, but it left us bereft dynamically with tuning that emphasized luxury over sport. At 3,840 pounds when equipped with a manual gearbox, it weighs almost 400 pounds more than the sedan, and every one of those pounds is devoted to sapping life out of the convertible." -- Autoblog
  • “Driving the IS 350 may be something of a letdown from the dyed-in-the-wool enthusiast's perspective. The 3.5-liter V6 is unquestionably a highlight, providing smooth yet thrilling acceleration at the drop of your right foot. Unfortunately, the only available transmission is an automatic, and it's a slow-shifting one at that. Moreover, while the IS 350's steering is accurate, it's notably uncommunicative.” -- Edmunds