Review and photos by Greg Wilson

You would think that a car that had its last major redesign back in the 2006 model year would be outdated by now, but the Lexus IS sedan has held up surprisingly well. Its simple, attractive styling, nimble handling, lively performance, good fuel economy, excellent quality and above-average reliability have kept it in the hunt even though many of its competitors have been completely redesigned. The IS sedan’s biggest drawback is its cramped rear seat and lack of folding rear seatbacks, two deficiencies that will be addressed in the roomier 2014 Lexus IS sedan arriving this summer. Still, bigger is not always better, and some IS drivers may want to get their hands on the simpler, nimbler 2013 IS sport sedan before it disappears.

2013 Lexus IS 250 AWD
2013 Lexus IS 250 AWD
2013 Lexus IS 250 AWD
2013 Lexus IS 250 AWD. Click image to enlarge

As before, 2013 IS models are available in a four-door sedan body style (IS 250, IS 350, IS F) and a two-door hardtop convertible (ISC 250, ISC 350) ranging in price between $34,250 for the IS 250 RWD to $70,650 for the range-topping 416-hp IS F performance sedan. Today’s test car is an IS 250 AWD (all-wheel drive) at $38,050, equipped als with the new Special Edition option package ($6,200). This includes attractive two-tone saddle tan/black leather seats with matching leather weekender bag, heated front seats with ventilation fans, power moonroof, unique 17-inch alloy wheels, front chin spoiler, rear spoiler, and HID headlights. With a Freight and PDI charge of $1,995 and A/C tax of $100, the as-tested price comes to $46,345.

Driving Impressions

The IS 250 AWD continues to offer a slightly revised version of the same 204-hp 2.5L V6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission that’s been around since 2006 (note: AWD models are not available with a manual transmission). In contrast, the 2013 BMW 328i xDrive is now using a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine with start/stop technology and an available eight-speed automatic transmission; the Audi A4 offers a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder and eight-speed automatic; the Cadillac ATS AWD offers a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder and six-speed automatic; and the Acura TSX uses a normally aspirated 2.4L four-cylinder and five-speed automatic. According to the EPA, all four of those competitors now offer better average fuel economy than the IS 250 AWD, ranging from 9.0 to 9.8 L/100 km compared to the IS 250 AWD’s 10.2 L/100 km.

Still, the IS 250’s normally aspirated V6 has some advantages over a turbo four, namely engine smoothness, a linear torque curve, quieter running and a sweeter exhaust note.  The IS 250’s high-revving 2.5L V6 engine pumps out 204 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 185 lb-ft of torque at 4,800 rpm.  That’s enough to send this 1,656 kg (3,652 lb) sedan equipped with the standard six-speed automatic transmission from 0 to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds, according to Consumer Reports. In Sport mode, this little six really wails when it reaches the 6,000-rpm range and the standard paddle shifters can make the experience quite exciting. Still, a 7.7-second 0 to 60 time is not particularly quick; if you want to go really fast in a straight line, opt for the 306-hp IS 350 or the 416-hp IS F.  The IS 250 AWD is more of an everyday sport sedan that combines reasonable fuel economy with all-weather traction, nimble handling, quick steering, a tight turning circle, and a reasonably comfortable ride for its sub-$40,000 starting price.

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