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Lexus IS 250 and IS 350

2006 Lexus IS250 and IS350 Review

by Martha Hindes

Lexus IS 250 and IS 350
Lexus IS 250 Interior

Think Lexus and what comes to mind? For most, it's a sleek fine-tuned, understated luxury car, with the kind of quiet refinement reminiscent of old moneyed families that don't have to brag about what they have.

Check out the major about-face this Fall in the shape of the redesigned IS entry luxury sports sedan models that break away from everything you've ever expected from Lexus. This is a deliberate statement that from now on there will be two distinctly different lineups, not one, from the luxury offshoot of Toyota. For Lexus, the ideal for this branch of the family will be the likes of BMW 3 Series autos fading away in the rear view mirror of the IS. For entry level luxury car buyers who want some spice with their sophistication, this means another entrant into the more budget-minded prestige level driver's car field to choose from.

For 2006, Lexus is re-introducing the five-year-old IS in two aggressive, revamped iterations, IS 250 and IS 350, for spirited up-and-comers opting for entry lux on the way to premier. Gone, or at least subdued here, are traditional soft-touch Lexus road manners. The IS has more punch and sportier road feel, even a touch more ambient sound than the hushed grown-ups that share its heritage. To make its point, Lexus has heaped the IS with loads of technological firsts, and the kinds of amenities one would expect from a much costlier luxury vehicle than one with a base hovering around the $30 K mark. Although the vehicle felt agile and kicky during a brief introductory run, it would take some demanding testing to determine just how much of a driver's edge response and precision it offers.

Lexus powers this baby into action with a 3.5-liter, 306-HP powerplant loaded with engine-enhancing tweaks, such as variable valve timing. It lets the driver play with responsiveness by letting her or him set the tachometer's red line to decide the gut level punch during foot-to-the-floor acceleration. Styling is aimed at a far younger, more free-thinking buyer than
Lexus owners before. Looks and stance are more aggressive and sleek. Attitude abounds. Company officials point to less anti-slip invasion for that fun, slide-around-the-corner abandon that's so tempting from rear drive. (All-wheel models are available.)

Spiritual necessities such as IPOD connectivity, and steering wheel paddle shifters for the automatic's manual mode haven't been overlooked. It's there, along with an earth-coddling ultra low emissions rating. With this mold-breaking maverick, maybe a good description would be "Lexus gone wild."