The 2012 Lexus IS earns a below average Total Car Score in its segment. Some rivals offer more involving drives while others offer better accommodation, but where the IS entry-luxury sedan and convertible make up ground is in their combination of reliability, build quality, standard equipment levels, retractable hardtop (for the IS C) and pleasant dealership interaction.
The IS sedan and convertible come with either a 204-horsepower V6 -- the IS 250 -- or a 306-hp V6 in the IS 350. Rear-wheel drive is the standard configuration on all models, but all-wheel drive is an option on the sedan.
In the case of the AWD IS 250, the extra weight and rather slow-acting auto transmission tend to smother the engine. Even the rear-drive IS 250 has been described as "underwhelming."
The IS 350 feels more up to the task. It's precise and well-mannered, while the stronger engine improves its driving experience. Steering feel could be better, however, throughout the range.
Passenger space is another issue. The rear quarters are cramped for any adults of above average height and build, and headroom is limited in both the front and rear seats.
This second generation of IS debuted in 2005, followed by a mid-cycle revamp three years ago. No changes are in store for 2012 Lexus IS, but a third generation version is rumored to be coming in the next year or two.
The 2012 Lexus IS is an entry-luxury sedan and convertible (called IS C) with rear-wheel drive standard and, on sedan models, all-wheel drive optional. The high-performance IS F is covered separately.
The IS 250 has a 2.5-liter V6 making 204 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. The IS 350 has a 3.5-liter V6 good for 306 hp and 277 lb-ft. The basic IS 250 comes with a six-speed manual transmission, though it's not possible to have this gearbox with all-wheel drive versions. The automatic transmission is also a six-speed unit (with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters) and is fitted to the rest of the range.
Standard equipment on all IS models includes, leather upholstery, 10-way powered front seats, a stainless steel exhaust system, heated mirrors, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, 17-inch alloy wheels, Lexus' Safety Connect telematics, satellite radio and iPod integration.
Parking assistance is on the options list, along with 18-inch wheels, driver's seat memory, heated/ventilated front seats, rain-sensing wipers, wood trim, navigation, a back-up camera and a 14-speaker Mark Levinson audio system. An F Sport option package brings a more toned suspension, aerodynamic body parts and a host of cosmetic features.
Brake assist and electronic brake force distribution join six airbags plus traction and stability control as standard safety equipment.
The rear-drive 2012 Lexus IS 250 with a manual transmission is EPA-rated at 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined. With the automatic, it's 21/30/25 mpg. With all-wheel drive, those figures drop to 20/27/22.
A rear-drive 2012 Lexus IS 350 returns 19/27/22; with all-wheel drive, it achieves 18/26/21.
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