Test drive: Lexus IS 250 F-Sport Automatic
The TotallyMotor Verdict
So here’s another strong-blue Lexus for a TotallyMotor test drive, but one that’s billed as having a whole lot more Sport going on than the more frugal-focused CT 200h hybrid we recently sampled. This is the IS 250 F-Sport that’s said by Lexus to be inspired by the IS F; a 5-litre V8-powered, 400+bhp beastie with bad intentions.
This IS 250 F-Sport gets the stronger IS F styling with its sports seats, rear spoiler, 18-inch alloys and lowered, hunkered stance, but is instead powered by a 205bhp V6 motor.
At £33,355 OTR it certainly looks the part, but does it live up lively to its evocative badging?
Test drive: Lexus IS 250 F-Sport Automatic
The Lexus IS 250 F-Sport is off to a strong start in the styling stakes, in my opinion.
Ultra-modern and chiselled up front with extra-aggressive arrow-shaped LED driving lights, big and dark alloy wheels at each end of high-shouldered side-panels; with minimal overhangs and flared wheel arches, all finishing in a rear-end that’s calmly-detailed but in time with the front, and peppered each end by a pair of fairly flamboyant tailpipes.
It’s a quick-looking, up-to-date Japanese saloon style that feels like a 3-door, even without trying to hide its rear handles. And the optional extra (£610) Ultra Blue metallic paint firmly ticks my box for attractive-hue-of-choice.
Into the interior:
The F-Sport is very near to the top of the IS range trim-tree with a base price of £30,345 OTR, but seen here in TotallyMotor test car trim at £33,355, which includes that pleasant paint, and a sat-nav system, priced at a eye-watering £2,400. For that money it should find needles in haystacks!
The Alcantara and leather sports seats are understated and offer comfortable support and a multi-adjusting driving position. The driver’s seat moves around with generous travel under electric power and drops deep into the chassis; the way I like it. And it needs to because the IS roofline is low and quite pinched at the top and this eats into headroom, while the generally dark-toned interior starts to feel a little gloomy on these dark winter days. Rear space is on the trim side, too.
The fit and finish inside is very good and more than lives up to the IS F-Sport’s pricetag, as does the amount of tech; Bluetooth, multimedia, good big-base stereo and heated everything. But lots of tech means lots of buttons and the F’s compact interior is a bit of a button-fest. Distractingly, access to the climate fan speed is not a simple on-dash, one stop dial, but requires a two prods of two different controls.
The clocks are cool and clear, though, and do a neat orange-light-up trick when road speed or engine revs are at legal or redline limits.
Talk-sport, backed up with sport-walk?
Well, the lowered sports suspension is firm and controlled and the F cruises quietly and comfortably. I did notice the odd jolt over more pronounced road imperfections, but if you specify a car with sports suspension you must surely prefer harder to softer. And the F-Sport corners with poise, good grip and a flat body.
The steering is quick enough and carried my preferred right amount of weight, and the brakes are firm, progressive and well-retarding. A competent if clinical chassis that deserves its Sport badge.
The 2.5-litre, V6 petrol engine up front makes 205bhp at 6400rpm, and 252Nm of torque at 4800rpm. Not big figures for its capacity, and with peak performance for both horse and grunt coming late on the tacho dial.
At 4000rpm the engine starts to sing quite sweetly through the airbox and tailpipes, and flicking through the 6-speed automatic gearbox with the steering wheel paddles will see you making fairly exciting progress.
However, in auto mode the gear changes are slow, not particularly smooth, and there’s no kick-down unless you really kick it down. A feature that’s there to help economy; which I saw hovering at around 28mpg. Lexus claim a combined economy figure of 33.6mpg, and to be fair to the handsome F, it was subjected to a lot of slow commuting and quick motorway work during our week together, so 28mpg could well be bettered.
The F-Sport is quick off the mark, after a hard throttle-prod, but the midrange isn’t strong enough and the gearbox not sharp enough to deliver true sporting excitement. Indeed, the F felt like more of a cruiser than a cruise missile.
Ten second sum up:
The Lexus IS 250 F-Sport is a contemporary, slick-looking saloon that does well on quality and on-road composure and comfort, but doesn’t really back up its Sport badge due to a low-punch engine and ponderous auto gearbox. However, it’s a cool, calm and collected cruiser with a sharp style all its own.
Prices and availability:
The Lexus IS range starts at £25,370 for the IS 200d SE, rising to £31,145 for the IS 250 SE-L. Price as tested, £33,355, for the IS 250 F-Sport, including optional metallic paint (£610) and sat-nav (£2,400). Available now.
By Daniel Anslow
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