AWD adds appeal to IS250’s small V-6

The 2015 Lexus IS250 AWD in New Year’s Day snow. (Bud Wells photos)
The 2015 Lexus IS250 AWD in New Year’s Day snow. (Bud Wells photos)

Even with the added grip of all-wheel drive, we sometimes churned and skidded through the deep, soft snow during the New Year’s holidays aboard the 2015 Lexus IS250 AWD sedan.

Jan and I on New Year’s Day drove to Sterling to check in with my sis, Norma, and brother-in-law, Dave Wagner. The streets there were covered with relatively deep snow, the same as the northern Colorado area we’d left earlier in the morning.

The Lexus’ AWD system, in adverse conditions, can allocate engine torque from 30/70 between front and rear axles to 50/50 for improved traction and control.

The sleek and sporty IS250, offering the four-wheel grip option, helped Lexus finish 2014 exceptionally strong, posting a one-year sales record for the luxury division. Only Lexus’ entry-level ES sedan and the popular RX crossover sell more units than does the IS.

Lexus’ sales in ’14 totaled 311,384, third-best in the U.S. among all luxury builders. BMW led with 339,738 sales, followed by Mercedes-Benz 330,591, Lexus, then Audi 182,011, Cadillac 170,750, Acura 167,843, Infiniti 117,330, Lincoln 94,474 and Volvo 55,000.

The IS250 is little changed for 2015. It was restyled a year ago and, with a 3-inch longer wheelbase, created additional rear-seat legroom.

Under hood is a small 2.5-liter V-6, producing only 204 horsepower and 185 lb.-ft. of torque, tied to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Its tepid pace can be improved upon just a bit by moving the drive mode dial knob from Normal to Sport, then using paddle shifters at the steering wheel for better response. Pushing a “snow-mode” button will lessen torque on takeoff for minimal spinning of tires.

Still, though, for performance more fitting of a Lexus, buyers can opt for the more expensive IS350, which generates 306 horsepower from a 3.5-liter V-6.

The interior of the IS250 is quiet, and its well-bolstered leather seats are comfortable. Wood trim adds a feel of luxury. There is no storage space in the center console and the cupholders are positioned so far back in the console that they’re awkward to use. A 6-inch shelf in front of the display screen atop the center stack is handy for placement of incidentals; of course, then the lower portions of the screen are blocked from view. A small trunk provides 13.8 cubic feet of space.

The center stack and instrument panel for IS250.
The center stack and instrument panel for IS250.

Fuel-mileage average of 22.2 was at the low end of the IS’s EPA estimate of 20-27, due in part to the fact it was driven much of the time over ice and snow-covered streets and highways.

A base price of just over $39,000 for the IS250 jumped to sticker value of $46,395 after the addition of a luxury package of navigation, backup camera, heated and ventilated front seats, LED headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, power tilt/telescope steering wheel and blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert.

Here are the specifications for the ’15 Lexus IS250 AWD sedan:

  • Capacity 5-passenger
  • Wheelbase 110.2 inches
  • Length 183.7 inches
  • Width 71.3 inches
  • Height 56.3 inches
  • Curb Weight 3,461 pounds
  • Track 60.4 inches front, 61 rear
  • Ground Clearance 5.3 inches
  • Turn Circle 35.4 feet
  • Drivetrain All-wheel-drive
  • Engine 2.5-liter V-6
  • Horsepower/Torque 204/185
  • Transmission 6-speed automatic
  • Steering electric power
  • Suspension double-wishbone front and multilink rear
  • Fuel mileage estimate 20/27
  • Fuel mileage average 22.6
  • Fuel Tank 17.4 gallons, regular unleaded
  • Wheels 18-inch
  • Tires Bridgestone Turanza 255/35R18
  • Cargo Volume 13.8 cubic feet
  • Warranty 4 years/50,000 miles basic, 6/70,000 powertrain

Competitors Acura TLX, Cadillac ATS, BMW 328ix, Audi S4, Volvo S60

Assembly Plant Tahara, Japan

Parts Content N.A.

Base Price of Lowest Model $36,550; Base Price of Review Model $39,085; Destination Charge $925; Sticker Price $46,395.