2014 Lexus IS 250 AWD First Test
Too Much Grip, not Enough Juice
Small engines paired with all-wheel drive can make for compelling cars. I mean, look at the new Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG, or rally specials such as the Subaru Impreza WRX or the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo. All have sub-2.5-liter engines paired with great chassis, making each car an enthusiast favorite. By that logic, the 2014 Lexus IS 250 AWD should be a home run -- its new chassis is one of the best in the business, and it has the requisite small-displacement engine under its hood. Unfortunately, as we found out at the test track, that combo doesn't seem to make the IS any more compelling, as Lexus added grip but not power.
Considering the amount of testing we've done with the 2014 IS, the IS 250 AWD ought to look pretty familiar to most of our readers. Like the 2014 IS rear-wheel-drive we tested, it rides on a larger-than-before Lexus GS-derived chassis and suspension, with controversial styling and an LFA-inspired interior. That's about all that's new with the IS 250 AWD. Like the last-gen IS, the 2014 IS 250 is powered by a small, 2.5-liter V-6 that makes only 204 hp and 185 lb-ft of torque. Power is routed through a carryover six-speed automatic gearbox, and then splits torque 30/70 front/rear to as much as 50/50 if need be.
With a pipsqueak of an engine and almost two tons to haul around, the 2014 Lexus IS 250 AWD doesn't quite accelerate like the rest of the IS lineup. The IS 250 AWD is the slowest 2014 IS we've tested yet, with 0-60 mph taking 7.9 seconds -- more than a half-second longer than the next-slowest model, the rear-drive IS 250 F Sport. The 2014 IS 250 AWD's quarter-mile time is also comparatively pokey, with the Lexus needing 16.0 seconds at 86.9 mph at the dragstrip. The 60-0 mph panic stop took 118 feet. Interestingly enough, our IS 250 AWD tester out-performed the IS 250 F Sport on our figure eight. Our all-wheel-drive tester knocked it out in 26.4 seconds at 0.74 g average, while the sportier IS 250 F Sport needed 27.1 seconds at 0.65 g average. That all-wheel-drive grip really helps the IS corner -- we noticed a similar trend with the IS 350 F Sport and IS 350 AWD.
The rather unremarkable performance offered by the IS 250 AWD might lead you to wonder why Lexus even bothers offering all-wheel drive in the entry-level IS. The answer is simple: because it allows the IS to offer something in an ultra-competitive segment that not all of its rivals do. Of the IS 250's direct competitors -- the Audi A4, BMW 320i, Cadillac ATS 2.5, Mercedes-Benz C250, and Volvo S60 -- only Audi, BMW, and Volvo offer all-wheel drive with their base engines. All-wheel drive gives Lexus a selling point in important snowbelt markets.
That said, we're not sure the IS 250 AWD is the way to go if all-wheel drive is a must-have. Though power is adequate in the rear-drive version, many editors noted that the IS 250's 224 pounds of extra flab (compared to the 250 F Sport) became readily apparent when pushing the car on winding roads. Motor Trend testing director Kim Reynolds noted that the IS had crisp turn-in, but "immediately thereafter, there is understeer and the car feels heavy." Though he made note of the car's weight, Reynolds went on to say that the IS 250 AWD can be placed precisely, and "[you] can pinpoint where to apply the brakes and they respond exactly at that point." Most editors agreed that power was adequate around town, but a bit lacking when pushed. Technical director Frank Markus summed up the IS 250 AWD quite succinctly: "Too much grip, not enough juice."
And then there's the issue of price. Our fully loaded 2014 Lexus IS 250 AWD cost $47,940, with the two most expensive options being the $4759 Navigation Package and the $3355 Premium Package. That's a pretty decent chunk of change for a compact luxury sports sedan equipped with the base powertrain. Ultimately, if the 2014 IS AWD is on your must-have list, we'd advise stepping up to the IS 350 AWD. You can spec one with the Navigation Pack (though not the Premium Pack) for about $1000 less than our IS 250 AWD tester. Otherwise we'd probably be tempted by a comparably equipped Audi A4, BMW 328i xDrive, or even Volvo S60 T6 R-Design, and with all of those vehicles offering more power, less polarizing styling, and more brand prestige (well, except for the Swede) for the same price, you have to wonder if buyers will do the same.
|2014 Lexus IS 250 AWD|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$47,940|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||2.5L/204-hp/185-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3818 lb (54/46%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||183.7 x 71.3 x 56.3 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.9 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||16.0 sec @ 86.9 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||118 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.89 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.4 sec @ 0.74 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||20/27 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||169/125 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.86 lb/mile|