After a year running my 2007 Lexus IS250 SE-L, I thought I would share my experiences. After all, a year is certainly a decent amount of time to get a real sense of what it’s like to own a particular car and is of course a world away from a quick test drive at the local dealer!
A bit of background.
My IS250 was purchased as an approved used Lexus from a Lexus main dealer to serve as a more sensible and family friendly replacement to my previous car - a three door Focus ST3, as my wife and I had a baby on the way. You could argue that the IS250 wasn’t the most obvious choice for a family friendly car, but MPV’s really aren’t my thing and after coming from the ST, I wanted to maintain at least a pinch of sportiness, and the vast array of Lexus gadgets impressed me.
Once I’d decided on the IS250, it was simply a case of hunting down the right one, and of course it had to be the top spec SE-L version with multimedia package - because why not? With one of these, you really can’t moan about lack of gadgets. This thing really does have everything, at least for 2007. There’s leather electric, heated, air cooled memory seats as well as a reversing camera, auto dimming mirrors, dual zone climate control, xenons, cruise - I could go on forever. Some of the features are still rare to find even on new cars today, such as an electric rear blind and an electrically adjustable steering column that moves out the way when you get out.
I guess the obvious place to start when talking about my experience when coming from the Focus ST is performance and driving. Clearly I wasn’t buying this expecting it to perform like the Focus ST, but with over 200 horses from its V6 petrol engine, I was at least hoping for some enjoyable performance and I can say it’s definitely delivered on that. The torque is the most noticeable difference with the IS250 being naturally aspirated rather than turbocharged, but the ability to hold on to the revs and listen to the V6 climb whilst the power builds definitely makes up for that. In terms of straight line speed it’s certainly not blisteringly fast, but it’s quick enough for most people. I may well have considered the IS350 had it been available in the UK, as apparently that’s quite quick, but overall I’m happy with the IS250.
The six speed auto fitted to my car is an absolute joy. Whilst I’m quite a fan of a proper manual gearchange, the auto box really suits the character of the car. You can put it in drive and it will waft down the road incredibly smoothly, with a swift kick down when you plant your right foot. From what I’ve read the manual really doesn’t suit the IS250, plus you get stung with almost double the tax compared to the auto. Sport mode sharpens things up a little more and allows you to use the manual gearchange with paddles if you feel like it. I can’t say I bother with this too often if I’m honest and one major gripe I do have with this system is that it still does not give complete manual control. For example, if you have it in 4th gear at 30mph and put your foot down hard, the car is still likely to change down a gear or two. I’m not sure if it’s just me, but if I select manual mode, I want the car to be completely manual, not mostly manual. If I was being picky, I would also mention that I find the manual change a little less responsive than I hoped, although this is largely to be expected with a single clutch system as opposed to the more modern twin clutch systems you find in DSG boxes and the like.
Ride wise I’ve been very impressed. The ride itself could easily be described as sublime, possibly helped by the fact that I’m running the standard 17 inch SE-L alloys rather than the optional 18’s, but it’s certainly a world away from low profile run flat tyres (cough BMW). Combine that with how quiet the cabin is and it really is a nice place to be. I find that even at motorway speeds you can have a proper conversation at a lower level than would be possible in other cars. Admittedly tyre choice can also be a factor (currently running Hankook Ventus V12 Evo 2) but it’s a testament to how well Lexus have done with sound insulation. I think the fact that the engine is just so quiet really helps too. Whilst cruising it’s almost impossible to hear the engine in the cabin, although it does come alive with a nice metallic V6 note when the revs start to climb. Rattles are almost non existent too, which is virtually unheard of on almost all cars that are nearly eight years old. I’ve actually had several comments from first time passengers about how smooth and quiet the experience is which is always nice!
Throw the IS250 into a corner and while it’s far from a car that’s designed to be at home on a track it handles itself respectably. Whilst there is some body roll if you really push on (which I fully expected given the excellent ride), it’s fairly controlled and the level of grip is excellent. You can definitely feel the size of the car and it certainly feels like a saloon with a V6 tucked under the bonnet, but it does a fairly decent job of disguising its bulk most of the time and still feels fairly nimble for the type of car it is. Steering is fairly responsive and has a decent weight to it for an electric system. though naturally it can sometimes be devoid of some feel that purists tend to prefer with the old hydraulic systems that have all but phased out these days.
Practicality was clearly going to be quite an interesting test for me with the arrival of a new baby, and the IS250 has been a bit of a mixed bag on this front. Whilst I accept that the traditional saloon layout is probably not the first choice when it comes to family cars these days, it has four doors and a decent sized boot so I wasn’t too worried. Speaking of the boot, it is a very good size that I’ve found happy to accommodate all of our gear most of the time. At 378 litres, it’s hardly the largest available, and of course the saloon style smaller opening is less practical than most hatchbacks for larger loads but that being said, it takes out medium/large Silver Cross pram with ease and still leaves plenty of room for the countless other baby related items we have to move around with us. There’s also a hatch that allows longer loads to be slotted through into the main cabin, providing of course that whatever you are putting in fits through the hatch. It was nice to see that the car also includes a space saver spare wheel, which whilst I thankfully have not had to use it yet, provides me with far greater reassurance than the now all too common pump/gunge combination. On top of the spare wheel well, a couple of nice trays that are under than main floor allow you to store small items too, which help to avoid them sliding around when your boot is empty.
The issue of practicality brings me on to what is probably my biggest gripe when it comes to the IS250 - rear leg room. There simply is not enough space in the back of this car considering its saloon layout. If you’re of reasonable height or above (I’m 6ft), you will find that after adjusting your seat to get comfy, your seat will encroach far too much into the legroom of the passenger behind. This does not matter most of the time for me as we do not often carry a rear seat passenger behind me, but for the times you do it can almost become a little embarrassing trying to squeeze a friend or relative in behind you and asking them to have their legs crushed. If I were squeezing them into a 2+2 Porsche or something then I’m sure I would be forgiven but in a saloon? It comes across as if I’m adopting the “gangster lean” and selfishly positioning my seat too far back but this is not the case - I’ve actually moved it as far forward as I can stand. The transmission tunnel also gets in the way for occasional fifth seat passengers, although for most people this is forgiven as a fifth passenger is fairly rare. Also, for most petrol heads who prefer the rear wheel drive layout it will be a small sacrifice to make.
The bigger issue when it came to the rear space for us initially, was how far forward the passenger seat had to go to allow the rear facing baby seat and Isofix base to fit in. Whilst it’s well known that the rear facing seats do take up quite a lot of room, the amount of legroom left in the front passenger seat was only just enough for me to sit in it without my legs touching the glove box so not brilliant. With my Wife in the passenger seat this was far less of a problem, and it’s now far better due to the fact that we have moved on to a forward facing seat. I must say the Isofix solution is very neat, with nice flaps in the leather to hide the brackets and a plastic cover over the top anchor point. This is far nicer than the solution I have seen on some other cars who often now seem to leave the nasty looking brackets exposed even when not in use.
Running costs have been near enough as expected or even marginally better than I had anticipated for a V6 auto petrol. The tax is not as bad as it could be, currently sat at £290 per year rather than £500 per year for the manual version. Fuel consumption has actually been surprisingly reasonable for the type of car. Around town I typically see 25-28 mpg, but on a run is where this car really comes into its own. On steady motorway trips averaging 70-80 mph most of the way, it’s remarkably easy to end up on the nicer side of 40 mpg. I’ve actually touched 42 mpg on a couple of occasions. The car just seems to love motorway cruising and it’s a great car for this. The fact that it has a nice long sixth gear must help (80 mph is approximately 2500 rpm) but once you’ve taken into account the saving per litre on diesel, it’s not a million miles away from an average diesel saloon on the motorway, and personally I’d much rather have a nice petrol V6 to play with than a diesel. The smoothness and quietness of the engine combined with the comfort and surplus of gadgets make the Lexus a lovely place to spend time in during a longer motorway jaunt. I must say I find the seats excellent and even after a long drive down to Paris recently, my back felt absolutely fine at the other end and I could have happily got straight back in the car and done it again.
I want to talk about the gadgets in this car a little more, but there’s simply so many I’d be here all day if I mentioned them all, so I’ll just take the time to talk about a few of my favourites. One of which (or several working together) is the memory seats. To some people, memory seats really don’t matter, but for me when my car has two drivers, it’s a really useful feature. It always takes me ages to get that seating position just right, particularly with the number of adjustments on the Lexus, so if I had to adjust it after every time the Wife drove it, I’d never get it quite right. The Lexus really does make it so easy too. The memory function not only covers the seats, but also the wing mirrors and steering wheel, meaning the only thing that you actually have to adjust manually is the rear view mirror. Not only this, but you can program a memory setting to the smart key for keyless entry, so all you have to do is touch the handle and open the door to unlock it and adjust all the settings to your liking. It’s just so convenient and I have no doubt that Lexus have saved me several hours in time over the last year from making all those adjustments. Now that summer is officially here, the air cooled seats also deserve a mention and are a great way of stopping you getting too sweaty as can often be the case when sitting in leather seats on a hot day.
The multimedia package which would have been a £2700 option when the car was new is also a nice bit of kit. You get the fantastic Mark Levinson sound system with 14 speakers, which really is a treat for your ears. The sat nav is also surprisingly good (with the latest update disc) and has lane guidance, junction view and traffic information. There’s also an excellent rear view camera with moving guidelines, and the DVD playback is a nice toy to have but it could do with rear screens to allow viewing whilst driving as frankly, how often are you going to sit and watch a DVD with the handbrake on?
I really like the LED lighting that Lexus has taken the time to implement both in and out of the car, particularly the front footwells that have a nice glow whilst driving at night and the faint white light that bathes the centre console looks pretty cool too. Another nice touch is the illuminated scuff plates that offer a welcome blue glow to front seat passengers. As I said, I could go on for some time about all the fantastic gadgets that this car has fitted to it, which is pretty amazing considering it is almost 8 years old now, so I’m going to have to cut it there. Let it be said though that if you do decide to pick up one of these, particularly in SE-L trim, you will not be disappointed by the gadgets on offer. If you like your toys, you will love the Lexus.
That brings me nicely to reliability. The cynics among you would be quite happy to point out that with so many toys on the car there would be plenty to go wrong. Well, I’m happy to report that this has not been the case. To be fair, I’d done my research on these before buying so had a fair idea of what to expect. According to most reports on the Lexus Owners Club, the only things that often goes wrong are seizing rear callipers, leaking rear shock absorbers and corrosion on the alloy wheels. Luckily, as I purchased mine from a Lexus main dealer, I had the peace of mind of a Lexus approved used warranty, which almost offers the same level of protection you get from a new car. It was fortunate that I had this warranty, as I have experienced all of those common problems within the first year of ownership. Under warranty, I’ve had both rear shock absorbers replaced, along with one rear calliper (I guess the other one will be due eventually!) and both wing mirrors. The wing mirrors were replaced due to a faulty dipping function when you put the car in reverse, but I believe this feature is only on SE-L models and though useful is far from an essential. Still, the mirrors would have been about £600 each at retail level. With regards to the alloy wheels, they were refurbished when I purchased that car but are already showing signs of the corrosion coming back after just one year which is disappointing. They clearly weren’t stripped back to bare metal, and were perhaps just ‘blown over’. Sadly the wheels are not covered under warranty so I have been living with them for the time being and will have to get them done properly when they get worse.
Aside from those few issues listed above, that’s been it. The car has been a breeze to live with and my Local Lexus dealer (Lexus Poole) has been second to none. This has been the first Lexus I have owned and hopefully not the last as the ownership experience has been as good for me as has been suggested by the various awards they have won for customer service. Everytime my Wife and I have visited, whether it be for a warranty claim, service or MOT, we’re treated exceptionally well. The staff are excellent and the level of customer care is superb - a real credit to the Lexus brand.
Overall, I’ve been very peased with my Lexus IS250. It’s been a reliable, comfortable and enjoyable drive over the past year that has served me and my family well. It’s certainly not without its niggles (rear legroom probably being the biggest for me), but it’s made up for that in almost every other way and has given me a taste of the Lexus ownership experience. It’s been a good all round compromise as a family car and I hope I shall continue to enjoy it until the inevitable time comes to upgrade to something a little bigger!
Find out more about the Lexus IS250:
> Lexus IS250 Common Problems
> Lexus IS250 Brochure
> Lexus IS250 Accessories Guide (subject to availability)