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The 2012 Lexus IS 250 sedan is virtually identical to the IS 350 sedan--at least until you start the engine. At that point, it will be readily apparent that these two variants really do have different personalities.
Other than price, we don't see much reason to get the IS 250 over the IS 350. The IS 350's 306-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 gives it strong acceleration and a very responsive feel--along with enough torque to help make the most of its capable rear-wheel-drive platform. The IS 250 is another story altogether; its 204-hp, 2.5-liter V-6 does just alright with the six-speed manual gearbox, but it's borderline sluggish with the automatic. And although the IS 250 might hold an advantage in the EPA ratings, we've never seen much of a difference in real-world results compared to the IS 350, as you have to press the 250 so much harder in fast-moving commute conditions, for example.
The 2012 IS sedans are right in the heart of the compact sport-sedan genre--so roughly the same size as the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, and Audi A4. The design is aggressive, though a bit conservative, and even though the interior design is looking a little dated, the cabin appointments are top-notch. As with most sedans of this type, there tends to be a rather non-luxury level of road noise and tire roar, but provided you're in the front seats, the IS cabin is a pleasing place.
Many of the tech and luxury features of Lexus's larger sedans are offered here, too, including voice-activated navigation, ventilated front seats, and excellent Mark Levinson audio.
For more information, see our full review of the 2012 Lexus IS models.