2010 Lexus IS 350 Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
December 28, 2009

The 2010 Lexus IS gives BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Infiniti a real challenge, though it's still a little less performance-oriented than the competition.

TheCarConnection.com's editors get behind the wheel whenever possible in order to give you their firsthand impressions in the Bottom Line. TheCarConnection.com also researched road tests from many sources on the new Lexus IS to produce a conclusive review and help you find the truth where other reviews might differ.

Last year saw both the Lexus IS 250 and IS 350 pick up improved handling, revised styling, and an upgraded interior, and this year those changes carry forward as Lexus finally joins the drop-top party with the addition of the all-new hardtop convertible variants, the IS 250C and IS 350C. The convertibles are covered in a separate review.

The 2010 Lexus IS's exterior styling is attractive but not eye-catching. The basic exterior shape of the IS is sleek and fairly attractive, echoing the style of Lexus's flagship, the LS. Despite wood or aluminum-look trim on the console, the 2010 Lexus IS's interior is more mid-range than high-end. The four well-bolstered seating positions are split by a console that divides the cockpit.

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With leather upholstery and a high grade of standard features in even the entry-level models, the IS is a luxury sedan from the start, and the typical Lexus materials and build quality will meet most people's baseline standards for the price. The car's not especially opulent, however, even with the optional wood trim packages, and though the front seats are roomy and well-padded, the rear seats are cramped and short on headroom and legroom both.

The 2010 Lexus IS 250s is available with 2.5-liter V-6 engine rated at 204 horsepower in rear- or all-wheel-drive configurations, while the rear-drive-only Lexus IS 350 gets a 306-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 powerplant. For all IS 350s and the all-wheel-drive IS 250s, power is sent to the wheels through a paddle-shifted six-speed automatic. The rear-drive Lexus IS 250 is the driver's car, offering a choice of a six-speed manual gearbox or the six-speed auto.

Between the two engines, TheCarConnection.com's editors prefer the note of the bigger V-6, not to mention the extra power-especially since there's not much of a fuel economy penalty. Paired with the manual transmission, the 2.5-liter engine gets 18/26 mpg according to the EPA, while the bigger V-6 scores 18/25 mpg driving the automatic transmission. Despite a comfy ride, the 2010 IS's handling is balanced and taut, with excellent braking ability.

The 2010 Lexus IS earns little praise for its safety, though it's not a dismal performer either. It rates just four stars for front, passenger side, and rear passenger impact ratings with five-star scores for only driver side impact and rollover despite standard stability control, six airbags, and anti-lock brakes. The IIHS rates the 2010 a bit higher, giving top scores of "good" in both front and side-impact tests, though it doesn't earn a Top Safety Pick.

One upside to the safety of the 2010 IS is that it can help you avoid a crash in the first place, thanks to the optional Pre-Collision System, which anticipates when a crash is imminent and reacts accordingly, applying the brakes if the driver does not respond quickly enough. Other available high-tech features include a rear backup camera, a voice-activated navigation system, ventilated front seats, and a Mark Levinson audio system.

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