Are you in the market for an entry-level luxury car but don't want the vanilla look that usually accompanies it? For you, Lexus offers the F Sport package for its base IS250 sedan. The F Sport definitely revs up the car's appearance, if not its performance.
Appearance: Our low-slung tester came in the bright F-Sport color of Ultrasonic Blue Mica, which screams "import tuner." It's decidedly not Lexus-like. The F Sport package body kit also includes spoilers on the front lip and rear deck, blackened grille inserts and 18-inch dark-graphite alloy wheels. It's a menacing look and, again, not one we normally associate with Toyota's luxury brand.
Performance: Special F Sport badges adorn the IS250 as if to tip you off that there must be something equally special under the hood. There's not. Our tester had a mediocre 204-horsepower V-6 (0 to 60 in 7.9 seconds), which would be fine in a Camry, but not for a sport sedan. Still, you can take advantage of the more fuel-sipping engine (21/30). Despite the F Sport package's sport suspension, the ride is smooth. The handling is precise, even though Lyra felt some body roll. We also found the steering feel to be a bit numb, without much feedback from the road. The 6-speed automatic shifts smoothly, and there are paddle shifters for quick downshifting.
Interior: The quiet cabin is standard Lexus, which, even in an entry-level IS250, is just fine with us. It's attractive, with some stitching and sophisticated faux metallic and leather trim. (There's probably more plastic than in the more expensive Lexus models, but it's quality plastic.) The Z-shaped door handles are attractive and modern. The bolstered leather seats with microfiber inserts are comfortable and offer plenty of support for the driver. We're also fans of the white backlit gauges favored by Lexus, which are sharp, simple and easy on the eyes. An orange light illuminates the circumference of the speedometer when you exceed a speed limit you can set. By comparison, the digital driver-information screens seem fuzzy. Because the IS250 is a smaller sedan, Peter found the headroom, while not cramped, wasn't expansive. Lyra found that there's not much elbow room in the front. The rear, however, is definitely a tight squeeze — even for our kids — with very little legroom.
Our 3 favorites
Wheels: The double-spoke dark-graphite look sets off the F Sport package.
Body kit: It gives the standard IS250 a buff makeover.
Accents: The interior is set off by attractive faux metallic trim.
Shhh: The cabin is extremely quiet, Lexus-style.
True meanie: Ultrasonic Blue Mica is sporty and menacing.
Crisp: The electroluminescent "Optitron" gauges really pop.
The bottom line: The Lexus IS250 with the F Sport package is somewhat of a lamb masquerading as the Big Bad Wolf. But if you want a luxury sedan that doesn't look like one, then this Lexus fits the bill.