2012 Lexus IS

The 2012 Lexus IS is an upscale midsize car, a market segment in which the Japanese manufacturer has sometimes had a – perhaps surprising – degree of difficulty competing in.

Although it is not by any means a poor model, the IS does suffer from a few flaws when placed up against the often very accomplished competition.


General Info
Vehicle Type: Sedan Base Price: $34,670.00
Fuel Tank Capacity: 17.2 gallons (65 liters) MPG: 19 city / 28 hwy
Length: 180.3 in. (458 cm) Wheel Base: 107.5 in. (273 cm)
Height: 55.7 in. (141.5 cm) Width: 70.9 in. (180 cm)
Curb Weight: 3455 lbs (1567 kg) Ground Clearance: 5.7 in. (14.5 cm)
Luggage Capacity: 13.0 cu ft Maximum Seating: 5 people
Engine: 2.5L V6 DOHC Compression Ratio: 12.0: 1
Horsepower: 204 HP Max RPM: 6400 RPM
Torque: 185 lb-ft @ 4800 rpm Transmission: 6-Speed Manual
0-60 mph: 7.9 seconds Maximum Speed: 144 mph (231 km/h)
Available Trims & Engine
Option:IS 250 RWD A/T MSRP: $34,965; MPG: 21 city / 30 hwy
Option:IS 250 AWD MSRP: $37,425; MPG: 19 city / 27 hwy
Option:IS 350 RWD MSRP: $40,220; MPG: 19 city / 27 hwy
Option:IS 350 AWD MSRP: $42,680; MPG: 18 city / 26 hwy
Option:IS 250C M/T MSRP: $41,190; MPG: 19 city / 28 hwy

Performance & Handling

The basic IS is the 250, which has a 2.5-liter V6 engine producing 204 horsepower. This is probably a little underpowered for a car of this type, and it makes the 250 disappointingly sluggish when it is confronted by steep gradients or the need for quick acceleration.

Much more satisfying is the next model up, the 350, whose 3.5 liter, 306 horsepower V6 engine is capable of handing normal driving conditions with ease. Both versions of the car offer a six-speed automatic transmission, but the 250 can also be ordered with a six-speed manual gearbox.

The Lexus IS does not handle particularly well; it has considerably more body roll than its rivals like BMW, and many reviewers have also criticized the steering for its lack of crispness. The convertible version of the car is fine when the roof is up; however, when it is opened, driving becomes less enjoyable as the car’s handling becomes quite lifeless and uninteresting.


Lexus has succeeded here in terms of the exterior styling of the IS. The car looks appealing, with sharp lines and a slightly sporty feel that are in keeping with the image Lexus hopes to project.

It is not a car which will make onlookers’ jaws drop in amazement, but nobody is going to laugh at it either. Because of its relatively understated and classy looks, the IS should fit right in wherever it goes, whether in a city parking lot or at a posh hotel. The type of driver who chooses a Lexus is unlikely to be the type who will care about that, though.


This car is a bit of a mixed bag where interior style and comfort are concerned. The general atmosphere inside the car is one of calm and quality, with a luxurious feel to the leather seat trim.

Lexus has clearly paid careful attention to visual factors, with almost every other surface covered with high quality wood veneer or attractive metal trim. On the minus side, however, the IS does not have as much space for its passengers as the likes of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, especially in the back, and this badly lets it down as potential transport for a family.

Safety & Reliability

The 2012 Lexus IS scores quite well in government safety testing, with the IS 250 scoring a maximum five stars on the rollover test. The 350 version of the car only scores four stars, however.

Both models have a standard six or eight airbags, in the sedan and convertible respectively. The basic warranty lasts for four years or 50,000 miles, while the powertrain is warranted for six years or 72,000 miles, both what would be expected in this market segment.

Fuel consumption is acceptable although not superb for a car in this class, with the IS 350 returning figures of 20 mpg in city driving and 27 mpg on the open highway.


There are several known brands that the IS can be compared to in almost every aspect, these include the Audi A4 (MSRP $33,375; 22 city / 30 hwy), the BMW 3 series (MSRP $35,795; 23 city / 34 hwy), and the Mercedes Benz C300 (MSRP $38,895; 18 city / 25 hwy).

Overall Rating
72 out of 100

What others say:

“The 2012 Lexus IS 250 sedan is virtually identical to the IS 350 sedan–at least until you start the engine.”Car Connection

“IS corners with little body lean, secure grip, and an agile feel. The optional sport suspension and 18-inch tires furnish little cornering advantage. All IS models have electric power steering that is quick and informative.”Consumer Guide

“The IS has a plush, quiet interior with simple controls, but the car lacks the sporty feel found in some competitors. ”MSN Auto-ConsumerReports

“If BMW’s 3 Series serves as the definition of “sport sedan,” then the Lexus IS 250 and IS 350 might be seen as the “Grand Tourers” of the category. With a nimble chassis and responsive powertrains the lineup remains recreational, but all iterations of the Lexus IS provide a level of compliant composure the Germans rarely deliver – at least in this size category.”KBB

“The 2012 Lexus IS 250 scores points for attractive styling and unshakable reliability, but comes up short in regard to practicality and power.”Edmunds