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2007 Lexus IS Test Drive Review

Lexus IS

A baby Lexus big on premium comfort.

7.3 /10
Overall Score

New for 2006, the Lexus IS carries into 2007 as a fresh compact sedan with loads of standard amenities and a sport-tuned chassis that can keep up with BMWs. Drivers who prioritize comfort over outright performance will find the IS to be one of the best luxury sedans on sale.

Look and Feel

8/ 10

Lexus sets a high bar for quality. Step inside the IS and you'll get a heavy whiff of the larger ES and GS sedans. The materials are excellent, from the soft pleated leather to the soft-touch rubber dash and silver-painted center stack. The instrument panel's gauges take the look of old wristwatches and modernize them with sharp lighting. The switchgear is just as impressive in the IS as in an $80,000 Lexus LS. You feel rewarded in this Lexus like you won't in a BMW, Mercedes, or Audi.

The exterior styling from some angles is too Toyota, but the slanted headlights, sloping hood, short tail, and large alloy wheels suggest this is something more special. There's a graceful curve to the roof, but it's not too aggressive. This is still a practical and conservative car.

Performance

7/ 10

Two V6 engines are available. The Lexus IS 250 has a 2.5-liter with 204 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. Rear-wheel drive (RWD) models get a six-speed manual that's fun only because of the car's novelty as a manual Lexus. All-wheel drive (AWD) is optional and brings with it a six-speed automatic transmission. The 250 trim level is just enough to keep you awake, but for anyone looking to scoot, it's capital-S slow. It may not be a full-on sports car, but the Lexus IS 350 is the preferred choice, with a 3.5-liter V6 good for 306 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. This car comes with only RWD and the automatic transmission. It's far more satisfying, and it brings real sporty performance to this small Lexus. An X package is new for 2007 and brings a stiffer sport suspension and 18-inch wheels for the RWD models. While the chassis is balanced and has no trouble keeping up the pace on twisty roads, the IS with either engine is more softly tuned and languid than the best BMW sedans. It tries, but it'd rather pamper you with its quiet interior and comfy ride.

Form and Function

7/ 10

Large, comfortable front seats and rear seats have good lateral support. The back seat is on the small side with less legroom than you might like, and those rear doors don't offer the best ingress and egress given how the fender intrudes into the space. The trunk space measures 13 cubic feet.

For the driver, the controls and seating arrangement put everything within easy reach. Visibility is good. The small screen in the instrument cluster is a bit hard to read.

Tech Level

7/ 10

The Lexus IS is a relief among foreign luxury cars because a lot of features come standard. Push-button start and proximity entry, a six-disc CD changer, 13-speaker stereo, 10-way power leather seats, moonroof, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror are all here. Bigger-car amenities like heated and ventilated front seats and power rear sunshades are optional. It's also nice to have rain-sensing wipers, bi-xenon adaptive headlights, a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, and auto-dim exterior mirrors. Bluetooth connectivity, a reversing camera, and a DVD navigation system that can play DVDs through a 14-speaker Mark Levinson 7.1 surround sound audio system are available, too.

Safety

8/ 10

The 2007 IS has dual front airbags, dual front knee airbags, front side airbags, and front and rear head curtain airbags standard, along with ABS, traction, and stability control. A Pre-Collision Assist system uses a radar sensor to detect an impending crash. If one is unavoidable, the seatbelt pre-tensioners activate and the brakes are primed to transmit full braking force the moment the driver steps on the pedal. This is optional, along with a reversing camera that comes only with the navigation system.

In the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash tests for the front moderate overlap and side, it scored the best Good rating. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rated the 2007 Lexus IS at four out of five stars for the driver and passenger in a frontal crash, five stars for the driver in a side crash, and four stars for the rear passenger in a side crash.

Update: The 2007 Lexus IS came with defective Takata airbags that can explode during a crash and kill the front occupants, so be sure to verify the vehicle has received the recommended recall repairs.

Cost-Effectiveness

7/ 10

The 2007 Lexus IS starts at $30,970 for the IS 250, $35,000 for the IS 250 AWD, and $36,420 for the IS 350. This makes the Lexus less expensive than either the BMW 3 Series or the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. The EPA measures Fuel economy at 18-21 mpg city, 25-29 mpg highway, and 20-24 mpg combined, depending on which IS you buy. The high quality, generous standard equipment, modest prices, and high reliability are all strong marks for this small, impressive car.

Updated

Clifford Atiyeh is a contributing editor at CarGurus who writes, hosts, and co-directs video reviews of the latest vehicles. He has reported and photographed for dozens of websites, magazines, and newspapers over a nearly 20-year journalism career, including Autoweek, the Boston Globe, and Car and Driver. He is vice president of the New England Motor Press Association and runs a creative marketing consultancy.

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