Though the Lexus IS series of entry level luxury cars has been around since 1998, the Japanese automaker did not introduce the IS 250 model right away. The IS series can vary a lot amongst global markets, with Lexus and parent company Toyota tailoring the IS series’ specifications to meet the needs of particular countries. The number in each model name of the IS series identifies the drivetrain. The first generation of the Lexus IS reached Europe in 1999, as the Lexus IS 200. Then the IS series landed in North America in 2000, as the Lexus IS 300. The Lexus IS 250 was later introduced for the second generation of the IS series, in 2005. In addition to North America and Europe, the Lexus IS 250 has also been sold in Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, South Africa, Chile, Australia, and New Zealand. 

The Lexus IS 250, in both front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions, featured a 2.5-liter V6 engine capable of producing 205 horsepower. The IS engine uses a direct injection system that has both port and direct fuel injectors. The sedan originally offered both six-speed automatic and six-speed manual transmission options; the convertible that was later added to the lineup was available only with the automatic gearbox. In 2008, Lexus introduced the IS 250 C hardtop convertible at the Paris Motor Show. The entire IS lineup was also given revised styling as well as updated suspension and steering. In 2010, Lexus introduced an F Sport performance line of the IS 250 and IS 350, following up on the popularity of the F Sport line of factory performance parts and accessories. These factory produced F Sport models of the Lexus IS get better handling and control thanks to adaptive variable suspension, as well as updated performance features.

The 2013 update of the Lexus IS series sedan was revealed at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January of that year. Though the drivetrain remains unchanged for the 2013 model year of the Lexus IS 250, the manual transmission offering has been discontinued. The car went on sale in all its global markets in the middle of 2013. The United States got the Lexus IS 250 in rear-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive versions.

The Lexus IS is, in a sense, responsible for the popularity of aftermarket “altezza-style” taillights. That’s because the Lexus IS was sold in Japan under the Toyota Altezza name beginning in 1998, and the car quickly became recognized for its unique chromed rear lighting design. Toyota dropped the Altezza name when the Lexus brand was launched in Japan, however.