The sporty but conservative look carries over to the way that the 2011 IS C drives. Handling is a strong point; the IS C steers and handles better than front-drivers like Volvo C70 and Volkswagen Eos, and has way more poise in the corners. But you won't find that Overall, the Lexus IS C models are almost high-performance cars in many respects, though they don't quite stand up to the top rivals like the BMW 3-Series; it shifts its weight around more on choppy surfaces, and the steering rarely reports back on remaining grip. Braking ability is strong, but the pedal feel isn't as firm as some might expect from a sporty coupe.
Between the two models, our editors unequivocally recommend the IS 350C over the IS 250C. In the IS 250 sedan, the smooth 204-horsepower, 2.5-liter V-6 has little more than adequate power, so in the IS 250 C, which is about 300 pounds heavier, it feels sluggish and barely adequate, whether you take the notchy six-speed manual (offered only in the 250) or excellent six-speed automatic. You'll lose to minivans in Miracle Mile sprints. The Lexus IS 350C is the way to go; it gets the 306-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 and a complete change of character, with brisk acceleration, though the experience is still rather sedate; the six-speed automatic responds well but doesn't bring out the performance character. The left paddle shifter just behind the steering wheel commands a temporary downshift in Drive or a lasting one if you pull the shift knob over to the left, but in either case, there's no throttle-blipping or rev-matching as on many newer performance models.