Lexus has been pushing its vehicles in two different luxury directions--some toward comfort and plushness, others toward performance. And the IS lineup is part of the latter--although in IS 250 form it would be a stretch to call it a sport sedan.
In fact, we recommend skipping the base 204-horsepower, 2.5-liter V-6 entirely, as while it's smooth, it just doesn't have enough power (especially with the automatic transmission). With their 306-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6, IS 350 models are much more enjoyable, but here the six-speed automatic is mandatory.
The IS models feel quite agile, but they're not quite on the same dynamic ground as the BMW 3-Series or Infiniti G37. We've noted that rear-wheel-drive models do have better, more communicative steering than the other models, and steering-wheel paddle-shifters help make the most of it.
The F-Sport Package that's available on rear-wheel-drive models includes plenty of appearance upgrades, but with a sport suspension, special steering tuning, and larger 18-inch wheels, it does sharpen the driving feel somewhat.