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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
When it comes to handling prowess, both the F Sport-tuned IS 250 and 350 prototypes have made strides in stability and predictability.
All IS models get Lexus' Drive Mode Select system with Eco, Normal and Sport modes that affect power-steering response, drivetrain sensitivity and, in the case of Eco, air conditioning.
As for the sports sedan notion – hot track drive, racing instructors and all that – we're not convinced.
Lexus uses the last IS’s front suspension design but adds a larger anti-roll bar, and it adapted the multilink setup from the excellent new GS at the back.
Car and Driver
Feedback and precision fall a just a hair or two short of 3-series grade, and with the adaptive suspension, there is less body roll in the F Sport than in just about anything in the class -- German, American or Japanese.
Engines for the 2014 Lexus IS carry over from the previous-generation car, meaning you'll have a choice between the entry-level IS 250 with a 2.5-liter V-6 rated at 204 horsepower and up to 30 mph on the highway, or the IS 350, with a 306 horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 good for up to 28 mpg highway.
All-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive are available in all forms of the 2014 Lexus IS, as is the F Sport package. While the IS 250 never really feels underpowered, it definitely doesn't have the pep you'd expect of a sport sedan. The IS 350 remedies that, and while the all-wheel drive's extra foul-weather traction is a nice feature, the rear-drive model's driving dynamics make it the enthusiast's pick.
There's another good reason to pick the IS 350 RWD model, too: the eight-speed automatic transmission is only available in that model. The rest make do with six-speed automatic transmissions. While the six-speeds are smooth and perfectly functional, the eight-speed shifts quicker and smoother, improving both sporty and around-town driving.
From the driver's perspective, the biggest change is in the driver's seat--the seating position is 20 mm lower in the 2014 IS than in the previous model. That lends a more intuitive quality to the feel of the IS. Combined with the F Sport trim package and Adaptive Variable Suspension system, the 2014 IS corners with very little body roll, and is well-controlled and fun-to-drive in all respects. At the outer limits, tuned-in understeer is noticeable, but it's a minor issue.
On the electronics front, Lexus' Drive Mode Select system offers a driver-selectable performance settings that sharpen or soften the car's reactions at the driver's command.
Overall, the 2014 Lexus IS is a fun-to-drive car with well-balanced traits, but it's not enough to put the fear into the German, Japanese, and American competition.
While the 2014 Lexus IS 350 is fun and fast, the IS 250 lacks the power of a true sports sedan.