Outside, the IS's front end is dominated by Lexus' corporate "spindle" grille and a unique lighting arrangement that features separate LED strakes beneath irregularly-shaped headlights. A character line that rises from the side sills and is picked up by the taillights lends a unique element to the flanks, and the overall style - while not everyone's tastes - is among the most distinctive in the segment.
Things are more restrained inside, with a low dashboard and a sloping center stack providing a simple but elegant feel. Material quality is superb throughout, and rear seat space - a major shortcoming of the previous model - has been significantly increased.
Entertainment and navigation info is displayed on a center-mounted LCD screen, which is controlled by a mouse-like infotainment controller that many find effective once mastered but not terribly intuitive at first.
The IS 200t comes standard with a two-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 241 horsepower and 258lb-ft of torque. Despite being smaller than the 2.5L V6 it replaces, the new turbo engine is more powerful and more efficient, returning 22 mpg in the city, 32 on the highway and 26 combined.
The mid-range model is the IS 300 AWD. As the name implies, it's available exclusively with all four wheels driven. It uses a modified version of the 3.5L V6 found in the IS 350, producing just 260 horsepower and 236lb-ft of torque. It is rated at 19 mpg in the city and 26 on the highway.
For more output, buyers can step up to the IS 350, which is fitted with a 3.5-liter V6 that uses an unusual port and direct-injection system to churn out 311 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. At 19/28 mpg (19/26 mpg with AWD), it offers nearly identical efficiency to the 300 AWD model.
Standard throughout the lineup is a Drive Mode Select system that tailors the transmission, steering ratio and steering effort to the driver's preferences.
All IS models can be optioned with a racy F Sport package, which brings an aggressive body kit, a firmer suspension with an adaptive damping system, unique interior trim - including TFT instrumentation inspired by the LFA supercar - and more. IS 350 F-Sport models also get adaptive variable suspension, a limited-slip differential, and variable-ratio steering.
Standard and optional features
Standard kit on the IS includes automatic climate control, NuLuxe synthetic upholstery, Bluetooth connectivity, an eight-speaker AM/FM/CD/HD radio sound system with dual USB ports, complimentary traffic and weather updates, a seven-inch VGA screen, a proximity key with push-button start, LED headlights, foglights, a sunroof, cruise control and 17-inch wheels.
Stand-alone options include 18-inch wheels, a backup camera, a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross traffic alert, a front and rear park assist system, a lane departure warning system and dynamic radar cruise control with pre-collision alert.
An available navigation system comes bundled with a back-up camera and Lexus Enform, which includes automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle location and more. It can be spec'd with a 15-speaker Mark Levinson premium surround sound system.
The Luxury Package brings twin projector LED Headlamps, a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross traffic alert, rain-sensing wipers, leather upholstery with contrast stitching, a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, two position memory functionality for the driver's seat, mirrors and steering column, heated and ventilated front seats and wood trim. AWD models also get a heated steering wheel.
The F Sport package includes twin projector LED Headlamps, unique 18-inch wheels, model-specific front fascia and grille, a sport-tuned suspension with adaptive damping (IS 350 RWD only), TFT instrumentation, heated/ventilated and power-adjustable sports seats, a perforated leather steering wheel and shift knob, aluminum pedals, silver trim, stainless steel scuff plates, black headliner, an intake sound generator and high-friction brake pads. Additionally, on AWD models, a heated steering wheel is included. The package can also be equipped with a variable gear ratio steering system on the IS 350.
All IS models are equipped with dual front, front knee, front side, rear side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems.
The IS also boasts an array of electronic driving aids including a pre-collision system, a lane departure warning system with steering assist, intelligent high beams, and adaptive cruise control.
The IS faces off against a wide variety of worthy competitors, including the Audi A4, the BMW 3 Series, the Cadillac ATS, the Infiniti Q50 and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.