From £24,510
Sport specification sharpens the IS, but can't raise it to the level of communication offered by the BMW 320d. The bigger wheels hurt refinement a little, too.

What’s new? The IS220d gets shortened gear ratios, Lexus’ Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) and 18-inch wheels.What’s it like? A mixed result for Lexus’ only diesel. Refinement remains largely intact despite the bigger rims, though coarse surfaces produce lots of tyre roar. The smooth-revving but noisy unit needs to be kept on the boil to make progress and the baulky gearchange is not an asset. It is still hard to credit that the unit has 295lb ft of torque.Thanks to the altered ratios, fifth is now a good fast back road gear and sixth works well at British motorway speeds. Levels of outright grip and cornering speed are high and VDIM is a sophisticated co-ordinator of brakes, steering and power. But there is too much roll and not enough steering linearity in the steering to bind car and driver over the road; the 220 is still hunting for a smooth multi-lane. There, its relative lack of fluency and urgency would matter less than its swift, relaxing gait.Should I buy one? The Sport specification sharpens the IS, and brings comfortable, stylish seats and plenty of kit. But you should certainly try the very talented opposition before buying. There’s not just BMW’s 155kg-lighter 320d, but Alfa’s new 159 JTDm too.Richard Dilks

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