The future of Lexus won't exactly fly or die on the reputation of the stunning new IS 250, but anything less than a clear victory over it rivals would be an anti-climax. Trouble is, those rivals include the new BMW 3-series.
Mechanically, the Lexus has a 2.5-litre V6 powering the rear wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox – or a six-speed auto as in our test car. Suspension is by double wishbones at the front with a multi-link arrangement at the rear.
Considering the new car is longer, wider and 20 per cent stiffer than its predecessor, it's impressive that use of aluminium keeps weight down to only around 50kg heavier than equivalent versions of the old car.
What’s it like?
The Lexus boasts items such as leather seats, 17in wheels and cruise control within its basic £25,400 asking price. First thing you notice is its exquisite detailing, and also its presence, which is considerable. It looks expensive, exotic even, and around the nose and tail in particular it has a strength of character that company car drivers wishing to stand out from the crowd are going to get very excited about.
From the moment you pull on one of the IS' beautifully damped doorhandles and climb aboard it feels impossibly expensive inside. The facia design is intriguing, but when you interact with it you begin to suspect that, in certain areas, style tends to rule over function.
A number of things both irritate and impress about the IS 250 on the move. The engine is quiet and smooth, but the ride is decidedly firm at low speed and to begin with it feels as if someone has left the sport suspension setting on.
Then there's the steering, which initially feels over responsive to your inputs. The further you go, the more you get used to it, but at no point does the 250's steering feel anywhere near as fluid or natural as the BMW's.
The response from the front tyres is immediate and the onset of undertseer non-existent, it feels if anything like it wants to oversteer on turn-in. In the event of this happening the ESP system will quickly intervene, and in an untidy lurch you stay on the road. But it's doubtful whether the Lexus should be set up to behave like this in the first place.
So should buy one?
Not as spacious nor as good to drive as a new 3-series but the Lexus is beautiful to behold, well equipped and has an interior and a level of build quality to die for. It runs the BMW very close, and for many its looks alone will seal the deal.