After recently enjoying the Lexus ES, I was looking forward to hopping into its smaller IS cousin. But any notion the IS F Sport would replicate the languid, luxurious roll of the ES quickly dissipated. And to start with, I was a bit put out.
Maybe I'd been spoilt by how easy the ES did everything, maybe I'm getting slack, but it all felt a bit stiff, a bit too much like hard work, like I had to exert my will on it to get it to do what I wanted.
But it didn't last long; once I got to know the IS' personality, I found myself liking it.
See, despite its premium sedan status and Lexus' relatively sedate reputation, this isn't a car to gently coax its performance from. It is more to have a fun old wrestle with, throwing it into corners and stomping the accelerator to get it moving at a decent speed.
It has a 233kW 3.5-litre V6 which is about as big an engine as you'll find in a premium sedan in this price range.
It's a good unit, offering great response and a decent-enough roar when asked to exert itself. It may not be a V8 or have the turbo efficiency of some of its German rivals but it gets the job done by reaching 0-100km/h in 5.9 seconds, even if it only really comes alive at high revs.
Despite a super-smooth eight-speed transmission, you'll have more fun in manual mode.
But while the gearbox is new, the engine is old. It's fine on the freeway and offers cheap thrills but it's thirsty for every day driving - after a week I had a reading of over 13L/100km, although that dropped to 11.2L/100km after a weekend sojourn to Lancelin and back.
Importantly, it's still dynamic. Handling and steering are true and there is good feedback through the steering wheel, while Sport mode increases the enjoyment by tweaking throttle response and the suspension.
But the IS still has a good level of refinement. It's comfortable inside and when the engine isn't pushed it will keep quiet and composed.
As in the ES, the seats are cooled (yay), even though their red trim makes them reminiscent of those found in older Virgin aeroplanes.
You can't fault the tech here, though the mouse-like toggle's sensitivity needed to be adjusted to be used easily.
What is cool, and a first for me, is the sliding tachometer which shifts across to reveal the trip computer and car-info display at the push of a button.
For the smart-phone addicts, you can download the Lexus Enform app which allows you to send directions from your phone to the car's navigation system, search for fuel stations - complete with current prices - or search for nearby places of interest.
Though it's smaller than the ES, it still has good space inside and the boot is a handy 480 litres.
Looks-wise you'll certainly be turning heads, particularly with the F Sport trim's aggressive styling.
The ultra-sharp and swooping lines won't be to everyone's tastes; I don't mind them personally but I can see it being a bit too boy racer/angry mosquito for many buyers.
But at the very least, you'll get noticed.
- LEXUS IS 350 *
- Model * F Sport
- Price * $73,000
- Engine * 3.5-litre V6 petrol
- Outputs * 233kW/378Nm
- Transmission * Eight-speed transmission
- Thirst *9.7L/100km
VERDICTYou get a lot of engine for your money, some attention-grabbing looks and practicality to go with the sportiness.