There’s no doubting that, on paper, Lexus has come properly prepared with the IS to battle Audi, BMW and Mercedes in one of Europe’s most fiercely contested premium segments.

It doesn’t matter whether you look at the multi-link suspension, six-speed gearbox, eight standard airbags or the plethora of active safety equipment, the IS is right at the cutting edge of customer expectation.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior

Road test editor
In 2003 the same engineers experimented with the previous-generation IS to create the IS430 project car, with a 340bhp V8, adjustable dampers and a six-speed manual

And with those attractive looks, Lexus quality and likely glacial depreciation, the showroom charms are as manifest as they are multiple. But Lexus’s first proper foray into the mainstream has by no means been without its problems, as we shall see in a moment.

The IS range does offer one model outside the mainstream: the V8-powered IS-F, Lexus’s answer to the BMW M3 and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG. In addition to the beefed-up bumpers and bigger wheels (in this case 19-inch items), the IS-F has a bonnet bulge that makes even the M3’s power dome look inadequate, broader sills and pumped-out front wheel arches with cooling gills.

The front suspension arms and steering knuckles are now constructed from lighter materials to reduce unsprung mass, the spring rates are increased, the anti-roll bars are thicker and the bump stops activate earlier. The IS-F wears thicker and broader brakes (360mm at the front and 345mm at the rear) but, unusually for a car with such driver-focused intentions, it employs electric power steering and not a hydraulic system.

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