2017 Lexus IS

Overview: Shortly after the third-generation Lexus IS debuted for 2014, it faced down a BMW 3-series and a Cadillac ATS to win our comparison test. It was an impressive feat, but we later discovered that the greatness of the little Lexus trails off sharply the further you get from the top-spec rear-wheel-drive IS350 F Sport. In all its iterations, though, the four-door, automatic-only IS sedan is a swift-handling and downright radical-looking small car festooned with slashes, swooping cutlines, and an oversize spindle grille, all in the manner of the current Lexus design ethos.

For this review, we drove (but did not photograph) the mid-grade IS300 F Sport, which shares its naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V-6 with the IS350. Here, however, it’s detuned to 255 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque (down 51 horses and 41 lb-ft) and comes only with all-wheel drive. As in the IS350 AWD, the IS300’s big V-6 mates to a six-speed automatic. Order a rear-wheel-drive IS350, like the 2017 F Sport we recently tested, and Lexus treats you to a newer eight-speed unit. The same goes for the base, rear-drive-only IS200t with its turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four making 241 horsepower and 258 lb-ft. Our loaded $49,084 six-cylinder IS300 faces off against like-priced four-cylinder competition, such as the BMW 330i, the Mercedes-Benz C300, and the Audi A4.

What’s New: As part of a 2017 refresh, Lexus fiddled with the shapes of the headlights, front bumper, and taillights so they zag instead of zig. The oval exhaust tips became rectangular and the front outer air intakes (which cool the brakes on F Sport models) are longer and deeper. Minor tweaks to the interior include an armrest near the Remote Touch Interface, which gains a second enter button that doesn’t make the infotainment system’s mouse controller any less wonky to use. Lexus added stitching to the instrument-cluster hood and revised the clock face. Most notable are the driver-assist systems that are now standard…

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