Lexus has always positioned the IS as a sport sedan designed to be as fun to drive as a BMW 3 Series and as dependable as a Toyota Corolla. The first Lexus IS arrived for the 2001 model year, and it drove much like a BMW 3 Series. An older one. And that was just fine by me, especially in ultra-cool SportCross format. To this day, I fondly remember the original Lexus IS.
The second-generation Lexus IS arrived for the 2006 model year, sleek, modern, and instantly appealing at a time when BMW 3 Series design was going a little bit sideways. The new IS was more powerful and more sophisticated than the original, but it traded some personality and dynamic engagement for wider appeal to attract a broader base of buyers. An all-wheel-drive system became available, and the IS Sedan spawned both a 2-door convertible with a power retractable hardtop and a performance-tuned IS F variant built to go head-to-head with a BMW M3.
Now, the third-generation 2014 Lexus IS is on sale, displaying daring styling (for Lexus anyway), promising improved driving dynamics, and offering lots of modern technology all wrapped in a package that provides more room for rear-seat passengers.
Having now spent a week schlepping pre-schoolers, running errands, navigating traffic, and ripping around on my favorite mountain roads in the IS 350, it appears that Lexus has successfully married the character and dynamics of the first-generation car with the refinement and sophistication of the second-generation car, creating a genuine alternative to both established entry-level luxury sport sedans and compelling newcomers alike.