This car has been superseded by a newer model, click here to go to the latest Lexus IS Saloon (13-20) review.

Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0

The IS saloon was originally launched with a 2.0 24-valve VVT-i engine; the 3.0 arrived in 2001. Both units are flexible, if a little noisier and not as smooth as BMW's six-cylinder lumps. But they're powerful (outputs are 153 and 211 bhp), give rapid acceleration (0-60mph in 9.5 and 8.2 seconds) and offer lots of pulling power – especially the 3.0 litre.

We would have liked to have seen a punchy diesel in the line-up.

IS pitches itself as a 3-Series competitor for driving experience. Like the BMW (long touted as the "ultimate driving machine"), it's rear-wheel-drive and has an agile yet composed feel. The steering is well weighted, direct and offers plenty of feedback. A six-speed gearbox adds to IS's fun-to-drive feel and is ideally suited to the engine. The chassis is responsive and offers plenty of grip.

But while IS undoubtedly is a better drive than most in its class, it lacks the poise and refinement of 3-Series.