The 2014 Lexus IS 250 and its more muscular IS 350 brother have been completely redesigned from the previous model year with bolder exterior sheet metal and a longer wheelbase.

The competition in this segment is tough, with entries from Mercedes, BMW and Infiniti forcing the Lexus IS to work harder to get noticed -- and it did.

Within

The base IS 250 comes nicely equipped with tech conveniences such as a 7-inch display that's controlled by Lexus's Remote Touch system. HD radio is also standard, serving up weather and traffic info without a subscription. The optional Enform interface can control your smartphone apps using voice recognition. The capacitive touch climate controls are clever, too.

In terms of interior space, the IS's longer wheelbase has added more room to stretch out. But the low-slung roof cramps rear-seat headroom for taller folks.

Power and Performance

The IS 250 packs a 204-horsepower 2.5-liter V6 mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. It's capable but not exhilarating. Move up to the IS 350 if you need the kick a 306-hp V6 offers. Rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive are available for both models.

Either way, fuel economy hovers around 20 miles per gallon city, but can go as high as 30 mpg highway if you stick with the rear-wheel-drive IS 250. Government fuel-economy ratings are 21 mpg city/30 mpg hwy for the rear-wheel-drive 2.5-liter, 20 mpg city/27 mpg hwy for the all-wheel-drive 2.5-liter, 19 mpg city/28 mpg hwy for the rear-wheel-drive 3.5-liter and 19 mpg city/26 mpg hwy for the all-wheel-drive 3.5-liter.

The Sticker

Pricing for the base IS 250 starts at $35,950. An all-wheel-drive IS 350 stickers at $41,700 before options. Comparison shoppers will no doubt size up the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Infiniti Q50 before making a decision.

The Final Say

The 2014 Lexus IS 250 and IS 350 deliver a fine blend of performance and luxury. We like the IS's handsomely updated design, and aside from the lack of headroom for rear-seat passengers, we think you will, too.

Find a Lexus IS for sale

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Jessica Shea Choksey is an automotive journalist and former writer/reporter for the PBS/Discovery Channel television series "MotorWeek." She began her career in journalism as an editor for numerous magazines and publications mainly outside of the automotive field. Jessica currently resides with her family, in Southern California.

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