auto show. F-Sport models add a full honeycomb grille insert, while the rest use horizontal bars. The profile looks more aggressive, but we're not sure about that styling line running from the bottom of the car to the restyled taillights. The rear-wheel drive IS 350 uses an eight-speed automatic transmission sourced from the IS-F, while all-wheel-drive and lesser versions of the IS get a six-speed auto. No manual is offered on the IS, which makes Lexus' claim of taking on the best in the segment ring a tad hollow, at least from an enthusiast's standpoint. All versions of the IS have variable drive modes consisting of Eco, Sport and Normal, which tighten up the steering, improve throttle response, and button down the coilovers on cars equipped with the adaptive suspension. The IS 350 F-Sport adds a Sport Plus mode, which ratchets up performance even further. What's it like to drive? It's a buttery smooth blast. Both the suspension and transmission in the IS 350 are tuned a smidge softer than the BMW 335i or Audi A4. That means that even during full-throttle shifts in the eight-speed -- which sound spectacular -- you can just barely feel the converter locking up. However, if you're looking for a little snap, turn the IS to Sport and manual-shift mode. The ECU locks up the converter instantly after shifts to make it feel almost like a dual-clutch gearbox. On the handling course, the IS absorbed the small bumps easily, and exhibited only slight body roll through the 35-mph slalom. We feel the need to mention here that the stellar leather-clad driver's seat held us nearly perfectly in place in all maneuvers. The steering is better than any Lexus in recent memory save the LFA, and a big step forward from the last generation, which was provided for comparison purposes. The power steering system is electric, which seems to be the way everyone is going these days, but it felt extremely direct. Rear-wheel drive IS 350 F-Sport models also have the option of variable steering, which firms up with the drive mode. The most fun we had all day was in the IS 350 F-Sport in Sport Plus mode, which made the sedan razor sharp around the slalom and handling course. The option is a must-have for g-force junkies. We didn't do too much drifting during the exercises, but we did get a feel for the car from the passenger seat with some of Lexus' in-house drivers. With the traction control on, IS passed the moose test with rubber to spare. When turned off, it slid predictably off course, and was easily corrected with calm steering input. Do I want one? If you don't need a manual transmission, the IS 350 -- with the F-Sport package -- is just as fun, if not more, than any of its German rivals. The new styling is something people take notice of on the street. The difference in pricing between it, the C-class and the 3-series is negligible when you figure in the F-Sport package. The brand always does well in the J.D. Power rankings. The IS 350 has a ton going for it. Would we buy one? No. Because like many of you, a manual transmission is on our very short list of must-haves in a new car. Despite its name, the hyper-competitive entry-luxury segment is also a sporting segment, and BMW, Mercedes and Audi all offer a third pedal. We'd love to see a small run of manuals for Toyota faithful, but by all indications, that is not in the cards.