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How Lexus Is Beating the Germans With the IS350

SAN DIEGO (TheStreet) -- It's probably best that I had to return my shiny red Lexus (TM) IS350 after just one week.

My growing obsession with being in the car, driving fast, with the radio cranked loud, was probably not healthy. Nor was my growing penchant for weaving in and out of traffic on the highway, driving with a saucy, catch-me-if-you-can attitude that surprised even me.

The cost of traffic tickets would likely have bankrupted me.

Having so much fun driving fast, however, was just one part of the problem with my test vehicle. My growing obsession with simply driving the car all the time was the other.

Not only does the 2014 Lexus IS350 go from zero to 60 in 5.6 seconds, it's also a luxurious and well-designed vehicle that's fun and very accessible for first-time sports car drivers.

It hugs the road and speeds powerfully up hills while spoiling you with leather seats, an incredibly cool multimedia entertainment system that includes a big, high-resolution screen on the dashboard, a Sirius XM (SIRI) radio receiver, and (if you choose the upgrade) an 835-watt Mark Levinson premium surround sound audio system with 15 speakers.

My test vehicle also included Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control, an industry-first subscription-free real-time traffic and weather information package and a drive mode select system that allows you to switch between "Normal" and "Sport S" drive options depending on your mood.

With all these cool toys to play with, my mornings became an exercise in a whole new form of creativity: wracking my brain trying to find excuses to drive places I would otherwise probably not have gone.

"It's all about being fun to drive and that emotional appeal to the consumer," says Owen Peacock, a national product manager for Lexus. "And the other part we see as being important about this car, is that it's a young, fun, useful car."

Bingo! Lexus has certainly achieved that with the IS350.

I was never really a sports car driver. I've been a Honda (HMC) owner most of my life, and now I drive an even less sporty Prius. The IS350 is my first experience behind the wheel of a sporty, luxury car. But in many ways that's exactly who Lexus is aiming for with this new model.

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