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Comparo: 2006 Lexus IS 250 vs. 2006 Volvo S40

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So, you have $40,000 burning a hole in your pocket and you are thinking about purchasing a nice car, getting yourself something that will make you feel good about all the work you have done to accumulate this small fortune. As is the case in most segments, the entry-level luxury line-up getting fatter and fatter by the model year. The benchmark BMW 3-Series is attainable, as are the Audi A3 and A4, the Mercedes C-Class, the Cadillac CTS, the Infiniti G35 and Acura TSX as well as the TL. Out of the bunch, it can become very difficult to select the right one for you.

You may have noticed that two model were left out: the Lexus IS and the Volvo S40. This was purposely done because we decide to compare these two vehicles. The IS is one of the newest and hottest cars to enter this category. On the other hand, the S40 has been available for nearly two years and is perhaps the most subtle car of the bunch.


Styling

The previous generation of the IS was a dark horse. It had everything going for it: Its exterior styling was classical and bold at the same time and it carried an aura that made it most desirable. The new IS is electrifying. Lexus endowed the car with bold and distinctive lines that turn heads wherever it goes. The taillights share a similar design to the headlights and both are joined by a creased muscular body line. The proportions are perfect. The only thing that could have made the car look better is the addition of the 350's 18" alloy wheels.

The first rendition of the S40 broke no mould and the present car actually borrowed the Volvo family's cast although in a shrunken version. The S40 is handsome and certainly gains quite a bit by looking like the rest of the
Volvo's range although when parked beside the IS, it simply does not measure up. This may have to do with the fact that the shape of the car is a direct throwback to the 1999 Volvo S80.

The Volvo and Lexus and expertly crafted and assembled, as we would expect from these car makers. Whether inside or out, these cars build quality is above reproach. The Lexus' cabin is incredibly modern in conception and the Volvo's seems to have been poured into place. Both have a dizzying array of controls on the center stack; the S40's 30 or so are conglomerated in the same few square inches on the beautiful aluminum "waterfall". The IS' layout is more contemporary although some audio controls are separated by HVAC commands.

The materials, in both cases, are certainly upper-class. The IS' seats are covered in what seems to be the inner lining of a jacket whereas the Volvo's Dynamic T-Tec upholstery is some of the best in the business. The seats themselves provide excellent comfort. The IS supplies more lateral support but both cars have cozy seating areas.