Toyota, in addition to possibly upstaging General Motors as the world’s largest automaker this year, seems intent on challenging the Germans in their niche of luxury sports vehicles.

Mark Maynard of the Copley News Service recently test drove and compared the Lexus IS 250 and the BMW 325, the German company’s entry level sport sedan.

The biggest difference, noted Maynard, between the two cars is in their handling. He found the clutch and gearshift more limber in the IS but the BMW’s gate was more precise. The IS functioned best at higher rpms while the BMW provided more power with more gear ratios at lower rpms.

[More after the jump]

[Copley News Service via the Jamaica Observer and Eopinions.com]

Covering other aspects of the two vehicles, he found both were similarly priced with similar interior quality. The 325i, which tended to be a little more technically complicated compared to the IS (e.g., start system) also had such features as 'hill-holding' to stop the car from rolling on an incline while the clutch was pressed down.

Michael Karesh, one of the lead reviewers of Eopinions.com's Car section, sampled the higher trims of both vehicles. He did not want to like the BMW 330i and, as he bluntly put it, ‘I went into this test drive looking to do some damage.’ But the BMW handled his impromptu testing grounds—uneven pavement, tar strips, and tight curves--easily without tire squeal. Understeer and oversteer were just hinted during his tests. Same with road feel, which he found was just hinted through the steering system, enough to know it’s there.

Similar to Maynard, Karesh found the IS 350’s major power came at high rpms. But it was no slough at lower revs, though. His biggest issue revolved around some of the electronic “nannies” in the IS. He found the stability controls cutting in earlier and at lower speeds than the BMW 330 on similar conditions.

Karesh also reviewed the IS 250 in the review as well.