THE HONG KONG Observatory has just raised the No3 signal for the first typhoon of the year. So, kudos for the representative from Lexus dealer Crown Motors, who braved the storm to deliver its new IS 250 to my doorstep. The saloon is a lean, muscular looker, with a new nose and shoulders drawn back over the rear axle on fat, 17-inch Bridgestone tyres. Lexus has added plenty of glass in a saloon that seems more energetic and mature than previous IS models. And the sculpted wing mirrors, BMW-like swooped C-pillars and distinctive rear-lamp clusters are all fine touches. But it's too wet to gawp, and I hop inside the Lexus IS 250. I'm surprised by the front door's weight and solidity as I slam it shut with a reassuring 'thunk' you might expect from an old Mercedes-Benz. Indeed, the silence inside the cabin shows how well Lexus can insulate its passengers from the outside world. When you start the car with the trendy ignition button, there's only a tiny flicker of the spookily hi-tech rev counter to remind you that the brand-new V6 engine is ticking over. I adjust my seat in similar silence and learn that the steering isn't close enough, and I must adopt a slightly more laid-back seating position than I'm used to. I'm not expecting to let rip in this weather because the bamboo scaffolding above is beginning to creak more audibly in the gusts from typhoon Chanchu. I release the annoying, American-style, foot-down, foot-up parking brake and point the Lexus into the wind. The high-intensity discharge head-lamps turn the torrential downpour into a waterfall of sparkling crystals, each flickering through a rainbow as they splash on the road. Those that land on the windscreen are swept away by the automatic wipers, and trace a crooked path along side windows as we gather momentum. With crosswinds at least as fast as the speed limit, the little IS 250 tracks rock-solid, the electrical power-steering twitching ever so gently as the car skips over the expansion strips on the highway. The steering wheel is a chunky leather rim simply laid out with the most basic of functions for the audio - there's really no need for cluttering twists and dials on the spokes to confuse and distract the driver. Clarity is Lexus' new motto. Although the chronograph-inspired speedometer of the previous IS-series was hailed as ingenious and bold, the new IS250 has a crystal clear, if somewhat common, four-dial dashboard. Discreet warnings for engine revs and road speed can be set to remind yourself to slow down. If you overstep your speed limit, the dash turns orange, in the hope that you'll exercise some self-discipline. The centre console houses all the climate-control and audio systems, and even though there's a wealth of computational power behind the panels, the simplicity and user-friendliness is a welcome departure from the gizmo-obsessed techo- designs in recent cars. Lexus has also wrapped every surface in superb luxury, from leather and wood to expensive-feeling plastics - including the ceiling lining and the noise-reducing sun visors. My favourite feature is the air-conditioned front seats. They don't so much blow a breeze as swirl soothing, cool air down my shirt: it's as relaxing as sitting in a spa. I envy those who'll receive this treatment every day on their way to work. The rear-seat passengers can't complain too much either, with ample head- and legroom, provided the front passengers are less than 1.77 metres tall. The Lexus is, again, quiet through the turns to Shek O, but I never reach alarming speeds, on account of the wet and the risk of hitting fallen trees outside Stanley. Even in the wet, the 225s upfront cling obediently to my chosen line, while the traction and stability control computers seamlessly intervene to keep us within our lane and off the kerb. The storm blocks our path near Tai Tam, so we return to the calm around St Stephen's Bay. The 204 brake-horsepowered Lexus can shift with superb balance and well-spaced gearing. The F1-style paddles behind the steering wheel let you change gear in Sports mode, but the conditions don't justify its oomph. Although the steering feels artificially weighted, it's sufficiently accurate when correcting the understeer, while the brakes do an appreciable job of balancing the car, and providing straight-line retardation on a slippery surface covered in wet leaves and twigs. But the IS 250 isn't about ripping up tarmac and blowing Ferraris and Porsches into the weeds. It's about how Lexus has developed in the past decade, and managed to load all this refinement and luxury into an elegant four-door saloon, offering the reliability and superb fit-and-finish of Japanese engineering. The Lexus IS 250 may not be as driver-orientated as the BMW 325i, while the Audi A4 offers four-wheel-drive, and the Mercedes C280 wears the all-important star on its nose. But as an all-rounder the Lexus is up there with the best. Hong Kong car-lovers usually refer to the upper market as having European quality or Continental style, but Lexus has sneaked up on its competitors with a winner. The IS 250 is a fine place to be in at any time, let alone a storm.