Words: Stephen Spyropoulos
Photography: Stephen Spyropoulos
Published: April 7, 2016
The third generation Lexus IS sedan only one had flaw: the weak and paltry entry-level IS 250. On the outside, it looked just as fast and mean as its bigger and more muscular brother, the IS 350, especially with the F Sport package tacked on. But when it came down to walking the walk, the IS 250 was practically all show and no go.
As we have seen with the recent release of the LC 500, Lexus likes to listen to their customers instead of shying away. So the automaker decided to axe the dusty 2.5-litre V6 that could only muster up 204 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque in favour of something new. For 2016, Lexus introduced a completely new entry-level option to the IS lineup, the IS 200t. It features the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder that was first dropped into the NX 200t early last year.
Replacing the old mill, the new motor pumps out 241 horsepower and 258 lb-ft. of torque—leaps and bounds over the old motor, giving the sexy IS 200t a fighting chance against its German rivals, including its main competitor, the F30 BMW 328i.
Lexus is renowned for creating some of the smoothest and quietest motors ever conceived by man, and one example is the old school V8 perched inside the 1990 LS 400. That motor was so gentle that you could literally balance a glass of water on the intake manifold and not have it spill over. No seriously, check it out on YouTube if you don’t believe me.
While I do enjoy a peaceful motor, I also enjoy listening to a hair-raising V6 soundtrack. The outgoing 2.5-litre V6 provided that thrill but instead, the new four cylinder reminds me about that LS 400. The new engine runs so smoothly and quietly at idle that on occasion, I wasn’t even sure if the car was on. To actually hear the engine, you’ll have to stick your head outside the window while driving through a tunnel.
The new twin-scroll turbo does carry some noticeable turbo lag but once thrust and peak torque kick in at around 1,650 rpm, you’ll reach 100 km/h in just under 7 seconds. Not bad for a car that weighs only 70 kg less than its IS 350 sibling, a car that produces 306 horsepower and can accelerate to 100 km/h in under 5 seconds.
Also new for this sedan is the 8-speed Sport Direct Shift automatic transmission, originally designed for the RC F performance coupe. This unique gearbox along with rear-wheel drive is exclusive to the base IS 200t, as the more expensive IS 300 and IS 350 up the ladder both feature 6-speed automatics with V6s and all-wheel drive.
While the days of having a manual Lexus are long gone, this new eight-speed is quite delightful to use. It doesn’t shift with as much force or speed as a dual-clutch from Volkswagen but it does respond well to paddle shifts, particularly in Sport mode. However, the transmission is well tuned for a spirited drive – holding gears instead of racing to the top – so you won’t find much need to resort to the paddles.
Of course, having eight cogs does benefit fuel economy. On a 150 km trip to Niagara Falls, the IS 200t averaged 8.0 L/100km. Slightly more economical than its V6 brethren, the 2.0-litre brought home respectable numbers, and over the course of my test week I managed 9.2 L/100km on premium fuel.
The IS 200t’s price tag is a bit of a shocker. The car starts at $39,250 but doesn’t even feature a rear view camera. But that’s not to say that the IS doesn’t present the same quality that Lexus is renowned for, but all of the soft touch plastics, leatherette seats and seven-inch colour display can’t make up for some of the other standard luxury features that you’d find in competitors like the Acura TLX and the Infiniti Q50.
For a car priced ever so closely to $40,000 you won’t find navigation, blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning, backup sensors, nor a heated steering wheel. More importantly for us northerners who deal with wintery conditions, there is no AWD available on the IS 200t.
For that you have to step up to the IS 300, which raises the starting price up to $41,900 for a non-F sport variant. For around the same price as the IS 200t you can find yourself in a Volkswagen Golf R with a heck of a lot more power, a Haldex all-wheel drive system and a manual transmission.
Added to the $39,250 MSRP of this tester was the $4,000 F Sport Series 1 package. Bumping the as-tested price to just over $43,000, this package adds in a few more features to help this sedan stand out amongst traffic: the F Sport honeycomb spindle grille, a sport tuned suspension, sexy 18-inch wheels, beefed up three-spoke steering, a fully digital and sliding instrument cluster, rain-sensing wipers, and a large sunroof.
Thankfully, Lexus does not mess around with the F Sport moniker, and it translates into a very good package in terms of bang for your buck. Handling made the car feel like it was on rails, and trying to induce any form of oversteer was difficult mainly due to the undefeatable traction control and the wide P255/35R18 tires in the rear and P225/40R18s up front.
In Sport mode (There is no Sport +, that is an IS 350 exclusive) the steering weight increases and the car feels very stiff going over road imperfections. This Lexus ain’t no Lincoln. On the road trip to Niagara I was met with smooth roads, the bucket seats held my passenger and I in comfort, but I could not help but feel bad for anyone who had to sit in the back. The last generation was criticized for the cramped rear quarters, and this IS is no different. If you’re above six feet tall, you’ll have to watch out for the sloping rear roofline getting in the way.
While the IS 200t is not as kitted out as some of its competitors, it does present a step forward in what Lexus has been trying to achieve. Feeling greatly improved but not perfect, this new IS 200t gives enthusiasts a glimmer of hope that Lexus hasn’t completely forgotten about them. My hope is that the automaker will also bring back the IS F with that glorious 5.0-litre V8.
With sporty dynamics, sexy looks, and a turbo motor that may likely have some sort of tuning capability down the road, consumers don’t need to feel like they’re losing out by selecting the base IS model. If you’re just getting to the Lexus party, there are plenty of promising things coming out of their camp, including a JD Power and Associates top rating in dependability. If you’re looking to gain entry into the luxury sport sedan market, don’t turn a blind eye on the IS Sedan, just keep a close watch on those pricey options.
型号 Model: 2016 Lexus IS 200t
顏色 Paint Type: Redline
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $39,250
試車售價 Price as Tested: $43,250
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,800
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,665 / 1,810 / 1,430
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,625
引擎 Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
最大馬力 Horsepower: 241 hp @ 5,800 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 1,650 - 4,400 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 8-speed Sport Direct Shift Control Automatic
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway ) L/100km: 10.6 / 7.2
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 9.2
輪胎尺碼 Tires: Front P225/40R18; Rear P255/35R18