(TURBO) BOOSTING THE BASE
The base Lexus IS gets a major upgrade with the IS 200t
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sun, May 15, 2016
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By Glenn Oyoung
I joined the workforce at a time when you were expected to wear a suit and tie to work. I didn’t mind. Don’t get me wrong - if given a choice of what to wear on any given day it’s always been some car-related t-shirt and shorts. But to me there’s a dignity in suits and an art to pairing ties, shirts, cufflinks, and shoes that is actually fun once in a while.
Queue coffee-fueled epiphany… near-luxury sedans are like suits. You buy them because you want to project a certain air of success, mainly to attract more success. They can come in many variants (color, pattern, cut) from the more tried-and-true brands with decades of heritage to any of the upstart brands launching at your local mall.
After a week in the IS 200t F SPORT, I’m going to go out on a limb and call the IS 200t a refined and reasonably priced slim-fit suit. It’s got aggressive exterior styling, sexy interior color palette, all the gadgets you need, and enough power to get you where you need to go backed with quality materials and construction.
If you’re in the market for an entry-level car that says, “I’m the rising star of this employee orientation!” – then step right up Mr. or Miss Junior Management Consultant. This is the car that says: “I’m going to enjoy eventually replacing you Boss Man, but for now you can trust me to pick up and impress the client.”
When the editors of LA Car asked me if I was interested in reviewing the IS 200t F SPORT, I jumped at the chance mainly because of the new 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder power plant. I hadn’t driven an IS since the second generation and I wanted to see what the new engine was like. This is a significant power plant in that also propels the wildly successful NX 200t and it will most likely make its way into other Toyota and Lexus offerings.
The other reason was more nostalgic. I still remember the IS as a cool JDM Altezza that finally made its way here. When the first-gen arrived Stateside, it did not disappoint. While unable to dethrone the Ultimate Driving Machine, the IS did have considerable sales. More importantly, it brought younger buyers back into the Lexus brand.
Fast forward a few years, and the Lexus brand is now bifurcated with one set of cars and SUVs aimed at Lexus traditionalists looking to be pampered and one set of cars and a whole sub-brand called F PERFORMANCE aimed at younger consumers who want to lay down some rubber or at least get people rubber-necking at them while they zip buy.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: THE EXTERIOR
Walking up to the IS from the rear, it’s hard not to appreciate how it's evolved. The star of the show for me is the integrated spoiler and how it gives the IS a squared-off, planted look. The taillights are edgy from the side, but pretty conservative from the back. Moving to the side view, the IS strikes a handsome profile. The upward swoosh that starts at the lower rocker panel and ends with the taillights is a nice touch that lends the IS more than a hint of wind-cutting swagger.
Then you get to the front. The polarizing and often-maligned Lexus spindle grille is here in full effect. Add in the arrow-shaped LED daytime running lights which seem to accentuate the Predator-like spindle grille, and you’ve got a full blown “Get to the choppa…NOW!” moment.
As the owner pearl white SC430, I am biased but nonetheless confident in saying that Lexus makes some of the most beautiful pearl whites in the industry. The Eminent White Pearl backs up this claim, and looked great paired with the Rioja Red interior (see Gallery). Rounding out the exterior the IS 200t F Sport features F Sport 18-inch split-five-spoke alloy wheels in a satin gun metal finish. Beefy 225/40R18 (front), 255/35R18 (rear) performance tires give this runner the right shoes for the next sprint.
DAD BODS AND SLIM FIT SUITS: THE INTERIOR
Slipping into the driver’s seat is like dropping into the cockpit of the F-22 raptor, except much redder. The F SPORT package includes Bolstered (with a capital “B”) sport seats, perforated leather steering wheel, aluminum pedals, and contrast stitching. It’s definitely a driver-oriented cockpit and the supportive seats seem to dare you to attack the nearest corner. While that is a valid choice, the IS 200t F SPORT features an assortment of creature comforts to reward the driver for a hard day’s work including heated and ventilated front seats and an optional 15-speaker Mark Levinson® premium audio system.
If you handed me the keys to a car like the IS back in the day I probably would have high-tailed it to some swanky Westside restaurant and posted pictures all over Friendster. With a wife and two kids I did the opposite. I got home, threw in some car seats and we high-tailed it to Yogurtland. I’m pretty sure I’m the only reviewer who has heard this “Daddy, did you sell your truck???” in stereo from the backseat of this particular tester.
As the sugar rush subsided on the drive home, I noted that the IS may be cozy for four adults but it’s downright uncomfortable for two adults and two kids and their car seats. That is, unless you really love to arbitrate close quarter combat arising from disputes about who had this book first or which princess is better – Elsa or Anna (by the way, totally Elsa. She became a Queen after all).
Up front, my dad bod and I decided that while we loved the IS interior, long-term its big brother the GS would suit us better. The IS’ 55.9 inches of front shoulder room beats out the 3-series’ 55.1, but the GS has 57.3 inches of shoulder room, slightly more headroom, and more hip room. Just like in pants, a few inches can mean all the difference. It’s nothing against the IS mind you, slim-fit suits may look good on the right guy at the right time in his life. But throw in a decade or so and suddenly a pair of broken-in Levi’s and Yogurtland starts to sound like a real night out.
Automakers are increasingly turning to turbos to help them balance fuel economy and performance targets.
The IS 200t’s new 2016 2.0-liter turbocharged 8AR-FTS engine cranks out 241 hp @ 5,800 rpm and has 258 lb.-ft. torque at 1,650-4,400 rpm. That’s an improvement over the IS 250 which had a meager 204 hp @ 6,400 rpm and 285 lb.-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm. It’s impressive since fuel economy increased along the way. The IS 200t F SPORT is mated to an 8-speed automanual transmission and rated for 22/33 mpg (city/highway).
Technical achievements aside, from a driving perspective the IS 200t’s 6.9-second 0-60 time doesn’t quite match up with the sedan’s sporty aura. While acceleration is adequate for regular commuting and freeway on-ramps, it’s clear that Lexus engineers have prioritized reliability, fuel economy, and NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness) over pulse-quickening fun. Downshifting with the paddle-mounted shifters does add a little more spice into the mix.
Where the IS 200t F SPORT shines in the dynamic performance category is handling. It performed admirably on the winding curves of the 110 freeway, carving up each turn with the even-keeled precision of a surgical scalpel. I didn’t have an opportunity to test it on a track, but I’d say it was plenty of fun for regular urban driving without sacrificing comfort.
The IS 200t F SPORT is a worthy addition to the Lexus line-up and a definite improvement over the IS 250 that it replaces. If you’re at the stage in your life where moving a whole family around is either ahead of you or behind you, the IS 200t is a worthy candidate for your consideration.
With sporty styling, luxurious interior, and a solid power plant that delivers adequate pep and respectable MPG, the IS 200t is sure to be a bigger contender in this competitive space.
For more information regarding Lexus products, go to lexus.com
Name of vehicle: IS 200t F SPORT RWD
$40,870 (F Sport base)
EPA Fuel Economy Ratings:
22 city/33 highway/26 combined
2.0 liter 16-valve, double overhead cam, direct-injected, turbocharged and intercooled in line four cylinder engine with dual variable valve timing and intelligence (VVT-i)
241 @ 5,800 rpm
285 pound-feet @ 4,800 rpm
8-speed automatic with sequential manual mode and paddle shifters
Front-engine, rear-wheel drive
Front F Sport-tuned independent, double-wishbone with coil springs, gas-pressurized shock absorbers and stabilizer bar
Rear F Sport-tuned independent, multilink with coil springs, gas-pressurized shock absorbers and stabilizer bar
Two-piston calipers with 11.7-in ventilated discs (front), 11.4-in ventilated discs (rear) and high-friction pads
Wheels and tires:
F SPORT 18-inch split-five-spoke alloy wheels with 225/40R18 (front), 255/35R18 (rear) Y-rated summer performance tires
Length: 183.7 inches
Width: 71.3 inches
Height: 56.3 inches
Curb weight: 3,583 pounds
0-60 mph in 6.9 seconds
143 mph top speed (electronically limited)