Having entered its third generation, the Lexus IS moniker has come a long way, transforming from a rather conservatively designed sedan into something that is much more exciting. Besides that, for the first time, the IS, which goes against models like the BMW 3-Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, is now powered by a turbocharged engine. But does having a turbocharger guarantee a better driving experience? Read more to find out…
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged, DOHC I-4, direct injection
Power: 241hp at 5,800rpm
Torque: 350Nm from 1,650 to 4,400rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with torque converter Sports Direct Shift (SPDS)
Safety: 10 airbags, Blind Spot Monitor, ABS, EBD, ISOFIX, Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management (VDIM), VSC, Traction Control, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Hill-Start Assist, Brake Assist (BA).
Origin: Fully imported from Japan
The third generation Lexus IS 200t F Sport is a mid-sized premium sedan which competes against the BMW 330i M Sport (RM308,888), Audi A4 2.0 TFSI Quattro(RM309,800), and the Mercedes-Benz C250 AMG (RM287,888).
There are four variants to choose from:
Lexus IS 200t Premium – RM297,800.00
Lexus IS 200t Luxury – RM349,900.00
Lexus IS 200t F Sport – RM384,900.00
Lexus IS 300h – RM452,100.00
*All prices indicated are on-the-road without insurance.
When news first broke that Lexus was going to reveal the latest IS, the level of excitement and anticipation in us was quite high to be honest, as the outgoing IS 250 was a pretty awesome car from both the design and performance point of view. So, we couldn’t help it but wonder how better it was going to look and drive.
And then, when the official images and the technical details arrived, we found ourselves asking each other – “Why are we still looking at the old model?”
Wait. This IS the new version. There has not been any update of any sort as far as the car’s looks are concerned, except for the ‘IS 200t’ badge which replaces the old ‘IS 250’. No new lights, no tweaked bumpers, no re-designed grille, no new wheels as well.
So, what is new?
The answer to the million-dollar question is the all-new 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine which has replaced the outgoing 2.5-litre V6 mill, a new eight-speed gearbox which replaces the previous generation’s six-speed automatic transmission, and a couple of added safety features.
The IS 200t F Sport, which is the range-topping model, is also the most expressive variant out of the four versions that are being offered here. The huge grille, 18-inch alloys, the daytime running lights (DRL), and the swoopy side-profile give the sedan a rather bold and sporty look. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that it is the sportiest looking car in its segment.
The thing is that, the design is not fresh anymore. We are not sure if Lexus busted all of its allocated production budget on the new engine and the additional airbags that it couldn’t even afford new lights, but the company should have come up with new lights or a fresh wheel design at least, in order to distinguish the IS 200t clearly from the outgoing IS 250.
Similar to the exterior, nothing much has changed with the interior of the IS 200t compared with the IS 250. The cabin is still as cramped as before, thanks to the bulky centre-stack and the dashboard. As far as comfort is concerned, the IS 200t’s cabin is top notch. The seats are all clad in leather and provide excellent support, regardless of the occupant’s size and shape.
Noise, vibration, and harshness level is also impressive and on par with its European rivals. As much as the practicality is concerned, there are six cubbyholes in the cabin, and a huge storage compartment in the centre console for you to keep your mobile devices, Smart Tags and what not. Boot space on the other hand stands at 480-litres, which is pretty decent for a car its size.
Our favourite features in the IS were the touch panel control strip on which you just slide your fingers up and down to adjust the air-con temperature and, in F Sport specification as tested, the virtual instrument cluster that alternates between two configurations at the touch of a button.
Another feature worth mentioning is Lexus’ Remote Touch joystick which is used to navigate through the car’s infotainment system, in order to access all the information ranging from the fuel consumption figures, the source of entertainment, and the vehicle status among others. As cool as it looks, it lacks the smoothness of the BMW i-Drive system, and still requires you to move your eyes to the display on the centre-stack to see where the cursor is headed to.
How does it drive?
Despite looking the same, the IS is now a completely different car at heart. Gone is the previous 2.5-litre V6, replaced by the new 2.0-litre turbocharged mill, similar to the one powering the NX 200t SUV. While peak horsepower stands at 241hp, peak torque is rated at 350Nm, and mated to the engine is an eight-speed automatic gearbox which replaces the outgoing six-speed auto. Although the engine is similar to the one powering the NX, the IS produces 6hp more than the SUV.
Thanks to the turbocharger and the new gearbox, the IS 200t’s power delivery is much more linear now, and the car feels much more composed on the road. On corners on the other hand, the car offers excellent stability, plenty of grip and very little body roll. The well-weighted steering and strong brakes inspire confidence, too.
Given a work over with the steering-mounted paddle-shifters, the turbo engine responded on the dot, and in a very satisfying manner, offering enough performance to put the accomplished rear-drive chassis to good use and delivering lightning-quick gearshifts both up and down.
Unlike the outgoing IS 250’s V6 mill that needed to be worked hard in order to enjoy all the power, the turbocharged 2.0-litre engine in the IS 200t F Sport hands all 350Nm smoothly on a silver platter from as early as 1,650rpm all the way until 4,400rpm. It was a case of ‘just ask and you shall receive’ as far as the power delivery was concerned.
However, despite having 37hp and 99Nm more, and a more linear power delivery now, the IS 200t still falls short behind the BMW 330i M Sport in terms of acceleration. Besides that, it is on par with the rest of the crowd.
Overall, the Lexus IS 200t is a much better drive than the outgoing model in our opinion. While some may say that it lacks the raw feel of the IS 250, the composure and finesse that it has now is what the car always needed, making it a great car to be driven on the highway, along twisty bits, and of course, in the constantly hectic city traffic.
How economical is it?
While claimed fuel consumption stands at 7-litres/100km, we observed 9-litres/100km throughout our stint with the car over three days, comprising mostly of driving within city roads in the Klang Valley.
It is decent for its segment, but it is still not as fuel efficient as the BMW or the Audi A4.
Similar to other cars in the Lexus line-up, the IS 200t F Sport is covered by a 3-year warranty from the date of first registration or 100,000km travelled, whichever occurs first.
Overall, the Lexus IS 200t is pretty much on par in terms of performance, practicality, comfort, and build quality with its rivals. It is possibly even the most reliable car in the lot as it is not as sophisticated as its German rivals.
However, with an asking price of RM384,900, the Lexus is the most expensive among its closest rivals. This explains why we tend to see more German mid-sized sedans on the road compared to the Lexus.
But then again, if you are one of those who wish to stand out from the masses, and don’t mind spending more for it, the IS 200t might be the right car for you.
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