Lexus is 200t red front wide
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2015 Seyth Miersma / AOL
Lexus is 200t red front
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2015 Seyth Miersma / AOL
Lexus is 200t red rear wide
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2015 Seyth Miersma / AOL
Lexus is 200t red rear
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2015 Seyth Miersma / AOL
Lexus is 200t red grille
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2015 Seyth Miersma / AOL
Lexus is 200t red headlight driving light
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2015 Seyth Miersma / AOL
Lexus is 200t red wheel
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2015 Seyth Miersma / AOL
Lexus is 200t red taillight badge
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2015 Seyth Miersma / AOL
Lexus is 200t red f sport badge
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2015 Seyth Miersma / AOL
Lexus is 200t interior black
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2015 Seyth Miersma / AOL
Lexus is 200t interior black
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2015 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2015 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2015 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2015 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2015 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2015 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2015 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2015 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2015 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2015 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  • Image Credit: Copyright 2015 Seyth Miersma / AOL
  •   Engine
    Turbo 2.0L I4
  •   Power
    241 HP / 258 LB-FT
  •   Transmission
    8-Speed Automatic
  •   0-60 Time
    6.9 Seconds
  •   Top Speed
    143 MPH
  •   Drivetrain
    Rear-Wheel Drive
  •   Engine Placement
    Front
  •   Curb Weight
    3,583 LBS
  •   Seating
    2+3
  •   Cargo
    13.8 CU-FT
  •   MPG
    22 City / 32 HWY
  •   Base Price
    $38,905
  •   As Tested Price
    $45,214
  •   Best Deal Price
    $34,759
  •  
When Lexus revamped its IS sedan for the 2014 model year, the car polarized in terms of design, and offered bipolar driving experiences, trim to trim. The entry-level IS 250 used a 2.5-liter V6 that felt like a lightweight for the segment. The stronger 3.5-liter six, especially when tied down to a car with the F-Sport package and subsequent handling improvements, was more of a sporting thing.

Thankfully, Lexus has replaced the base powerplant for the IS with an up-to-snuff turbo 2.0-liter four. I drove the newly christened IS 200t for a week – with that enhancing F-Sport pack – and found it to be a vast improvement. Modest-budgeted buyers with eyes for Lexus' edgy styling seem to be in good hands.

Driving Notes

  • If the "200t" part of the model name looks familiar, you've probably seen it affixed to the rear end of Lexus' new NX small crossover. Of course the IS is lighter than its crossover sibling. Meaning the directly injected turbo engine's outputs of 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque are more thrilling in this application. At more than 3,500 pounds, the IS 200t still isn't exactly rapid – Lexus rates the 0-60 time at 6.9 seconds – but the torque pop is enough to jet around town authoritatively.
  • Being a newly minted engine and a Toyota-brand product, you'd expect the IS 200t to be class-leading (or right there) in terms of fuel economy, too. With ratings of 22 and 32 miles per gallon, city and highway, it isn't. Both the BMW 328i (22 City / 34 Highway) and the Mercedes-Benz C300 (25 City / 34 Highway) do better, and while making similar power.
  • The eight-speed automatic transmission is quite well suited for the brand and the car, I'd say. It mostly stayed out of my way, while in D, shifting unobtrusively during normal driving. The paddle-shift option is great for the occasional flights of motive fancy, but it's not lightning-quick, nor super engaging.
  • Handling is nippy with the F-Sport package, at least within the normal boundaries of public roads. The car stays neutral and flat under cornering loads, and the front end feels rather light and quick to turn in. Of course, take the same corners more aggressively, and you'll feel the car default to understeering, with power cut on exit until all four wheels are fully set and gripping. Don't expect to slide the IS around, in other words.
  • The chunky steering wheel feels good in the hand, and doesn't have the unsettling lightness I remember from the last-generation IS 250.
  • Even with the somber, all-black colorway and not-actually-leather NuLuxe seating, I dig the IS' interior design. With matte surfaces in place of glossy and brushed metal in place of chrome, it has a kind of retro-futuristic vibe that strikes me as pleasingly Japanese. I like the look of the moving-bezel gauge cluster, too. Sadly, using the joystick controller to move through the menu system is a drag. The selector bounces all over the screen, like an old wired mouse with a dirty laser sensor.

If you enjoy, or at least don't mind, the strong styling choices Lexus has made with this IS (inside and out), the car acquits itself reasonable on the road and on paper. You'll save a few thousand versus the asking price for a comparable 3 Series or C-Class, and the whole Toyota/Lexus reliability reputation helps out, too. Easy to drive, quick, and painless – the IS 200t might not be an enthusiast's first choice, but it'd hardly be a wrong one.

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