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 …
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|MPG||22 City / 33 Hwy|
|Transmission||8-spd auto w/OD|
|Power||241 @ 5800 rpm|
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