By on January 19, 2016

2016 Lexus IS 200t Exterior

2016 Lexus IS 200t

2.0-liter turbocharged, DOHC I-4, direct injection, CVVT, (241 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm; 258 lbs-ft @ 1,650-4,400 rpm)

Eight-speed automatic

22 city/32 highway/26 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

24.6 (Observed, MPG)

Base Price: $38,275*

As Tested: $45,065*

* Prices include $950 destination charge.

Lexus has tended to prefer conservative design in almost every aspect of product development. Words like reliable and dependable usually spring to mind before sporty or exciting.

Yet, the brand has been trying to change that over the last few years with love-it-or-hate-it designs; in particular, Lexus’ new “Predator mouth.” The changes aren’t simply skin deep. The current-generation IS sedan also stepped outside the luxury brand’s comfort zone with sharp handling and a focus on dynamics. Of course, this is Lexus we’re talking about, so this change in a more aggressive direction is happening at, you guessed it, a conservative pace.

Now in its third year of production, the third-generation IS isn’t getting a refresh like we’d typically see in from ze Germans. Instead, Lexus has decided to focus its attention under the hood with a new turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a de-tuned V-6 for mid-level shoppers.

Can a refreshed drivetrain help the IS stand out in a crowded segment? Let’s find out.

Exterior
With a swoopy side profile and the ginormous (and thankfully optional) F-sport grille, the IS continues to be the most expressive option in the small luxury segment. Although the style isn’t my cup of tea, I have to admit that polarizing designs elicit more emotion from those that love the look. (Believe it or not, there are some that love it.) For me, the Cadillac ATS’ angular design is the most attractive in the segment, followed by the new Mercedes C-Class at number two. I just haven’t warmed up to the Lexus daytime running lamps, which are now divorced from the headlamps and have their own cut-out in the bumper cover. Lexus says they are styled after the Lexus “L” but they just look like Nike “Swooshes” to my eye.

2016 Lexus IS 200t Interior-017

Interior
Front seat comfort proved excellent during my week, easily besting the base seats in the Audi, Mercedes, Cadillac and BMW. However, the Infiniti Q50 and Volvo S60 are more more comfy in base models. When it comes to upper-level trims, the IS lags the Germans: Lexus still doesn’t offer four-way lumbar support, articulating seat backs or extending thigh cushions. Rear legroom had been a long-time IS shortcoming and, although the IS was stretched considerably back in 2013, the Q50, A4 and 3-Series all provide more room for folks in the rear.

The interior styling of the IS is a departure from the sedate dashboards seen in the European sedans. Parts quality is largely comparable to the big players in the segment, but the bulky dashboard and heavily styled interior panels produce a more cockpit-like feel versus an open and airy cabin. The 7-inch LCD instrument cluster in F-Sport models is an interesting touch in this segment, but it’s not as exciting as the 12-inch units that are becoming more common.

2016 Lexus IS 200t Interior-005

Infotainment
Although I couldn’t find a single example on a dealer’s lot, the base IS 200t with no options is the only way you can escape the infamous Lexus Remote Touch joystick. All other models use a small controller with haptic feedback to control a software interface originally designed for use with a touchscreen LCD. I find the controller requires far more concentration and “eyes-off-the-road” time when compared to a rotary controller a la Audi MMI. Regardless of the input method, all IS models get a 7-inch color LCD positioned far away from the driver. The distance from the driver and the large plastic bezel conspire to make the screen look much smaller than it is. The problem is further compounded by the screen actually being smaller than the up-level systems in the competition.

Twenty-fourteen brought mild software updates to infotainment software: HD Radio support and traffic information via HD radio so you don’t need an XM subscription to get a color-coded traffic map. Despite the updates, however, the software’s interface seems behind the times in terms of style and method of input. On the bright side, the Lexus touchpad interface we see in the NX has not made a cameo in this cabin.

2016 Lexus 2.0 Liter Turbo Engine-001

Drivetrain
Obviously, the reason we borrowed the IS was to sample the all-new 2-liter turbo. This is essentially the same engine we first saw in the NX 200t, but rotated 90 degrees and mated to an eight-speed transmission. The rotation and freer breathing bumps power to 241 horsepower while torque remains the same at 258 lbs-ft. Lexus uses a variable valve timing system that allows the engine to switch between Otto and Atkinson cycles in order to maximize efficiency. A unique injection system that combines port and direct injection and is also featured on the 200t. According to the EPA, the new drivetrain delivers 26 combined mpg, which is two better than the IS 250, but still two shy of the BMW 320i and three behind the Volvo S60.

The new turbo engine and all-wheel drive are mutually exclusive for reasons I don’t quite understand. Instead of a turbo AWD model with an 8-speed auto like we had hoped for, Lexus created a new, mid-level model called the IS 300 AWD using a de-tuned 3.5-liter V-6 making 255 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. The IS 300 makes do with ye olde six-speed, but Lexus will sell you an IS 300 AWD F-Sport to soften the blow.

2016 Lexus IS 200t Interior-002

Drive
The last time I sampled the old IS 250, I noted that it was by far the smoothest entry level powerplant in America, even while the engine didn’t have the same level of grunt found in the competition. As I said then: Sadly refinement isn’t what propels you to 60, so when the light turns green you’ll have a whisper quiet view of the competition’s rear bumper. This is in theory why the IS 200t was created. But there is a problem.

On paper, 241 horsepower sent through an 8-speed automatic to the rear wheels and pitted against 3,583 pounds of curb weight shouldn’t be much slower than the 240 horsepower, 3,370 pound BMW 328i. Unfortunately, we don’t drive cars on paper. In the real world, the IS 200t is a full 1.1 seconds slower to 60. We lose the first 7/10ths before either car hits 30 miles per hour. This is due to a few factors.

The effective first gear ratio of 14.8:1 in the IS 200t is essentially the same as the 14.4:1 in the 328i, but BMW’s 2-liter turbo produces maximum torque across a rev range 30-percent broader than the Lexus turbo mill, and ZF’s eight-speed has a lower second gear. Between 30 and 60 mph, the BMW gains an additional 4/10ths on the Lexus thanks to the broader powerband and the fact that BMW’s small engine likely puts out more than 240 ponies.

2016 Lexus IS 200t Boost

While the IS 200t’s acceleration is a notable improvement over the IS 250, it’s a very conservative improvement. These numbers also mean that the 200t more directly competes with the 180 horsepower BMW 320i, which accomplished the same task 3/10ths of a second slower than the Lexus yet withdraws four-thousand fewer dollars from your bank account.

Fuel economy is another area where paper and reality are at odds. According to the EPA, the 2016 IS 200t scores two miles per gallon better than the 2015 IS 250 on the combined cycle. In my tests, though, the two were essentially the same. The 2014 IS 250 beat the EPA score by two miles per gallon while the IS 200t fell just shy of the 26 mpg total.

2016 Lexus IS 200t Exterior-003

Throw the IS 200t into a corner and it starts to redeem itself. Every system in the small sedan feels like a team player. The eight-speed auto is a willing dance partner and has been programmed to hold gears in manual mode even if you apply full throttle. While the IS still isn’t the hardcore, corner-carving machine you’ll find in the ATS 2.0T, the Lexus simply feels more harmonious and balanced on the road. The suspension tune in the F-Sport is firm but not punishing, the steering is precise and well weighted. On the down side, Lexus doesn’t give the F-Sport version of the 200t the variable ratio steering or the adaptive suspension that the F-Sport package includes with the 350. The variable steering can be an acquired taste, but it allows the IS to feel more responsive at low speeds while eliminating the “twitchy” feeling that some sport sedans have on the highway.

Push the Lexus hard in a corner and the tires give way in a predictable and neutral manner. Do the same in the current 3-series and you’ll be surprised with more understeer and body roll than in the Lexus. While the previous 3-Series was precise and engaging, BMW has lately realized that a softer ride and bigger back seat help move more metal. Meanwhile, the Audi A4 and Volvo S60 plow like a John Deere when they encounter a kink in the road.

2016 Lexus IS 200t Exterior-007

As acceleration, precision and poise don’t always get you around a track faster, and because most of the competition’s 2-liter turbos accelerate notably faster, they are likely to beat the IS 200t on anything but a very small, tight track.

The handling ability and Lexus’ well-deserved reputation for dependability, reliability and low maintenance costs are strong selling points, regardless of the slow acceleration. In the past, another strong selling point of the IS sedan was a low MSRP with the old IS 250 undercutting the BMW 320i by nearly $2,000.

2016 Lexus IS 200t Exterior-001

Pricing in the 2016 IS is a complicated affair. Things start at $37,325 for a base 200t and $40,870 for a base 200t F-Sport. While Lexus does include $3,300 more standard equipment than you’ll find in a base 3-Series, the optics are that the BMW starts $4,175 lower. Since the Lexus is faster than the 320i, the approximately $900 delta between similarly configured models is a reasonable amount to pay, but Lexus should know that low MSRPs get more feet in the door. The other problem with the pricing scheme is that the BMW 328i is just $1,000 more than the IS 200t despite performing more like the IS 300.

I’ve long had a soft spot for Lexus (I credit a 1993 Lexus LS 400 for sparking my interest in cars) but the IS 200t failed to stand out in this crowded segment. Handling dynamics — like reliability and safety — just don’t seem to excite the shopping public anymore, making the trouble spots in the IS like infotainment and acceleration more glaring. While I have little doubt that the conservative design ethos at Lexus will make the IS 200t one of the most reliable and lowest cost-to-own turbo luxury sedans, that restraint leaves me longing for the turbo IS that could have been. (Note to Lexus: please, please, please twin-turbo the 3.5-liter V-6, pronto.) Until Lexus injects some of the passion that spawned the enormous F-Sport grille in the picture above into their drivetrain R&D department, even this new IS is destined to play third fiddle.

Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested:

0-30 mph: 2.8 seconds

0-60 mpg: 6.8 seconds

1/4 mile: 14.9 seconds @ 96 mph

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148 Comments on “2016 Lexus IS 200t Review – Lexus Finally Goes Turbo...”


  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Excellent review, Alex, as always. I agree that the anemic 2.5-liter V6 needed to go.

    For my money, I’d consider the IS (probably also in F-Sport trim, but with the larger 3.5-liter V6 ), the Q60 or the new A4. I like the ATS, but it’s too cramped in the rear. If GM brought the long-wheelbase ATS-L that’s sold in the Chinese market, that would turn it into a contender.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    All the way back to 1970s Celicas, this has been the story of Toyota performance: Tech that looks competitive on the spec sheet translates to notably slower performance on the road, because Toyota’s corporate culture is so conservative they simply can’t bring themselves to refrain from overbuilding the drivetrain so it will never, ever bring shame on themselves and their nation by breaking.

    At one level, this is an admirable impulse, and I credit Alex for recognizing it. But it also inevitably makes a lie out of Toyota trying to chase the market research by pretending they now have “passion.”

    In any field of endeavor, nobody can be all things to all people. Toyota has all the talent and resources to build a fine performance car, and they prove it occasionally as with their new coupe. But the same culture that makes a Camry dead reliable (and reliably dead) is what holds them back on cars like this. I’ve been interested to see when Toyota, always one to hold back and let others use the buyers as beta testers, was going to finally succumb to the pressure to give their engines some boost pressure, and how they’d do it when they did. The predictable answer: slowly.

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      The Lexus LF-A, Supra turbo, Celica All-Trac and MR2 don’t fit your narrative. For every car mag comparison that shows a win for BMW, there’s one that crowns a Lexus. I think in a lot of cases, careful attention to the option sheet is the difference. IS, A4, 326, C300, ATS — these are all competent cars.

      Something else to consider is how you define ‘performance’. 40 years ago, handling was an afterthought. 20 years ago, no one paid much attention to engine note. I personally have very little interest in 1/4 mile times, but we all know how BTSR feels about that.

      Summary: performance is personal and you should pick the car you like after careful consideration against your needs.

      • 0 avatar
        akatsuki

        The LFA certainly does. Not nearly fast enough for the money. Not even close. The other two were a long time ago.

        And the issue is that 1.1 seconds is absolutely huge. It isn’t a close race at all. You will notice it in normal driving. If they could have the better handling and kept within 0.4 or so, then they would have been in good shape.

        I think Lexus is a great car company and gets unfairly put down by car mags, hell I own one. But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t be a lot better. Their interiors lag Mercedes and Volvo, and their performance lags BMW and Audi. They say they are serious about sporting, but they don’t even compete with the M/AMG duo in any way.

        The real shame about journos is that they often don’t buy these cars. And most people lease and don’t buy their BMWs. I’d never buy a BMW or Audi, I don’t like wasting time and money on repairs. But a Lexus, sure.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          Sometimes I feel Lexus is building for the second or third owner. I’m the third owner of a 2008 LS460, which I bought this past July. There is absolutely no way I would have bought a 2008 version of any other large luxury sedan in 2015. No way, no how. But how did that help Lexus sell the car to the first owner, who kept it for five years and only 25,000 miles?

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Seems to be working for their other models, not so much LS which does take a nosedive on the first owner. Try to spot a deal on an CPO ES/RX/GX/GS.

          • 0 avatar
            MBella

            “But how did that help Lexus sell the car to the first owner, who kept it for five years and only 25,000 miles?”

            The better long term reliability will help with depreciation, which improves the first owner’s lease price.

        • 0 avatar
          05lgt

          I think part of the problem is everyone rates MSRP to MSRP. Alex does a fine job of pointing out that the TCO is going to be a lot lower for the Lexus, but when it comes time to find comparable vehicles he defaults to MSRP. The guy trading in a 4 year old Lexus for a new one is paying a lot less than the similar BMW/Mercedes/Audi customer, and don’t even get me going on the AMG/M depreciation.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      My review:

      1) Exterior so ugly, they should’ve flogged Akio Toyota in the public square. Look at that preying mantis mouth, those skateboard wheels, that Hyundai Tiburon-like side profile. Even the paint looks awful.

      2) Interior so cheap looking that it could have been pulled out of a 1989 Celica. WTF.

      3) Lexus can finally, officially join the list of automakers that can go **** themselves in thy anal area for daring charge near 50k for a hamster-milled 2.0 liter 4 banger, and calling it a “premium sports car.”

      F**K YOU, LEXUS!

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Lexus goes turbo. BOOOOO. NA 6+ cylinders FTW, foreva!

    Now I’ll read the review.

    • 0 avatar
      Fordson

      I’ll save you the trouble…it’s a dog.

      Lexus managed to design a 2.0T with no low-end grunt.

      That’s like designing a V8 that doesn’t sound good…congrats.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        It’s a shame, because Lexus engines in the past (save for the NA IS250) have been quite good. The 4.3L is the one I have experience with, and it’s excellent in every way.

        • 0 avatar
          Fordson

          Except that 278 hp out of a 4.3L engine is not that great and was not that great when it was made 10 years ago.

          It runs great, smooth, trouble-free…of course it would with that little stress on it. About the same specific output as the VW 2Slow.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            The 4.3 had 300 or 305HP. Which at the turn of the century was the same as what Germans were doing.

          • 0 avatar
            Fordson

            Actually 290 to 302 for M-B, 282 for BMW and 310 for Audi…but the Germans were all underrating their engines, same as they are now.

            The LS 430 was never as fast as any of them.

            The Japanese are going to be pretty low on the learning curve for small turbo engines…it will take a few years for them to put it together.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            “Germans were all underrating their engines, same as they are now.”

            Proof? That doesn’t really make sense in modern day accuracy. And I never said the LS was as fast as the Germans – cause I don’t care.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “That doesn’t really make sense in modern day accuracy.”

            Well, we know the Germans aren’t much for telling the truth…

            I seem to recall the GS430, M45, and FX45 being fine in their day acceleration-wise compared to the European competition.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Nope, they were slow and terrible, because the German engines actually had 430 hp, but were just being modest. *eye roll*

          • 0 avatar
            Fordson

            Pretty much everyone knows this about the German brands…not a secret. Alex referred to it in the article – did you miss that?

            The VW and BMW 2.0 liter turbo fours generally put out at the wheels what they’re crank-rated at on a chassis dyno. You really think a 3,400-lb. BMW with only 240 crank hp is going to do 0-60 in 5.7 seconds? Or do you think the Lexus is overrating and really makes only 190-200?

            That’s a huge performance gap; you have to account for it somehow.

            My own GTI was rated at 200/207 stock, but put out 203/218 on a Dynojet…after supposedly losing 12%-15% drivetrain loss.

            Don’t be hurt.

        • 0 avatar
          NormSV650

          The Camaro looks great plus the results of the LT1 6.2l V8 really mop the floor compared to the Mustang GT. The ATS-V, with similar chassis, with the 3.6TT has been in the 10’s @ ~130 mph with just a tune, exhaust and intake. That is faster than the Supercharged 6.2l LT4 in the Corvette C7 ZO6.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Lexus needs to setup to twin turbos like the others in the premium segment. But a v6 TT like the ATS-V with 460+ lb-ft of torque would eclipse the 5.0l V8 by 100 lb-ft.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Keep the twin turbo, but yes 3.5 in this small package Lexus.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      I’m laughing at the fact that since Lexus lowered the HP on the 3.5 V6 to justify the turbo 2.0 the Lexus IS is now the lowest HP application of the 3.5 V6. So much for a “premium” brand.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Grinds my gears.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        Well the IS350 still makes 306hp. The IS300 is just a 255hp waste of time.

        It must exist for international markets or something.

        • 0 avatar
          Quentin

          “The IS300 is just a 255hp waste of time.”

          The IS350 F Sport AWD is $3k more than the IS300 F Sport AWD. Is 50hp worth $3k? Maybe, maybe not.

          I test drove the IS 300 F Sport about a month ago and really enjoyed it. I wasn’t really in the market for a sport sedan, but I liked it just as well as the IS350 AWD F Sport that I drove 2 years ago. I’d have to drive them back to back, but the IS300 seems to hit a nice sweet spot by lowering the price but giving you 95% of the performance in daily driving.

          If you look at it as the base model AWD, for $2k, you get 2 more cylinders and AWD by jumping from an equally equipped IS 200t F sport to an IS 300 F sport. Worth the jump, IMO. I wasn’t crazy about the 2.0T in the NX200t. The lighter weight might balance it out a little better than the 3.5L, but 3.5L is probably a better overall car and worth the money.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Honestly I think people get a little too wah-wah whiny about “not enough HP.” No car in this segment is really under-powered when you look at things overall. In 1986 people were driving around in fully loaded minivans with 90hp. You’re fine in your IS 3.5.

      • 0 avatar
        Fordson

        More funny – BMW rates their 2.0T at 240 hp…so Lexus had to rate theirs at 241. That there’s marketing, guy.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        You mean the IS300 with Camry V6 motor recieves no accolades?

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        That’s not unlike how Ford is artificially trying to make the 3.7-liter V6 in the Mustang an unattractive option, even though (unless you’re going to tune it) it’s a superior engine to the 2.3-liter EcoBoost.

      • 0 avatar
        Maymar

        Well, despite being being down 30hp against a Tacoma running the same motor, the IS300 AWD still requires “premium,” maybe that’s how they justify it?

  • avatar
    qfrog

    Calty has declined to take the words of wisdom shared by the Joker at face value. “If you gotta go go with a smile”.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Why do OEMs keep installing tachometers in AT cars? Dammed annoying when there’s also a separate speedometer (unlike here) vying for precious see-under-the-wheel gauge space. Speedometer always loses for right-hand-only driving.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      My theory is that it’s there so you know the engine is running, since the war against NVH means you can’t hear anything at idle.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        It’s easier to keep the revs low in the AT and save some fuel if you have an eye on what the tach is doing.

        Cause otherwise you end up with a horizontal speedo, and you’re getting 15mpg. Ha.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          In my Highlander, using data from the tach and speedo I figured out that the best combination of fuel economy and rapid progress on the interstate occurred at 83 mph. That kept the tach at or under 2500 RPM, above 2500 RPM at a constant cruise the MPG dropped precipitously.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            See, that stuff is important! In my Deville, it’s very preferable on roads with a 35 mph limit for me to go 40+, as that’s when the overdrive kicks on. #nopopo

          • 0 avatar
            don1967

            As one of the brighter B&B, I assume that you’re joking when you blame RPM for the sudden rise in fuel consumption as you punch a garden shed-sized hole through the atmosphere at 83 mph :)

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            62 MPH on a long flat road is how you get 27 MPG out of an ’02 Mazda Tribute V6. Overdrive is my friend.

        • 0 avatar
          RideHeight

          @Corey & Dan
          Sounds like a 1%-of-drivers answer.

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        @bumpy
        Hate to say it, but I now recall having glanced at the tach for that very reason.

        Trying to properly nest comments here is like trying to stack cats.

  • avatar
    GermanReliabilityMyth

    For some reason I keep seeing “Lexus 200t” as alternate phonetic spelling for “Lexus Toot.”

  • avatar
    hubcap

    FWIW, I know looks are subjective but I like the look of the IS though I still think the Q50 id the belle of the ball.

    This car just about has it all. The acceleration numbers are disappointing especially when you consider that various outlets have gotten a 184 hp/ 189 lb.ft Honda Accord Sport 6mt to 60 mpg on around 6.7 seconds.

    And I disagree that people, in general, don’t value reliability and dependability. Id you’re replacing a car every three years most cars will be reliable enough.

    Those that buy to keep do value those things and I believe that bears itself to be true by which brands hold their value the longest.

    • 0 avatar
      Fordson

      Lexus does what it does better than most. Just not exciting.

      Upside of owning a Lexus – you’ll be driving it for 250,000 miles.

      Downside of owning a Lexus – you’ll be driving it for 250,000 miles.

      • 0 avatar
        hubcap

        That’s it in a nutshell.

      • 0 avatar
        carguy

        “Upside of owning a Lexus – you’ll be driving it for 250,000 miles.
        Downside of owning a Lexus – you’ll be driving it for 250,000 miles.”

        COTD! Fordson for President.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        “Upside of owning a Lexus – you’ll be driving it for 250,000 miles.

        Downside of owning a Lexus – you’ll be driving it for 250,000 miles.”

        You know, normally I’d agree with that but I think it is intentionally several years out of date. Really, you don’t have to look hard to find reviews of the Lexus IS and GS performing very well from a driver’s standpoint in outlets not accustomed to praising Lexus or Toyota, even winning comparos against the Germans in several cases.

        You’d best stick to applying that axiom to the RX and ES

  • avatar
    ajla

    The six-cylinders are so where it is at in this class. Especially with the Lexus and BMW offerings.

    For Lexus, the price difference to get the V6 isn’t even that much. The F-sport turbo IS and GS cost about the same as the non-F 3.5L versions and F-sport to F-sport is only like a $3k premium to get the V6. Complete no-brainer of a choice, personally.

  • avatar
    PennSt8

    The IS line is probably the best interpretation of the “predator face”. I’m not sure how it will age, but I like it. That said, someone at Lexus should do away with the current system of how options are bundled.

    FWIW, BMW has dumped the standard folding chairs as seats and equipped all 3s with sport seats as standard for MY 16. Also, since this is an F-Sport how does it compare dynamically to BMW’s M-Sport, or a 3 equipped with the adjustable suspension? I’ve found that there is a HUGE difference between base model 3 Series and their sport/adaptive suspension cousins.

  • avatar
    hubcap

    I like the car them I see that “As Tested” price of 45K and it just doesn’t compute.

    On the flip side, I think that most cars are over priced by at least a few thousand (some more AKA this one, and other less). I also think that’s one of the reasons many cars lose so much value in the first 24-30 months of their lives.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Is it just me, or is Lexus cheaping out on its interiors now? That does NOT look like a $45,000 car inside.

    My choice in this class would be a Mercedes C-class.

    By the way, an Avalon will lay waste to this car in a straight line.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      This interior looks a lot less cheap in a non-black color. The IS has never had as good an interior as the GS or LS, but this one is actually quite a bit better than the last generation.

      Black interiors are hard to get right. My LS has a black interior and I would have preferred either ivory or grey.

    • 0 avatar
      Davekaybsc

      Have you been inside of a Toyota made after around 2006 or so? They’re all incredibly cheap feeling, and have been for a number of years.

    • 0 avatar
      Brian E

      I’m not sure what does look like a $45k car anymore outside of the excellent C-Class. It used to be that stepping up to the entry luxury segment got you a noticeable increase in overall quality. Now the mainstream is so good that the differences are minute and have more to do with appearance and control organization than anything else.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Reviews say they aren’t cheaping out. I do think the IS interior photographs poorly and makes a better impression in person.

  • avatar
    Dingleberrypiez_Returns

    You can count me among those who like the styling of this car. Definitely the best execution of the predator grill. I especially like how the fender skirt flows into the back wheel arch. I think this is the most attractive design in the segment. Japanese designs may be really polarizing these days, but at least they’re trying something different and new.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Don’t love the concept of a 2.0T, but love the underhood packaging of this one. Looks very easy to work on at least from the top.

    Alex, one thing I felt was missing from your review was an evaluation of the engine’s refinement. The problem with the BMW 2.0T — which has truly excellent power delivery — is that it’s noisy and feels rough agricultural. The Benz one is similar. Is this one as smooth as the VW/Audi EA888, or is it rougher like the rest of the German competition?

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    Not a great start for this engine.

    “Between the turbo’s reluctance to spool up and the transmission’s reluctance to kick down, bursts of speed require a waiting room.”
    —J. Phillips from C&D.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Sounds like not much has changed on this 8-speed transmission since Lexus first built it in 2006. My 2008 LS460’s greatest flaw is being way too reluctant to kick down. And I say that as someone who generally likes being in higher gears.

  • avatar
    carguy

    I was looking at a IS350 a couple of years ago and the things that eliminated it from my list were:

    1. At 3,600 lbs, it feels too heavy and even the excellent 3.5 feels like it lacks urgency off the line.

    2. The option packages are a little crazy. If you want a tilting driver side mirror, you have to buy the most expensive package. 95% of all stick on dealer lots have a vinyl interior instead of leather. You can’t get leather in the F-Sport variant at all. The Vinyl interior makes the car smell like a Tupperware container.

    3. The interior is hit and miss. Some parts are very high quality but then there is also plenty of fake metal trim plastic that would be more at home in a VW Jetta.

    4. The infotainment interface is more insane that Cadillac CUE. Trying to get anything done using the little joystick thing is like play playing the classic arcade game Missile Command while drunk.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “playing the classic arcade game Missile Command while drunk.”

      Challenge accepted!

    • 0 avatar
      fvfvsix

      @carguy

      I own an IS350 F sport. Issue #1 changes pretty drastically as the ECU adapts to your lead foot after a couple thousand miles. I used to drive in Sport+ most of the time – now the “Normal” mode has become pretty aggressive.

      After owning it for a while, it’s clear that the car embodies Lexus’s philosophy of providing the best long term ownership experience in the industry, and IMHO makes for a better daily driver than any of its competition. It’s fast enough to get me thrown in jail, it handles better than any current 3 series I’ve driven (and I’ve driven all except an M3), and is screwed together better than literally every other car in its price range. I love my X3 – but it’s been no stranger to the dealer service department… and I still consider it to be a reliable vehicle. The Lexus vehicles are on a different plane, and people either care about stuff like that or they don’t.

    • 0 avatar
      tonycd

      2. I think high quality cloth seats are just fine. But plastic upholstery at luxury car prices is offensive.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Mercedes-Benz was putting vinyl seats in expensive cars back when the sort of mouth breathers that currently finance German cars were still driving Montecarlos and dreaming of Eldorados.

  • avatar
    nels0300

    Here I was thinking Toyota’s 2.0T was going to be a gem considering how long it took them to get on the 4 cylinder turbo bandwagon.

    This does not bode well for the Camry if this is what is replacing the 2GR-FE which was more than competetive when it was introduced and still holds it’s own.

    Pretty sad sucession of Toyota engines…..2JZ replaced by 2GR replaced by turbo coffee grinder.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      I was about to make the same comment. Toyota’s 3.5 V6 is a gem and probably overkill for a FWD family sedan, but this turbo is a poor replacement for those of us who appreciate that.

  • avatar
    pragmatist

    Ah yes. Does anyone remember when IS actually meant INLINE SIX?

    So sad.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Lexus needs to come up with some new styling. There cars have looked almost the same for a decade with minor ugly grilles grafted on etc. Now we have a generic looking Lexus with an ugly grille and an under performing 4 cylinder turbo with a cheap black lung interior to boot. I’ll pass thank you!

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Having now read this review, the Q50 stands out in my mind as a better car, with more engine, for less money. It’s arguably better looking now, as well. And the interior is nicer.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      What I said six months ago (edit now seven).

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-infiniti-q50s-review-video/#comment-5768009

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Noticing in that review, I’m glad the S trim level does not foist upon you aluminum trims any longer. It’s really favorable to the IS in all ways.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Any plans on moving out of the M into a Q?

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Nope not at this time. If I did, I would likely move to something larger, like an LS AWD or an LX or GX. Since the styling I liked from Infiniti fell off starting about 2010, I don’t think I’d want a newer M or any of their vehicles. And since I don’t care about fuel economy, I may as well switch back to a V8.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Beware, 28 is an LS pusher. First drive is free…

            “since I don’t care about fuel economy, I may as well switch back to a V8.”

            I’m looking at whats happening with oil and I say to myself this is just like the ASEAN crisis of 1997. I recall saying to myself in high school, this is too low, we’re gonna pay for this later. Hell inflation adjusted oil is *cheaper* than in 1997, then we didn’t have $60 trillion or more in worldwide circulation. This is the time for a hybrid. If I didn’t have my no miles Saturn, I’d be looking for one. Despite the Sat, I’m sort of reading up on them. PA went full retard on the road tax to cover its imploding budget, all other poorly managed states will do the same (so, most of them).

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I figure, my VQ35 is netting me 18.5 on my commute to work on premium, I won’t lose anything with a TMC V8 really. My drive is so short that 1.99 or 4.25 fuel price doesn’t make much difference.

            The only large hybrid option is a Q70 or an LS-h, which I bet both of them are A) not that efficient and B) out of me budget.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            LSh600 is $$$$$, its double the gas version on the block. I can’t speak to the Infiniti but personally I’m not going near a Nissan hybrid for any real amount of money. You do what you want as we have similar tastes and I’d prefer an LS or your M to any little hybrid, but I’m almost thinking a Prius or even something like FB’s C-max would be nice to have around.

            Btw since I know you work with insurance, whats the Ohio rate on your Caddy for liability? I’m curious to see how screwed up PA insurance is vs Ohio.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Lol, exactly. I don’t drive enough to make up the super-extra premium price on the hybrid versions!

            And my theory for number of cars is n+1, where n = number of people in household. So if I do a big switchy and get something big and a hybrid, the Cadillac goes away.

            I have 50/100 coverage, ACV comp w/ $0 deductible, $21.00 a month.

            (I work with life insurance though, no P&C here!)

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Thanks for the figure, I thought I was getting screwed on the Volvo. Liability alone is $360/yr but that’s without comp (I take it off in the winters so I typically spend 300/year).

            “So if I do a big switchy and get something big and a hybrid, the Cadillac goes away.”

            No I don’t think I can allow this. Think a gentleman’s Sunday car which never changes ownership.

            My theory is N + 1 while 28 + 3.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            $21.00/month? [email protected] you Corey!

            Here in Michigan, I pay $12.50/month per vehicle insured for our Catastrophic Medical Claims Fund. That offers zero coverage for anything, including medical coverage.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            One issue with the Lexus LS600hL pre-2011 is control arm replacement. LSes until sometime late in the 2010 MY have an issue with prematurely disintegrating front control arm bushings. Cheap(ish) replacement parts are available for RWD LSes, but not AWD ones. And the hybrids are all AWD.

            It’s a surgery you only have to do once — the revised OEM parts are much better — but it’s backbreakingly expensive with OEM parts. I should know; I had to do all 8 arms on my LS.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            @bball

            Well I don’t live in the Socialist Republic of Crime and Detroit! “Medical Catastrophe” sounds made up anyways.

            @28

            In theory I have no issue with N + 2 ownership, but with three cars I have a parking issue, and would require a driveway extension or car shuffling. Two cars requires no shuffles!

            @dal

            Sounds to me the key is finding a <11 LS which has already had the control arm bushings re-to-the-placed.

            Overall though, I have no -reason- to switch from the M. Nothing wrong with it, brakes were redone, and it's just at 60K miles. I'm looking at tires and fluid changes for what, the next 70K?

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Ah, parking. That’s a good point which hadn’t occurred to me.

            “Medical Catastrophe” sounds like any inpatient procedure these days… or actually a nice band name.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            Parking is tons of fun, especially because I’m too picky to park anything on the street in front of my place (which has property-value-enhancing but paint-ruining trees alongside). The LS lives in my one-car garage. The Fozzy lives in a carport. The Legend lives in a relative’s unused garage about three blocks away, in exchange for occasional free use by said relative.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    When is the pro-Government/Guangzhou Motors crowd going to rip me to shreds for ripping yet another ‘furrin vehicle to shreds on so many levels?!!

  • avatar
    cretinx

    Are we really comparing 0-60 times of family sedans?

    Are we really drag racing “the competition” on the street?

    Is that who buys these cars?

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      Jack wrote an interesting piece about that for R&T a few years back.

      http://www.roadandtrack.com/car-culture/a7834/avoidable-contact-tough-all-the-time-may-2014/

      Anger was in then, it’s even more in now.

  • avatar

    I don’t think that car needed more than 210 hp. I never noticed any lack of power from the v6 in my 2009 model. Maybe the current IS is heavier. If the 8-speed transmission shifts promptly, this sounds good enough.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    I read the name as “Lexus is soot”. Give it a real name, dang it!

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I enjoyed the Lexus IS250 I drove, disliking only the modest grunt. It looks like the 2.0 turbo doesn’t truly address that, but I suppose there needs to be some breathing room between it and the IS350 which remains the one to have if you want to match the BMW 328’s powertrain performance.

    While it is good to read again that the chassis and handling are strong points, for me an expensive compact sport sedan needs to be able to outrun a base Golf or 1.5 turbo Civic as well.

    Fitting this engine to the GS seems to be an even worse idea, but so goes the world now. Many buyers apparently do not require much motor with their luxury badge.

    I wonder if the detuned 3.5 V6 in the IS300 is a stronger performer.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    I’m usually okay with turbos, but a quick spin in an NX200t several months back was sort of underwhelming, it definitely lagged a bit. Hopefully some mild retuning and 400 fewer lbs help a bit (considering my butt dyno’s only tuned for 100hp anyhow).

    I’m still interested (or as much as I could be when my budget only buys about half of one), if just because the IS has always been one of the few cars in its class that seems like a keeper.

  • avatar
    andyinatl

    For this money, i would much rather have a nicely pre-worn GS350. My biggest beef with this generation of IS is the headlights. They don’t make any sense visually or design-wise and look more like an afterthought. I am ok with rest of the car, but those headlights would be enough for me to not even consider this.

  • avatar
    DubVBenz

    So for 45K, you can get the lowest spec’ed, smallest lexus (let’s not pretend the prius lexus exists). For 5K more, you can get a 2017 E250 with an engine making the exact same output. That’s a class up and likely a much better car. Lexus continues to disappoint, much like their AMG/M fighting LC500 which makes the same power as the least powerful V8 Mercedes and BMW actually put in their large coupes as standard.

    • 0 avatar
      fvfvsix

      If your numbers were correct, nobody would actually buy these things. Let’s use real ones instead:

      Base Lexus IS200t has an MSRP of $37,325
      A base 2016 E-class sedan has an MSRP of $52,650 – You can only assume a 2017 Mercedes Benz will not be LESS expensive, so we’ll go with that.

      Correcting your original statement… “For $15,325 more, you can get a 2017 E250 with an engine making the exact same output.”

      I’ve gotta say that sounds fair…

      • 0 avatar
        DubVBenz

        The 45K price is what TTAC mentioned as-tested. MB has released the 2017 E250 pricing starting at 50,xxx. 5K in savings wouldn’t be enough for me to get into this gussied up corolla.

        • 0 avatar
          Maymar

          Belated, but if you want to quote the price of an IS with a bunch of options, then you need to account for the Benz’s options (or lack thereof). Using TrueDelta’s price comparison, maximizing shared features option, the Lexus comes in at $46k, and the Benz is at $64.5k.

  • avatar
    Nedmundo

    I care more about handling than power, and reliability is a huge priority for me. I also love compact sport sedans.

    So, in theory, the IS200T would be perfect for me, but without a manual transmission, forget it. A good MT would probably make the engine more entertaining too, but unfortunately I doubt we’ll ever see MT in a Lexus sedan again.

  • avatar
    Brock_Landers

    Alex,

    1. 0-60 times are for kids to discuss, rarely somone uses this kind of car for stoplight races. You based all your “weak acceleration” arguments on factory 0-60 figures. Really, come on man! :)
    2. Midrange torque is this engine’s strongest characteristic and that is what counts in real life – highway passing, spirited driving on a mountain road etc.
    3. This engine has by far the highest thermal efficency in its class and that translates to awsome highway mpg. Back to back real life comparison with 328i – I bet my money on Lexus winning in the mpg category.

    Weakest detail of the IS in my opinion is the dashboard – its a total mess. Lexus should have used the clean GS interior desing language also in the IS. Excellent seats and cool intuitive F-sport dials redeem the otherwise horrible interior.

    But you lost me finally at the IS250 acceleration comparison. You claimed that there is only a small gain in acceleration with the IS200t over old IS250 – again, you based your assessment on factory 0-60 figures? That couldn’t be further from the truth. For example highway passing situation, lets say 40-80mph. IS250 runs pretty quickly out of breath, revving to the limiter to grab the last few additional horsepower found higher in the rev range. IS200t in the other hand pulls like a freight train, effortlessly using the high and wide torque plateau. With 200t there is a sensation that you don’t want to lift at all, because the higher the speed gets the stronger the car pulls.

  • avatar
    Brock_Landers

    Pete,

    So Alex also did real life measurements on 328i? And so all the “weak acceleration” arguments were based on real life 0-60 results IS200t vs 328i?
    Anyone who has driven modern turbocharged 200+ hp rwd cars knows that first gear is pretty much useless under full acceleration. A second to spool the turbo up, then rear tires brake traction, traction control starts its work and then its already redline and second gear. Any relevant measurement of real life acceleration with 328i or IS200t should be done in-gear and starting from second gear.

    First quote from Alex: As acceleration, precision and poise don’t always get you around a track faster, and because most of the competition’s 2-liter turbos accelerate notably faster, they are likely to beat the IS 200t on anything but a very small, tight track.

    This sentence doesn’t make any sense. 0-60 times don’t mean anything on a normal racetrack, in gear acceleration and mid to top end power is what counts. And only on a very small track where the car uses 1st gear on tight hairpin turns the 0-60 time is relevant. There 328i has an advantage with its better 1st gear ratio and better 0-60 time.

    Alex quote 2: While the IS 200t’s acceleration is a notable improvement over the IS 250, it’s a very conservative improvement.

    It almost seems you have forgotten how slow the IS250 was :)

  • avatar
    Cole Grundy

    No one ever said “ye olde”. They said “the olde”. The “th” was handwritten in such a way as to look like a “y”—this “thorne” was shorthand for “th” but was not a “y”. There has never been a “ye”.


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