By on September 18, 2017

2017 Lexus IS200t - Image: LexusFirst things first: Lexus is hardly the only automaker deserving of blame for unintelligibly altering model nomenclature. Moreover, Lexus continues to offer some models for which the badge makes sense. A Lexus LX570, for example, is an LX with a 5.7-liter V8. The Lexus IS350 we tested earlier this month utilizes a 3.5-liter V6.

How sensible. How obvious. How traditional.

But for 2018, the Lexus IS and its RC stablemate will muddy the displacement waters that were already complicated in 2017 by a detuned 3.5-liter V6 that wore IS300 and RC300 badging. In 2018, while the mid-range car continues to make its power from a 260-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 (not the upgraded 311-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 of the IS350 and RC350), the 2.0-liter turbocharged mill that was previously under the hood of the IS200t and RC200t is now the engine under the hood of the rear-wheel-drive IS300 and RC300.

Confused? Yeah, we are, too. Let’s try that again.

Take it from the top.

The 2018 Lexus IS350, both with rear or all-wheel drive, continues with the same 3.5-liter V6 from before, only now with five additional horsepower (for 311 in total).

Down a rung on the ladder you’ll find the 2018 Lexus IS300 AWD. A 260-horsepower version of the 2GR-FKS 3.5-liter V6 is linked to a six-speed automatic.

At the base of the range there’s now a rear-wheel-drive 2018 Lexus IS300. But rather than the 3.0-liter V6 you might expect to find in a model badged as such, and rather than the detuned 3.5-liter V6 of the 2018 IS300 AWD, the rear-wheel-drive 2018 Lexus IS300 is equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 241 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, 22 more lb-ft than the IS300 AWD’s 3.5-liter V6.

Carry the same numbers into the RC range and you have it all figured out.2017 Lexus RC200t - Image: LexusSimple? Straightforward? Transparent? Hardly.

But strategic? Most definitely. Lexus will now badge its entry-level sedan and coupe to appear as though they’re not entry-level cars.

Since Toyota’s upmarket brand was making some designation changes, the larger GS lineup benefited from similar alterations. The GS200t becomes the GS300, albeit still with the same 2.0T. The IS and RC mid-range 3.5-liter V6 does not make an appearance in the GS.

[Images: Toyota Motor Corp.]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars and Instagram.

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19 Comments on “For 2018, Lexus IS and RC Model Naming Scheme Is All Kinds of Warped...”

  • avatar

    So…what do they call the AWD version with the 2.0T…or is there such a beast?

  • avatar

    I’m more interested in a comparison of the turbo 4 and the detuned 6 than in puzzling out the current badge on the back of the car.

  • avatar

    None of this will matter in 15 years when they are all electric.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    This is why numerical names are terrible.

    Such articles aren’t written about the Dodge Challenger, except the earliest ones which compared it to the 70s version.

  • avatar

    I wonder if they did this because the 2.0t engine has gotten a lukewarm reception from the auto press. Also, I can’t believe they put that engine into a GS with a straight face. Or the RC considering how heavy it is, for that matter.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I mean, BMW and Mercedes-Benz numbers have been fubar’d since at least 2009, and Audi badges its supercharged V6 as a 3.0T (“It’s forced turbocharging”, is their logic). So it’s not too bad. Also, Lexus refers to the 2.0T in the IS, GS and RC as just “Turbo” in marketing (eg IS Turbo, rather than IS200t). They’ll probably continue to do that.

    And at least they discontinued that miserable, anemic old 2.5-liter V6 that *had* been the base engine. That was my gripe.

    • 0 avatar

      BMW badges have only coincidentally coincided with actual engine displacement since the late 70s. And Mercedes has been a mess since the late 60s. 300SEL 6.9, anyone? I fail to see why anyone cares. Bigger number = faster car.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Right you are. Which means that everyone should stop kvetching. The numbers are mainly indicative of hierarchy relative to other trends. All you really need to know is that a 540i is more powerful than a 530i.

      • 0 avatar


        There was never a “300SEL 6.9” – you must mean the 300SEL 6.3.

        The 6.9 nomenclature came later on the 1970s S-Class, the 450SEL 6.9.

  • avatar

    We wouldn’t even think about engine displacement except that early car tax schemes relied on it for some reason. It’s a meaningless number that has relatively little to do with characteristics that actually matter.

    I’m just fine with carmakers that insist on numeric names using power level to determine the numbers.

  • avatar

    Grade inflation…everyone deserves an A! (Or a 300.)

  • avatar

    Those gaping openings on the ends remind me someone who sticks their head out in a 150 mph wind.

  • avatar

    I’ve noticed this number discrepancy when I bought my wife a used Lexus Rx400h. It does not have a 4.0L V8 engine as one would guess from the numbering system, but instead has a detuned 3.3L V6 with an electric hybrid motor that when in conjunction mimics the power output of a 4.0L V8. It even makes a angry growl when you get on the throttle. So it appears that Toyota went with a numbering system of comparable power and perhaps their marketing department thought the consumer was not knowledgable enough to know what a 2.0T or 3.3L gas-electric motor would put out. To be fair, a stock 2.0T could range from 145hp – 260hp.

  • avatar

    Not as warped as that front-end bodywork.

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