2016 Lexus IS 200t Review

2016 Lexus IS Overview

In their quest to best the BMW 3 Series, more than a few highly proficient auto manufacturers have come up empty. Many have tried—nobody has succeeded. However, the 2016 Lexus IS 200t does come pretty close to approximating the prowess of the Bavarian four-door—particularly in its F Sport trim.

For 2016, the Lexus IS lineup gets a turbocharged four-cylinder engine for the first time. The company has eliminated the 2.5-liter V6 previously serving as the base powerplant for the IS and is instead offering a 2.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged inline four-cylinder. Thus, the model formerly known as the Lexus IS 250 has been supplanted by the 2016 Lexus IS 200t.

Happily, for me at least, the majority of 2016's changes are largely underneath the sheetmetal. While some may find fault with the styling of the current version of the Lexus IS, I’ve always thought it rather handsome—if slightly busy of line. The most polarizing aspect of the look of the compact sedan is the dominant grille. Some love it, others despise it. In my estimation, it fits the nature of the IS 200t quite well—as does the efficient size and well-balanced proportions of the rest of the little Lexus.

I also like the interior of the Lexus IS 200t. Nicely crafted, the quality associated with the Lexus brand is readily discernable. The design speaks to a premium experience. More than just good-looking though, it serves as an excellent interface for spirited driving too. The controls are nicely arrayed around the driver and the layout is easy to memorize. Further, the way the controls surround you imparts the impression the car wants to be driven vigorously.

Of particular note is the comfort of the front seats. I know the term “fits like a glove” is somewhat cliché, but they really do conform themselves to the proportions of your body, providing support precisely where it is needed most. Long distance driving is a fidget and fatigue-free experience—specifically owing to the comfort of these seats. Further, contrary to so many cars in this class, the rear seats provide enough legroom for grown folks to ride comfortably. Trunk capacity is respectable for the class at 13.8 cubic feet and the rear seatbacks fold to expand upon this figure.

Power, as I mentioned earlier, comes from a new (for the IS series) 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine. Lexus debuted it in the NX 200t compact crossover SUV last year, then transplanted it to the IS with a few modifications to make it more suitable for a performance sedan. Output is rated at 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission feeds the rear wheels.

Fuel economy is rated at 26 mpg overall. I averaged 25 driving on the highway, around town and twisty two-lane backroads. All-wheel drive is no longer offered with the base engine; you’ll have to opt for the also new IS 300 AWD—or the IS 350—to get four driven wheels.

Nicely balanced, with delectable turn-in and good steering feel, the IS 200t handles beautifully and remains firmly planted, while delivering a compliant ride. What’s truly remarkable is my test car likely rode more firmly than its standard siblings because of the F Sport suspension tuning, larger wheels and low profile tires, Yet, I found its ride comfort to be more than sufficient

Engine response is good. However, downshifting the transmission manually provides additional thrust more quickly than flooring the throttle and waiting for the transmission to kick down to build revs (and consequently boost). On the move, the engine feels like a V6, even while it returns fuel economy numbers closer to that of an inline four.

Overall, the 2016 Lexus IS 200t is a delightful car for those who love to drive and also want a well-equipped model with luxury flavor and room for four adults. A first rate compact luxury sport sedan, IS 200t pricing starts at $37,325.

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