Expect to hear a lot more about the new turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder from Lexus. For starters, before the next football season kicks-off, you’ll see this engine powering new models for the GS sedan and RC Coupe as well as the all-new RX SUV.
Already here in the excellent NX SUV, Lexus has just added the turbo 2.0-litre to the IS sedan in the form of the IS 200t. As the replacement for the Lexus IS 250 V6, the 200t offers more power, more torque and is more fuel efficient…we’re not noticing any negative there.
As the entry-level model for its four-model sedan range, Lexus says the IS 200t will usher new buyers to the brand – first-time luxury/premium buyers to be precise. In marketing terms these newbie premium customers are called ‘step-up’ buyers and, partly reflecting this trend, Lexus has just opened a new dealership in the growth area of Springwood (south of Brisbane) and is currently developing new outlets in Toowoomba (QLD) as well as Macarthur and Gosford in NSW.
Lexus IS 200t Overview
The IS sedan has been the most successful vehicle in Lexus history with more than 36,000 sold in Australia since it first appeared. A compact sports sedan, the current generation Lexus IS certainly shrugged-off the somewhat ‘dowdy’ styling of its predecessor and brings some genuine ‘street cred’ to the discussion.
We’re fans of the current Lexus IS lineup – we like the package size, the smart interior style and the sharp driving dynamics. Without doubt the 200t will become a valuable member of the team.
In updating the IS lineup there have been some price changes.
The new 200t kicks-off at $57,500 for the ‘Luxury’ model but – compared to the previous IS 250 - gains extra specifications including Active Cruise Control, Pre-Collision Safety System, reversing sonar and a power-adjustable steering column.
Lexus IS 200t ‘F Sport’ is priced at $65,500 and adds adaptive variable suspension, 18-inch F Sport alloy wheels, sports front seats, high-friction front brake pads and unique instrumentation.
Range-topping Lexus IS 200t ‘Sports Luxury’ requires $76,500 of your ‘hard-earned’ and scores extra safety in the form of Lane Departure Warning, Automatic High-Beam and extra comfort with woodgrain trim, a moon roof, electric rear sunshade and a 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system.
Lexus has also updated the IS 300h and IS 350 models with extra available specifications including Active Cruise Control, Pre-Collision Safety System, Automatic High Beam, Lane Departure Warning and the same sort of additional creature comforts mentioned for the IS 200t.
The new range looks like this:
|IS 200t Luxury||$57,500|
|IS 200t F Sport||$65,500|
|IS 200t Sports Luxury||$76,500|
|IS 300h Luxury||$60,000|
|IS 300h F Sport||$68,000|
|IS 300h Sports Luxury||$79,000|
|IS 350 Luxury||$63,500|
|IS 350 F Sport||$71,500|
|IS 350 Sports Luxury||$82,500|
Lexus IS 200t Engine
As fitted to the IS sedan, Lexus’ excellent new turbocharged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine – code-numbered 8AR-FTS - delivers 180kW of power at 5800rpm and peak torque of 350Nm from 1650 to 4400rpm. So torque is identical to the Lexus IS200t and power is up by 5kW.
But of course it’s not as straight-forward as that.
The front and all-wheel-drive Lexus IS200t has the engine installed ‘east-west’ but in the rear-wheel-drive IS sedan it’s fitted longitudinally (‘north-south’). That required new engine mounts, intake system and exhaust system (the latter accounting for the extra power).
As we know, this brilliantly-engineered engine can swap between fuel-saving Atkinson cycle and higher performance Otto cycle and has been developed for minimized turbo lag.
And fitment to the IS means this is the first Lexus sedan model to score fuel saving ‘Stop & Start’ technology. Combined-cycle fuel consumption is rated at 7.5l/100kms (9.2l/100kms for the outgoing Is 250 V6).
Fitment of the turbocharged 2.0-litre powerplant also called for platform changes – for example the 200t scores the Yamaha-developed ‘performance damper’ across the front of the chassis. Operating in the same way as a suspension shock absorber, the performance damper (filled with nitrogen-charged oil) increases chassis rigidity and dampens front-end distortion and vibration.
Drive is to the rear wheels via the Lexus AA81E eight-speed automatic transmission. For the 200t this slick-shifting eight-speeder picks-up extra electronic control technology including Lexus-first Downshift Lock-up Control.
In ‘M’ mode throttle-blipping downchanges will be appreciated by enthusiast drivers.
Lexus IS 200t The Interior
We like the interior of the Lexus IS range. The driver-focused cockpit delivers a sporty feel, design is contemporary, it’s practical and oozes high quality materials.
While there are no major changes inside for the 200t, the F Sport version is the first Lexus sedan with a combined boost meter, oil pressure and temperature gauges. Of course F Sport also runs a few other unique sporty touches such as instruments inspired by the Lexus LFA supercar and an exclusive ‘Dark Rose trim colour.
Lexus IS 200t Exterior & Styling
No changes for the exterior style of the Lexus IS 200t. A modern sports sedan with the hallmark Lexus ‘spindle’ grille, stylish DRLs at the front and an aerodynamic 0.28cD, the IS stacks-up well against rivals and, we think, is some of the best work from the Lexus design team.
There are three new exterior colours – Caliente, Sonic Quartz and Cobalt Mica.
Lexus IS 200t On The Road
The excellent driving roads out the back of Queensland’s Gold Coast and inland down to Cabarita Beach in northern NSW proved an excellent venue for www.carshowroom.com.au to sample the Lexus IS 200T. This is after-all the Lexus performance compact sedan.
Our first impression was how complete the package was. Nothing wrong with the previous V6-powered IS 250 but the snappy response of the 2.0-litre turbo matched perfectly to the balanced chassis for a handy driving dynamic.
Acceleration was brisk enough (zero to 100km/h in 7.0-seconds) and the eight-speeder did an excellent job of providing the right ratio at the right time. Manuals shifts using the steering wheel paddle shifters were timely (some rivals are a bit tardy swapping cogs manually.
And mid-range acceleration (such as when overtaking) certainly got a green tick with the IS 200t responding instantly when whipped.
Hard to determine the individual effectiveness of the performance damper but the regular Lexus IS double wishbone front/multi-link independent rear suspension is pretty darn good to be honest.
Lexus IS 200t F Sport and Sports Luxury models run on 18-inch alloy wheels with Dunlop tyres while the 17-inch alloys on the Luxury model are equipped with Bridgestone tyres. There is a degree of extra sporty firmness with the 18s and of course switching to ‘Sport’ or ‘Sport+’ ramps-up that aspect nicely for a quick run over the mountains.
As usual with Lexus, refinement levels were top notch in most circumstances.
Lexus IS 200t Challenges
However we did detect some deterioration in front-end suppleness when cornering hard on broken bitumen.
Lexus IS 200t Verdict
Much like the 200t version of the Lexus NX SUV is the one we’d buy, we’re nominating the new 200t as our new favourite in the IS range. No wonder Lexus Australia boss Sean Hanley is almost as enthusiastic about the turbo 2.0-litre as he is about the Queensland Maroons NRL State-Of-Origin team.
The price tag represents good buying and the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder is terrific in the IS package.
Add-in the hallmark Lexus quality and customer support program and it’s an alluring proposition.
Lexus IS 200t The Competition
The all-turbocharged Audi A4 lineup shapes as the most direct rival for the Lexus IS. Priced from $55,500 to $67,800 the A4 is another Audi which is all-class and the prices are definitely sharp. We suspect the Lexus IS may be a smidge ahead on rear seat space.
BMW 3 Series starts at $53,800 and is a terrific drive. Like Audi A4 you do need to carefully check what is standard and what is optional when making comparisons with the well-equipped Lexus IS.
And don’t forget the all-new Jaguar XE. Although the entry-level 20t kicks-off at $60,400, Jaguar’s first compact sedan is a stunner.