Lexus is introducing something new and different for its compact luxury-sport sedan in 2016: a turbocharged engine choice. In addition to two V6 models (IS 300 and IS 350), the lineup now includes a lower-priced IS 200t with a 241-horsepower four-cylinder. It’s the first turbocharged engine in an IS model. Making the IS 200t a turbo, offered only with rear-drive, constitutes a notable shift in strategy for the model.
What's New for 2016
Roughly replacing the previous IS 250, the IS 200t is a new model for 2016. Other than the new engine, however, it’s essentially a carryover from the 2015 IS series, with only minor updates. Lexus's signature spindle grille now has a more three-dimensional look, within a chrome-plated frame. An optional Premium Plus Package includes a power tilt/telescopic steering wheel and rain-sensing wipers. A heated steering wheel is available.
Choosing Your Lexus IS 200t
The twin-scroll turbocharged 2-liter engine develops 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. That torque level is available through a wide range: from 1,650 to 4,400 rpm. An eight-speed automatic transmission conveys power to the rear wheels. The turbo engine was first developed for the Lexus NX crossover. Fuel economy is estimated at 22 mpg in city driving and 33 mpg on the highway (26 mpg combined). That compares to 19/28 mpg (22 combined) for the V6-powered IS 350.
Electronic power steering is derived from the larger Lexus GS sedan. A Drive Mode Select system has Eco, Normal, and Sport modes. Like the other IS models, the IS 200t can be fitted with an F Sport package.
Standard equipment is similar to the IS 300 and IS 350, except for the engine. Carrying an MSRP of $37,425, the rear-drive IS 200t comes with 10 airbags, leatherette upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, pushbutton start, and power front seats. High-intensity-discharge headlights are standard, along with LED daytime running lights. Also included are a moonroof, 60/40 split-folding rear seats, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
The Display Audio system features a seven-inch screen and provides HD radio with traffic and weather updates, as well as Bluetooth and USB smartphone connectivity. A feature called “cache radio” can actually pause live radio broadcasts. Lexus Enform Safety Connect telematics is included.
Options include a pre-collision system, dynamic radar cruise control, blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, power rear sunshade, intuitive parking assist, a heated steering wheel, and a backup camera. Premium, Premium Plus, Luxury, Navigation, and Navigation/Mark Levinson audio packages are available. Lexus's navigation system features a Remote Touch Interface system (essentially, a point-and-click controller).
For $3,445 additional, the F Sport has an adaptive variable suspension system with Sport S and Sport S+ modes. Lexus claims that the F Sport’s bolder front and rear styling yields a "more sporting personality," even though performance changes little. Standard equipment includes different wheels, a perforated leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, aluminum pedals, black headliner, projector LED headlights, backup camera, and heated/ventilated front seats.
Adding the turbocharged engine for 2016 gives IS buyers an appealing alternative to V6 power. All the more so, because its gas-mileage estimate is considerably more thrifty. As for the F Sport, bear in mind that except for the benefits of adaptive suspension, performance is no different from a regular IS 200t. It's mainly a question of style.