William Maley

Quick Drive: 2016 Lexus IS 200t F-Sport

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The Lexus IS is one of my favorite luxury sedans on sale today. The styling may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it helps make the IS stand out in a very crowded field of compact luxury sedans. Paired with the excellent 3.5L V6 and F-Sport package, the IS gives the German competition a run for its money in the twisty bits. Since we last drove the IS back in 2014, Lexus has made some changes to IS’ lineup with the base 2.5L V6 being dropped and a new turbocharged four-cylinder taking its place, along with a new variant of 3.5L V6 producing 255 horsepower badged as the IS 300. Recently, I spent some time in the IS 200t F-Sport and it was a bit disappointing. Read on to find out why.

  • The cause for my disappointment? The turbocharged four-cylinder. The engine in question is the same one that is used in the NX 200t, a turbo 2.0L four-cylinder producing 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic comes standard on rear-drive models, while all-wheel drive models retain a six-speed automatic. 
  • Compared to the NX 200t, I think this engine has gotten worse in the IS. The major problem is turbo lag. I could count to three after stepping on the accelerator before the turbo would spool up and give the vehicle the needed shove to move along. Even with the vehicle in Sport mode, it takes a moment for the turbo to wake up. 
  • Once the turbo is spooled up, it moves the IS with some authority. Power comes on at a steady and smooth rate. The engine also very refined with little noise coming inside. 
  • EPA fuel economy figures stand at 22 City/33 Highway/26 Combined. Our average landed around 24 mpg, partly due to my foot putting the pedal almost to the floor in an effort to make the turbo was up. 
  • The F-Sport package is the ace up the IS 200t’s sleeve. A revised suspension and steering setup, along with a set of summer tires make the IS a joy to pilot around corners. There is no body roll when entering a corner and the steering provides an excellent feel of the road. 
  • Unlike the IS 350 F-Sport, the 250 does without the adaptive dampers. This might make some reconsider as the ride can become somewhat rough over bumpy and pothole-ladened roads.
  • Styling is still polarizing with sharp creases, an interesting lighting setup up front, and a grille that looks like it was styled off the Predator. The F-Sport package actually helps balance this design with new front bumper, mesh grille insert, and a set of 18-inch wheels finished in a dark gray. I’m not usually a fan of red on a vehicle, but it actually works quite well for the F-Sport.
  • The IS’ interior hasn’t changed much since we last visited it in 2014. This means the excellent sport seats and well laid out instrument cluster are here. It also means the smallish screen for the infotainment system and the infuriating Lexus Remote Touch controller. The back seat is still quite small for most passengers, though I would say the Cadillac ATS’ back seat is even smaller.
  • The 2016 IS 200t F-Sport begins at $40,870. Our test car came with a few options such as blind spot monitoring (which you need because rear visibility is poor), radar cruise control, navigation, Mark Levinson audio system, and heated front seats. This brought the as-tested price to $45,705. But for only $1,000 to $1,500 more, you can get into a decently equipped IS 350 F-Sport with adaptive dampers and the better engine. 
  • The Lexus IS is still an impressive compact luxury sedan and one that deserves more of the spotlight. But the 2.0L turbo spoils an impressive sedan. This is a case of right car, wrong engine.

 

Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the IS 200t, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

Year: 2016
Make: Lexus
Model: IS
Trim: 200t F-Sport
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L DOHC 16-valve with Dual VVT-iW Inline-Four
Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 241 @ 5,800
Torque @ RPM: 258 @ 1,650 - 4,400
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/33/26
Curb Weight: 3,583 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Tahara, Aichi, Japan
Base Price: $37,325
As Tested Price: $45,705 (Includes $940.00 Destination Charge)

Options:
F-Sport Package - $3,545.00
Navigation/Mark Levinson Audio System - $2,645.00
Blind Spot Monitoring w/Rear Cross-Traffic Alert - $600.00
Dynamic Radar Cruise Control - $500.00
F-Sport Leather Wrapped Steering Wheel with Heat - $150.00


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I would still be buying this over any other Luxury car in the price range, but would probably spring for the larger mill.

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7 minutes ago, Frisky Dingo said:

I still love this car's styling. No way would I not get that sweet V6, though.

V6 is very sweet indeed.  And this is perhaps why i was so down on the Lincolns in the Lincoln threads.  This is just so much more athletic and sleek in it styling that it isn't really even funny.

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1 minute ago, A Horse With No Name said:

V6 is very sweet indeed.  And this is perhaps why i was so down on the Lincolns in the Lincoln threads.  This is just so much more athletic and sleek in it styling that it isn't really even funny.

It's just too bad they decided to not make a performance model this go round. An IS-F with that 450hp V8 would have really shined. 

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Just now, Frisky Dingo said:

It's just too bad they decided to not make a performance model this go round. An IS-F with that 450hp V8 would have really shined. 

Agreed!

Glad you like the styling on this. 

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Lexus has reliability on their side, however their engines are severely dated and outmatched in the luxury game.  That 3.5 V6 has been on sales for over 10 years with zero increase in horsepower.   The Lexus LS V8 launched in 2007 when the S-slass launched the new 5.5 liter V8 that had more power and torque.  Next year the S-class is getting it's 2nd new engine since then, the LS460 still has the same 385 hp V8, that is pathetic.  V6s make more than that now. 

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8 hours ago, smk4565 said:

Lexus has reliability on their side, however their engines are severely dated and outmatched in the luxury game.  That 3.5 V6 has been on sales for over 10 years with zero increase in horsepower.   The Lexus LS V8 launched in 2007 when the S-slass launched the new 5.5 liter V8 that had more power and torque.  Next year the S-class is getting it's 2nd new engine since then, the LS460 still has the same 385 hp V8, that is pathetic.  V6s make more than that now. 

I will give you this-while I do not like them from a subjectively personal standpoint and also think the long term running and parts costs are obscene...

Mercedes Benz is really at the top of the luxury car game if I am intellectually honest with myself. They offer more unique options, have a more loyal fan base, have more power, features, etc....

That being said I would still buy a Lexus before I would buy a Benz. It is almost as if there are three separate theirs of Luxury cars.

Tier one, ranked in order;

Mercedes Benz

Audi

BMW

Lexus

Tier two;

Cadillac

Acura

Lincoln and Infinity tied towards the bottom of tier two

Tier Three;

Volvo

Buick

Geneisis

At the top of tier one would be non traditional premium brands like Porsche, Land Rover, Jag, Lotus, etc.  All of them will I think carry higher prestige than perhaps BMW or Audi per se.

Above Tier would would be McLaren, Bentley, Rolls, Bugatti, etc.

Lexus is really in danger of falling into the second tier I think. as their SUV lineup is really bland and dated.

But keep in mind, people buying Lexus vehicles are really real estate agents and dentists that want an ultra reliable vehicle that will bring them some level of prestige. In Toyota's corporate DNA is using the same things over and over again as long as they can and perfecting the manufacturing process.

Their target market could care less about the extra power for the most part.

 

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Lexus's customer base came from Toyota or old folks that think 200 hp is plenty, so when you give them 268 hp V6 they think it is a lot.  But anyone with a performance car isn't going to go look at Lexus, even the GS-F is like CTS v-sport or E43 sort of speed, the top Lexus performance sedan is mid level at Cadillac or the German trio.  Lexus has that loyal buyer but they aren't atttracting new people, they are like Buick of the 90s clinging to a dying customer base.

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2 minutes ago, smk4565 said:

Lexus's customer base came from Toyota or old folks that think 200 hp is plenty, so when you give them 268 hp V6 they think it is a lot.  But anyone with a performance car isn't going to go look at Lexus, even the GS-F is like CTS v-sport or E43 sort of speed, the top Lexus performance sedan is mid level at Cadillac or the German trio.  Lexus has that loyal buyer but they aren't atttracting new people, they are like Buick of the 90s clinging to a dying customer base.

On the contrary they are doing pretty well for themselves. Lincoln has the oldest buyer demographic by far, at something like 61 or 62 years.  Buick has dropped their average buyer age by more than any other premium brand.

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Lincoln does have the oldest buyers, everything I read puts them at 61 or higher.  But Lexus is top 4 in age, I have seen 57 to 61 for average buyer ages.  The NX will bring some younger former RAV4 drivers in.  Buick is still among the oldest buyers, they dropped from like 67 down to 59.

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