2016 Lexus IS 200t F Sport Review
It's a Crowd Pleaser, not a Rubber Roaster
Published: November 18th, 2015
The competition amongst sport-luxury sedans is always fierce, with BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Lexus always in the melee. Attention-grabbing looks, cossetting cabins, ample amenities and, of course, solid handling and performance are prerequisites in order to be taken seriously in this field. Just keeping up with the segment's continual state of flux requires rapt solid attention and an eye for detail. That being said, Lexus is changing things up again but it's more than just body work this time. The 2016 IS 250 is gone, as is the underwhelming 2.5-liter V6 engine that powered it. Lexus replaces it with a 4-cylinder turbocharged mill that's meant to change the base IS's game. We see how it does in the real world.
Exterior: Thankfully, anything but derivative
In 2014, Lexus almost completely changed the look of their brand - by starting to infuse each model with more angles, more drama and that now impossible-to-ignore spindle grille of a maw on everything from the CT 200h hybrid hatchback to the mammoth LX 570 SUV. What originally seemed almost bizarre, fascia-wise has now become a major component of Lexus's brand identity, and we have to say they've pulled it off. This look is probably most cohesive in the IS, the NX and the new RX - largely because the bodies were designed in conjunction with the new grille, as opposed to being slapped on like the GS and the ES, where it looked more like a masquerade more than a rebirth.
The IS 200t F Sport looks quite fetching, especially in Redline paint and 18" Split-Five-Spoke alloy Wheels that have a more sinister tint than the base car's 17" inch wheels. And despite the general busyness of the front end, the car comes across as clean looking thanks to a mildly contoured body and crisp taillights that taper down nicely into the rear quarter panels. Twin round tailpipes keep things classic and only three F Sport badges show up on the body, far from the sixteen Ms found on the exterior of BMW's M3. Tastefully done, Lexus.
Interior: Modern sport and comfort that's driver-focused
No one will accuse the IS's interior of being luxurious, but that doesn't mean it's not befitting of the Lexus brand. It leans towards sporty and that much more so with the F Sport. It's a sporty-contemporary look that's handsome and driver focused - but there's no wood to be seen anywhere (unless you add the Luxury package). High grade plastics and tinted brushed aluminum trim are found just about everywhere, and the F Sport's motorized digital instrument cluster, a-la LFA allows you to semi-customize the cluster - plus it's fun to play with. The F Sport seats are fantastic - bolstered for sporty driving and heated and ventilated, they're about as comfortable and supportive as you'll find in this segment. The sporty-textured NuLuxe faux leather trim isn't going to fool anyone, but it doesn't cause the seats to feel cheap or uncomfortable at all.
The biggest issue we had with the IS 200t's interior was the now antiquated mouse-like Remote Touch interface that comes with the navigation system. It's just plain awful, with the kind of precision reserved for four-fingered Mickey Mouse hands rather than those of an impassioned sports sedan driver. Why the new 2016 model didn't get the tactile pad from the NX is beyond us. But you can easily learn how to use the IS's voice controls, so you're not completely up a creek when it comes to managing systems.
The cargo capacity is an impressive 13.8 cubic feet, and the rear seatbacks fold down in case you've got to make a modest Home Depot run. Rear seat space is ample and tall passengers thankfully won't feel squished. Standard equipment includes heated exterior mirrors, sunroof, remote keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, a manual tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, auto-dimming rearview mirror, eight-way power front seats with driver power lumbar, Bluetooth, an 8-inch color screen, that all-important voice command, Siri Eyes Free and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio, satellite radio and dual USB ports. The list is long and appropriate for this price. Our test car had the F Sport package, and it gives the IS the full beans both inside and out, including an aggressive mesh grille, revised front bumper, LED headlights, and a sport-tuned suspension.
Driving Impressions: A sporty-esque sedan that thrills just enough
We found the IS 200t to be just the right formula for nimble, spirited drives in spite of its somewhat underpowered 241 horses and 258 lb-ft from its 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo and the accompanying turbo lag. 0-60 is just under seven seconds, which won't resituate your organs - but it won't bore you to tears, either. Thankfully the steering is fantastic, and you can point and shoot the IS 200t wherever you want it to go. Cornering is pretty flat and there is some understeer, but it's all very manageable.
The suspension in the F Sport is firm but not jarringly so, and the payoff is solid handling in the corners and twisties. The power in the IS 200t won't set your hair on fire, but it's good enough to have fun in and exploit when the desire arises. It's also an incredibly comfortable car that should be able to log miles without anyone complaining, in front or in back. The transmission is an eight-speed automatic, and though it has paddle shifters - it's not geared particularly aggressively, and shifts are less than lightning fast. Mileage is respectable at 22 city/33 highway.
Final Impressions: A near perfect formula for an entertaining sport-luxury model
No one looking to burn rubber or quicken lap times on a track will seek out the IS 200t, even in F Sport trim, but if it's an entertaining sport sedan you're looking for at a reasonable price, you'll be hard pressed to find a better car than the IS 200t F Sport, with really only the BMW 320i ticking the same boxes at about the same price. But the Lexus, while doing less for the elite image that a German badge delivers, provides fantastic comfort, practical space, cutting edge looks and solid driving dynamics. It's a worthy candidate for a base model sport-luxury sedan, and those who aren't power hungry should be more than satisfied.
Price & Specifications
Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four cylinder
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive
Power Output: 241 horsepower / 258 lb-ft
Fuel Economy (mpg): 22 city / 33 highway
Base Price: $37,325
As Tested: $46,300 (incl. $940 delivery, processing and handling)
Options on our test car: F Sport Package: F Sport front bumper & spindle grille, LED headlamps, 18" F Sport Split 5-Spoke Wheels, FR 225/40R18 RR 255/35R18 Summer tires, TFT Instrument cluster, heated & ventilated front F Sport seats, perforated shift knob, black headliner, aluminum pedals, back-up monitor, F Sport tuned suspension, Navigation system, Mark Levinson Audio System, Audio 5.0 Surround, 17-speakers, 835 Watts, Lexus Enform Destinations, App Suite, Voice Command, Lexus Insider, Electrochromic Auto-dimming Rearview Mirror
Other Features on our test car: Premium paint, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control w/ Pre-Collision System, F Sport Perforated Leather Heated Steering Wheel with Paddle Shifters.
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2016 Lexus IS 200t, click here: 2016 Lexus IS 200t.