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2017 Lexus IS 200T Review By Steve Purdy

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2017 LEXUS IS200T
By Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

Lexus started life less than 3 decades ago as the luxury division of Toyota. With white bread styling and conventional but indestructible engineering, Lexus, over that relatively short time, earned a reputation as a major player in the luxury and sport/luxury spaces. Exterior styling morphed from plain to brash and polarizing. Engineering has not only kept up with the best in the world, but in many cases led in performance, technology and driving dynamics. And, the Lexus model range broadened into just about every segment of the automobile market except trucks. In our driveway this week is the Lexus IS compact sport sedan with the turbo four-cylinder engine and F-Sport package.

When you see any new Lexus coming at you on the highway you’re likely struck by the huge, gaping grille that seems to be scooping up air in big gulps. That is now the brand’s iconic face. That bold grille along with in-your-face, deep cheek vents, amazing headlight jewelry and LED strikes at the front corners inspire either lust or distain with different viewers. Less dramatic, but not particularly distinctive character lines around the flank and tail offer some mitigation of the aggressiveness of the nose. Striking 18-inch alloy wheels, one of the F-Sport enhancements, set it off nicely and suggest something special lurks under the shiny silver skin. No more white bread here, from any angle.

Interior design mixes function with a strangely Asian aesthetic. A horizontal section dominates the dash on either side of the instrument cluster housing mostly HVAC vents. The cluster, in turn, is dominated by an analog tach with imbedded digital speedometer. The tachometer pod moves back and forth horizontally to reveal a useful information display. An analog clock in the center of the dash suggests a theme of luxury. The welcome conventional console shifter shares space with the rocker-mouse that controls the multi-purpose screen. That all results in cup holders being way back in the console, inconveniently behind your elbow. As with most Toyota and Lexus products we’ve reviewed, the controls and information are as easily managed and intuitive as any on the market.

Ingress and egress through any door is a challenge, particularly for someone as unconscionably large as me. People of regular size and smaller will be entirely comfortable, but big or tall folks will have to squeeze. Well-bolstered front seats make that problem worse, though even for us, once you’re in these firm, sporty seats they feel sturdy, comfortable and supportive. Rear seatbacks fold to add marginally to an already small cargo capacity.

This sporty little rear-wheel drive sedan is powered by a slick and sophisticated 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder making a decent 241 horsepower and a good 258 pound-feet of torque. The smart and smooth 8-speed automatic gets power to the rear wheels and adjusts itself to different driving modes. It can be manually controlled with paddles or the shifter. All wheel drive, by the way, is only available with the 3.0-liter V6 engine.

The powertrain is rated by the EPA as capable of 22 mpg in the city, 32 on the highway and 26 mpg combined. We managed 24.5 in our mixed use this week and, as those who know me will attest, I don’t usually drive in a manner that would maximize fuel mileage. Premium fuel is required and the engine will be perfectly happy with E85 as well.

Our sticker shows a base price for the IS200t at $37,825 – not far from major competitors like Audi A4, BMW 3-Series and Mercedes C-Class. Blind Spot Monitors with rear cross-traffic alert adds $600 and the wonderful F-Sport and navigation packages add another $5,300 or so. Our bottom line is $46,324. Standard are most safety features, adaptive cruise control, the multi-function screen controlled by a cool little rocker mouse, LED headlights and DRLs, dual chrome exhaust outlets, and the powertrain detailed above. The V6 is the optional power plant.

Driving dynamics will impress even the most demanding drivers in terms of handling, comfort and quietness. The exhaust makes fun noises on full throttle, but those are not crass or intrusive. Outside noises are mostly defeated, even at extra-legal speeds on coarse pavement, by ever more thorough insulation and sound deadening insisted upon by the acoustic engineers. Steering feedback, suspension tuning and level of acceleration are all enhanced by the selectable Sport Mode making me wish we had a race track nearby where I could really put it though some paces.

Lexus’ new car warranty covers the whole car for 4 years or 50,000 miles and the powertrain for 6 years or 70,000 miles.

Other than the difficulty of getting in and out of this small car (again: not a problem for anyone but big people) it’s hard to find fault with the IS200t F-Sport. For about 45-grand you get a small, agile, stylish, quick, fully-contented sport sedan with impeccable quality and durability.

It certainly does not have the pedigree of the German competitors but is just as competent and stylish with unquestionable quality.

© Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved