Is that song by Sade ringing in your ears yet? Well it should because in the compact executive sedan arena, the Lexus IS competes with other smooth operators like the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4 and Jaguar XE. Its aggressive yet daring styling certainly helps it to stand out in the crowd, however, the lack of a turbo in the engine of the previous IS 250 may have put some buyers off. But not anymore…
In October last year, Lexus Malaysia replaced the IS 250 with the IS 200t upgraded with a new 2.0-litre turbocharged engine.
The IS 200t is the second Lexus model in Malaysia, after the NX crossover, to feature the company’s all-new 2.0-litre turbocharged engine. This 2.0-litre 4-cylinder twin-scroll turbocharged petrol engine delivers a total output of 241 hp at 5,800 rpm with a maximum of 350 Nm of torque from 1,650 rpm to 4,400 rpm – a healthy power bump of 36 hp and 98 Nm compared to the lethargic 2.5-litre V6 mill that powered the old IS 250.
All power goes the rear-wheels via a new 8-speed automatic Sport Direct Shift transmission to replace the previous IS’s 6-speed. As a result, the IS 200t is quicker by a second with a claimed 0-100km/h time of 7 seconds while top speed is limited at 230km/h.
The IS 200t F-Sport proves that less is sometimes more because at no point would you wonder where the extra power is hiding. The IS 200t F-Sport is capable of delivering more than you’ll ever need and if I were to describe my driving experience in three words, it would be smooth, stable and fast. There’s linear acceleration between each gear with sufficient power, good enough to put a smile on your face. The steering is nicely weighted while the new brakes provide smoothness and linear braking even when you abruptly stomp hard on the brakes.
In fact, the 200t F-Sport is pretty much a no brainer. This sports sedan is equipped with a computerised management system that makes split-second decisions on gear shifts in accordance with G-forces. It will automatically downshift during hard braking before a corner, hold a lower gear through the turn for better control and then select the most suitable gear on exit to provide swifter exit speeds.
As a result, the IS 200t F-Sport is responsive and more than happy to provide quick acceleration whenever in need while turbo lag or a jarring ride is almost imperceptible.
All IS 200t sedans feature ECO, NORMAL, and SPORT modes but the 200t F-Sport I had for test here is equipped with a SPORT S+ mode which allows the you to exploit the full performance potential of the car. It also benefits from an Adaptive Variable Suspension System (AVS) which controls the damping force of shock absorbers in response to driving operations and road conditions.
While Normal or Eco mode is suitable for day-to-day driving around the city, Sport + is more engaging to drive especially when sprinting down the highway. It provides more a spirited ride with firmer body control in tighter turns. But to be completely honest, the IS 200t F-Sport is very much calibrated for comfort rather than sportiness although its aggressive looks would indicate otherwise.
As for the rest of the interior, Lexus has retained the same overall layout of the dashboard found in its predecessors like the analogue clock, the infotainment system, the sporty gauge layout, the climate control and the Mark Levinson audio system.
It’s not really a bad thing per see, in fact, I do enjoy the level of comfort provided in the IS 200t F-Sport. There’s plenty of soft-touch materials found on the dashboard, door panels, and the plush seats are genuinely comfortable like those barcaloungers you’d sit on for hours at home. Ergonomics is top-notch where all the vehicles’ controls, buttons and switches are located within the driver’s easy reach.
In terms of safety, where there were 8 airbags before, the facelifted IS 200t F-Sport now adds two rear airbags which totals up to 10 airbags now. Also new to the IS 200t F-Sport is the Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA). While both safety technologies are not new to the industry, it certainly is a welcome plus for the refreshed IS sedan.
The Lexus IS 200t sold in Malaysia comes in 4 variants for buyers to choose from. This includes the IS 200t Premium, IS 200t Luxury, IS 200t F-Sport, and IS 300h. The one I had for a test unit here is the mid-range IS 200t F-Sport variant that comes kitted with a brutish spindle grille and bits of sporty treatment throughout. It is definitely the best looking IS in the range but it does come with a hefty price tag though…
Now the question boils down to this, is the Lexus IS 200t F-Sport is the right choice for you? Well, it depends on your priority. If you’re seeking a luxury sedan that marries comfort and good looks, then the Lexus IS 200t F-Sport will not disappoint.
Personally, after spending a weekend with the IS 200t F-Sport, I was very pleased with this sedan because everything is so straightforward, effortless and easy to handle; it almost felt like I’ve been driving it for years! Plus, when it comes to driving comfort, no other carmaker does it better than Lexus.
One of the most important parts when it comes to purchasing a brand new vehicle is its customer service and this is where Lexus has an advantage. Besides producing good quality cars, Lexus is also equally dedicated to offering exceptional customer experiences. It might not be as important as owning a vehicle itself, but overall brand satisfaction can actually lead to customers returning to the same automaker when it’s time for them to part with their old car and purchase a new one. Lexus is pretty good in that department so that’s why they have plenty of happy returning customers who always feel like they’ve ended up with a lot more than what they bargained for.
SPECIFICATION: Lexus IS 200t F-Sport
Displacement: In-line 4-Cylinder 2.5-litre turbo
Transmission Type: 8-Speed Sports Direct Shift A/T
Power: 241 @ 5,800rpm
Torque: 350Nm @ 1,650 – 4,400rpm
Price: Lexus IS 200t F-Sport – RM384,900 without insurance (Previous price RM333,000)
Rival – Mercedes-benz C-Class, BMW 3-Series, Audi A4, Jaguar XE