The 2016 Lexus IS sedan comes in three distinct models -- the all-new IS 200t and IS 300, as well as the carryover IS 350. The IS 200t is available only with rear-wheel drive, while the IS 300 AWD comes only with all-wheel drive. The IS 350, meanwhile, can be ordered with either rear- or all-wheel drive.
Exciting new powertrain options are packed into the new models. The IS 200t is powered by a 2.0L twin-scroll turbocharged and intercooled 4-cylinder that produces 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It is mated to a Sport Direct-Shift 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. The IS 300 AWD features a 3.5L V6 making 255 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque. It is paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission and paddle shifters. Finally, the IS 350 benefits from a more potent 3.5L V6 that delivers 306 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. It is puts power to the rear wheels through a Sport Direct-Shift 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters. Both transmissions feature Sport, Normal and Eco modes, and will match engine revolutions during downshifts when set in Sport mode.
All engines feature variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-i) to help boost economy and efficiency. As a result, the IS 200t offers 33 mpg on the highway, while the IS 300 AWD returns an estimated 26 mpg on the highway, and the IS 350 is rated at 28 mpg.
Suspension across the lineup is fully independent, courtesy of double wishbones up front and a multilink setup in the rear. The IS 200t and IS 300 AWD ride on 17-inch, 10-spoke alloy wheels, while the IS 350 RWD sits on 18-inch alloys.
All IS sedans come nicely equipped with standard features like HID headlights, LED daytime lights, dual-zone climate control, a next-generation Remote Touch Interface and 4.2-inch color display, power tilt/telescopic steering wheel, power moonroof, HomeLink universal transceiver, a 60/40 split-fold rear seat, Bluetooth, iPod connectivity and satellite radio. Additionally, each IS benefits from a suite of 10 airbags.
All IS sedans can also be given the F Sport treatment, which improves handling with unique 18-inch wheels, high-friction brakes and aggressive suspension tuning. Exterior and interior design elements are also upgraded, including special instrumentation and F Sport heated front seats. On IS 300 AWD and IS 350 F Sport models, the intake sound is more aggressive, which creates a more sporting engine note.
Other optional equipment on the IS lineup includes a navigation system, a backup monitor, power rear sunshade and intuitive park assist, which aids in parallel parking the IS. The Premium Package includes heated front seats, twin projector LED headlights, and a backup camera. The Premium Plus Package includes power tilt and telescopic steering and rain-sensing intermittent wipers, while the Luxury Package boasts a blind spot monitor, special leather and wood trim, headlamp washers, a heated steering wheel, parking assist and more.
A Sammy Hagar song filled my mind as I turned on to my favorite driving road in the hills of Northern California in the 2017 Lexus IS 200t F Sport. 45 constant miles of twists and turns had me driving with one foot on the brake and one on the gas, all the better to get back on the throttle as quickly as possible. As I came to a straightaway, I smashed on the throttle and gave a shout, "I can't drive fifty fiiiiive!"
The IS, Lexus' entry-level sedan, comes in a few iterations, including all-wheel drive and an available V6. But I rocked the rear-wheel drive version running a 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder engine, and equipped with the F Sport package. While this example may be the least powerful IS available, I found the car to be a well-balanced machine with plenty of zip to carve corners and enough comfort to give the German sport sedans a run for their euros.
With 241 horsepower on tap, the IS 200t has enough power to be an enjoyable ride, but not so much as to get you in trouble. 258 pound-feet of torque pulls to the red line smoothly. There is a bit of a delay when you give it the beans, but not much. After that slight hiccup, the car's acceleration is super smooth and a lot of fun.
The Good The compact chassis is nimble and ready to turn and the zippy 2.0-liter turbocharged engine offers just enough power to be fun.
The Bad The Enform infotainment system is complicated and is made very user unfriendly with the optional Remote Touch joystick. There are better ways to spend $1,735.
The Bottom Line The 2017 Lexus IS 200t offers an enjoyable ride with plenty of features, but should be purchased without the Remote Touch handle.
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