Lexus IS 200t

Lexus continues to try to keep pace with some of its luxury brand rivals when it comes to delivering sporty driving performance. Its latest effort is seen in a new version of its small sedan, the IS 200t. Unlike previous IS models, this one is powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, as opposed to the V-6 found in this car heretofore.

The 200t has a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 241 horsepower and 258 pounds-feet of torque that is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. This engine comes only with rear-wheel-drive IS models, as opposed to the all-wheel-drive models that some competing turbo four-bangers have.

Fuel economy is just a tad better than that of the old V-6, with this four-cylinder coming in at 22 mpg city, 33 highway. It’s nice that not only do you get a tiny bump in fuel economy with this model, but you also get more power than what was available in its naturally aspirated sibling. An updated V-6 will still be available in the IS 300 and IS 350.

So what’s the verdict? Well, this turbocharged engine definitely has more pop than the old V-6, and that’s nice. The responsiveness has surely improved. But it still falls short of the kind of performance you get from an Audi or BMW.

If you’re smart, you don’t buy a Lexus for its performance chops, though. You buy a Lexus for its good looks, reliability (ahem, Audi and BMW) and smooth and quiet ride.

But that said, this 200t is no snooze fest. It has more than ample power for the needs of typical driving. And handling is solid, also up to the task of everyday driving. Just not quite at the thrill level of the sport champs.

The interior is typically Lexus, which is to say attractive, well-arranged and not overly gaudy. Everything seems to be placed where you might expect it. One interesting note is that a younger passenger we had pointed to the fancy analog clock and asked “What’s that and why is it there?” This might be an indication to Lexus that it’s time to go with only digital clocks, as some of its models have.

The 200t starts at around $38,000 and ranges to about $43,000. It presents a pretty good value, especially relative to its competitors, and anyone who is thinking of buying a small luxury sedan would be wise to have this model at or very near the top of their list.