Review: 2016 Lexus IS 200t

We recently took advantage of a free weekend to whirlwind through Texas Hill Country. The trip ticked all the boxes for our ideal road trip: exploring, beautiful scenery, and driving. Lexus tossing us the keys to a 2016 IS 200t F Sport to drive around while there was icing on the cake.

While the 200t features the smallest engine of the line (and has the lowest starting MSRP) of the IS model line, calling it entry level or base does the car a disservice. The 2.0-liter turbocharged in-line 4-cylinder churns out a solid 241 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque which is sent to the rear wheels via an equally lovely 8-speed Sport Direct-Shift automatic transmission. The drivetrain combo resulted in fuel economy pushing 30mpg on the highway.

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The IS 200t has the same is-it-a-coupe-or-a-sedan good looks the IS has sported for the last couple of years. We don’t think this body style will ever look old or dated. The curves are subtle without the sharp creases and facets some of the other Lexus models have lately. Those curves work with the slightly bulging wheel wells to put the sport in sports sedan. When we picked up our test 200t from the airport it stopped us in our tracks. We were very familiar with its good looks, but the delicious red Lexus calls Redline made all those other elements pop.

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Inside the IS 200t is typical Lexus perfection. The 200t’s seats were perfectly comfortable for the 80 or so miles we drove a flat and relatively boring I-35 between Austin and San Antonio where we encountered towns with strong overpass and water tower games like Buda and Kyle and New Braunfels. Curving twisty two lanes around Bee Cave, Lake Travis, and along the Colorado River proved to be no challenge for the supportive bolstered seats which kept us planted no matter how adventurous we got.

That typical perfection extends to the cockpit controls. Steering wheel controls are easy to find and easy to use with virtually no learning curve. The wheel itself was contoured just right for hand rests over long stretches and hand-to-hand maneuvering through twists. The other controls for interior systems were equally as easy to learn and sophisticated in their design.

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The center stack has a clean, modern aesthetic and is crowned by a 7” infotainment screen integrated into the dash. The screen allows access to audio controls, HVAC controls, navigation, and the Lexus Enform App Suite. The screen is controlled via a center console controller which makes use of a squared off knob to move a cursor around the screen. Menu and Home buttons complete the easy to use controller that is mounted conveniently for the driver and front passenger to use easily.

A couple of cupholders and a storage bin under the armrest round out the center console. The cupholders and bins are a decent size, but their placement makes them inconvenient. Cups end up under elbows or require a contortionist’s skills to reach depending on seat placement. The bin requires turning in your seat for even the front passenger to access.

The awkwardness of the front seat storage is all a part of a driver centric cockpit. And the IS boasts just that. The driver’s area wraps around you just the way you want it to in a sports car. All the other elements of the drive are just the way you want them in a sports car. Acceleration is delightful for the engine which produces no noticeable lag or whine. A last minute burst and lane change necessary to reach an almost missed on ramp (driving in Austin requires a navigator…really) got us where we were going easily with an appreciative hoot from a nearby hitchhiker and a less audible, equally as excited response from us. The transmission was as responsive as the turbo whether we used the paddle shifters or let the car do the work.

The Bottom Line

The IS 200t F Sport is just about the ideal sport sedan. We liked the 350 F Sport a tad better for the higher horsepower and the lovely grunt we got from the V-6; however, to save a few grand and gain 6-7 MPG fuel economy we would be perfectly happy in the 200t F Sport.

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