Shin­ing through down­pour

The Lexus IS200t ex­celled dur­ing last Sun­day’s tor­ren­tial con­di­tions on the Ather­ton Table­lands, re­ports NICK DAL­TON

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - ROAD TEST - RE­VIEW VE­HI­CLE COUR­TESY OF LEXUS OF CAIRNS, MUL­GRAVE RD, WESTCOURT

IN NEAR cy­clonic con­di­tions, the rear drive sedan was most adept on wet, slip­pery coun­try roads with howl­ing gales adding to the drama.

No need for all-wheel-grip at all. There was the added bonus of big­ger wheels and lower pro­file tyres, but ev­ery­thing else was stan­dard.

Fi­nally Lexus has en­tered the fray with a 2.0-litre tur­bocharged four-cylin­der en­gine which is stan­dard fare in the en­try to mid-range mod­els of all lux­ury brands, in­clud­ing BMW 3 Se­ries, Audi A4, MercedesBenz C-Class and Jaguar XE.

The Ja­panese lux­ury car­maker has ditched its 153kW/ 252Nm 2.5-litre V6 petrol en­gine that ser­viced the IS in cur­rent and pre­vi­ous-gen­er­a­tion IS250 guise, and re­placed it with an all-new 2.0-litre tur­bocharged unit – the com­pany’s first blown en­gine – pump­ing out 180kW at 5800rpm and 350Nm at 1650-4400rpm.

DE­TAIL­ING The beauty of Lexus is that un­like the Ger­mans it is full of stan­dard good­ies with­out end­less tick­ing the ex­pen­sive op­tions boxes.

The Lux­ury grade as tested has a drive away price of $62,400. For that money you get satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion, a re­vers­ing cam­era, eight park­ing sen­sors, heated and ven­ti­lated seats, key­less en­try and start, dig­i­tal ra­dio, pow­ered front seats, idle-stop, the Lexus En­form sys­tem, “ad­vanced” Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity, a 4.2-inch full­colour screen, bi-Xenon head­lights, 60/40 split-fold rear seats, dual-zone cli­mate con­trol, hill-start as­sist, a suite of ac­tive safety fea­tures and 17in al­loy wheels as stan­dard.

The only op­tions are a $2500 sun­roof and $1500 for metal­lic paint.

You don’t want for much even in an en­try level IS and that’s where Lexus has a dis­tinct ad­van­tage over its Euro­pean ri­vals.

Apart from the turbo en­gine the IS re­mains the same as when it was launched in 2013.

The mas­sive “spin­dle” grille at the front and the strik­ing pinched tail-lights are hold­ing up very well two years down the track.

In­side, there are no ma­jor changes to speak of.

The Lexus seats are still beau­ti­fully cush­ioned and su­per sup­port­ive, vis­i­bil­ity is still ex­cel­lent and ev­ery­thing from the lovely three-spoke steer­ing wheel, the in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, the touch com­mand sys­tem and other con­trols func­tions well.

It still has an ir­ri­tat­ing foot­op­er­ated park brake and the an­noy­ing “mouse” con­troller for the sat-nav and trip com­puter.

The IS dash lay­out is fussy and at times con­fus­ing. It just doesn’t flow and will age.

DRIV­ING With the new tur­bocharged pow­er­train in the 200t, the IS is more than about value, and brings the fight right up to the Euro­peans.

Grant Wool­cock of Lexus of Cairns was wor­ried that I would not ap­pre­ci­ate the car’s ride as it was fit­ted with af­ter mar­ket larger al­loys and lower pro­file tyres. I didn’t find they up­set the ride too much, slightly firm, but not an­noy­ing.

The IS is quiet. Lexus says it had to al­ter the IS plat­form to en­sure strict noise, vi­bra­tion and harsh­ness lev­els were met and to ac­com­mo­date dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter­is­tics of the tur­bocharged unit.

Some of the changes in­clude a Yamaha-de­vel­oped per­for­mance damper across the front of the chas­sis, as well as new en­gine mounts, in­take and ex­haust sys­tems.

What­ever they have done, the IS is quiet but, when you do put the foot down, the turbo four-pot has a lovely note.

The re­vised ex­haust sys­tem lay­out of the IS com­pared with the same en­gine in the NX al­lowed Lexus engi­neers to wring out an ex­tra 5kW of power over the cross­over.

The 200t of­fers ex­cel­lent power and torque de­liv­ery from a stand­ing start, with the IS man­ag­ing to feel light on its feet yet planted at the same time.

Over­tak­ing was taken care of quickly and with ease.

Throw­ing the IS200t into corners, su­per tight bends, and tack­ling twisty moun­tain roads is a breeze, and the mid-sizes never felt stretched.

It was a joy on my favourite piece of tar­mac on Spring­mount Rd be­hind the Ar­riga mill.

The dou­ble wish­bone front and multi-link rear sus­pen­sion setup is a win­ner, as is the damp­ing tune, with the IS tack­ling harsher roads more ad­mirably than some of its stiffer Euro­pean com­peti­tors.

Where it came to the fore was on the 35km patchy, twisty sec­tion of Old Palmer­ston High­way be­tween Raven­shoe and Mil­laa Mil­laa.

It was buck­et­ing with rain and the road was slip­pery and chal­leng­ing. Not a prob­lem for the 200t. Matched with an in­tu­itive and silky smooth eight-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion, Lexus says the IS200t can do the 0100km/h dash in 7.0 sec­onds and sips 7.5 litres per 100km of fuel on the com­bined cy­cle.

Un­for­tu­nately my drive from Cairns to Ku­randa, Ma­reeba, Ar­riga, Ather­ton, Her­ber­ton, Raven­shoe, Mil­laa Mil­laa, In­n­is­fail and back to Cairns re­vealed 10.7L/100km fuel con­sump­tion.

A bit dis­ap­point­ing when a week be­fore an Audi A4 Quat­tro with a sim­i­lar 2.0-litre tur­bocharged en­gine on much the same route used 8.8.

The prob­lem is the IS weighs more than the op­po­si­tion. It’s at least 1620kg when its ri­vals are nearly 200kg lighter.

DE­CID­ING The IS has al­ways been the un­der-ap­pre­ci­ated gem of the lux­ury mid-size sedan set.

With the spritzy tur­bocharged 2.0-litre petrol en­gine, beau­ti­fully matched with the chas­sis and trans­mis­sion, the IS lifts to an­other level.

The IS200t of­fers away

En­gine:

2.0-litre four cylin­der turbo

Power:

180kW@5800rpm

350Nm@16504400rpm

Torque: Trans­mis­sion:

Eight­speed au­to­matic, rear­wheel drive

Per­for­mance:

0-100km/ h in 7s, 230km/h top speed

Fuel con­sump­tion:

7.5.L/100km (10.7 on test) pre­mium un­leaded, 66 litres

CO2 emis­sions: Di­men­sions:

175g/km Length 4665mm, width 1810mm, height 1430mm, wheel­base 2800mm, tracks 1535/1550mm, weight 1620kg Four years/100,000km Audi A4, BMW 3 Se­ries, Jaguar XE, Mercedes-Benz C-Class Check with

War­ranty: Ri­vals: Avail­abil­ity:

dealer

Dealer:

Lexus of Cairns, Mul­grave Rd, Westcourt, PH: 4030 7444

Web­site:

www.lexu­sof­cairns.com.au

out­stand­ing value, an en­gag­ing drive ex­pe­ri­ence, ex­cel­lent per­for­mance and han­dling, and all in an at­trac­tive, in­ter­est­ing pack­age.

There are flaws, such as the foot op­er­ated hand brake, in­di­ca­tors that don’t self-can­cel and fuel use is more than it should be.

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