Shining through downpour
The Lexus IS200t excelled during last Sunday’s torrential conditions on the Atherton Tablelands, reports NICK DALTON
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
2.0-litre four cylinder turbo
Eightspeed automatic, rearwheel drive
0-100km/ h in 7s, 230km/h top speed
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:
Lexus of Cairns, Mulgrave Rd, Westcourt, PH: 4030 7444
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.