I was excited to finally get behind the wheel of a Lexus vehicle. I had already driven the 2017 Lexus LC 500h prototype earlier this year; and fell in love with the design and performance. I consider the LC to be the prettiest car of the year, and the only vehicle that looks like it belongs in the year 2017. So when I held the keys to the 2017 Lexus IS 200t my expectations were high. After a week with the Lexus IS 200t, a few things became clear. The car looks great, it is very maneuverable, and I didn’t like it.
EXTERIOR: Dressed in Ultrasonic Blue, the IS 200t turned heads everywhere it went, with people looking over their shoulders to get a second glance at this fancy blue car to see the badge. I myself was looking at it constantly when walking away from it in parking lots. If Love Potion #9 was a real drink, Ultrasonic Blue would be its flavor. Matched with its signature grille (that always reminds me of the mask from Predator) and gun metal gray 17-inch wheels the IS 200t looks like a true sports sedan. Trying to find a bad angle on this car is like trying to find Waldo in a candy cane factory. After a while you give up and just accept that the 2017 Lexus IS 200t is a great looking car, one that will stands out from its typical German competition.
INTERIOR: This particular model came with the F-Sport package, which included upgraded, race-inspired seats that hug you in place. The one drawback is that they can be a little difficult to get in and out of if you aren’t as limber as you used to be, or as small. The all black interior of the IS 200t exuded high quality, but looked drab. All black? I have cars from the last century that use one color for the whole interior. The only thing that offsets the sea of black is the analog clock in the center of the dash.
The F-sport steering wheel felt well made, not too big, and offered grip where you expected as a driver. However, it did remind me of a driving simulator’s steering wheel, complete with paddle shifters and an array of buttons on the wheel. The dash cluster offers a cool trick inspired by Lexus’ crown jewel, the LFA; the digital center gauge can be moved to the left or right, allowing you to move your speedometer to your desired specifications. If you are looking for the digital clock it is located in the gauge cluster in small print, instead of on the center dash where one is often used to seeing it.
The center screen on the IS 200t is over 10 inches, big enough to give you a split screen of information. You can enjoy the radio on one side and the GPS map on the other. It is too bad that the graphics don’t look as pretty as other competitors, and the mouse joystick used to navigate the screen is too sensitive and takes getting used to. I would not recommend trying to adjust settings while driving. It moves rapidly at the slightest touch, forcing you to look at the screen to make sure you are selecting the desired option.
The rear seat is small (as with most sedans in its class), and has a hump in the middle of the floor. If you plan on fitting five people in this car the person in the middle will need to sit with their legs slightly apart. The trunk is small compared to sedans in its price range, and others below it. But my biggest problem with the interior is how noisy it was. This is a Lexus, so why am I able to hear to the tires hum across pavement? It almost put me to sleep during long distance driving.
SPECS AND PERFORMANCE: The Lexus IS 200t is powered by a 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder delivering 241hp, and managed by an 8-speed automatic transmission. Even though the IS 200t tips the scales at over 3,700 pounds, the car can accelerate from 0-60 in 7 seconds. It offers three different drive modes: Eco, Normal, and Sport, as well as a specific mode for snow. Sport mode stiffens everything up, and delays the gear changes to hold the engine at its peak performance. While Eco mode does the opposite, keeping everything mellow to reduce fuel consumption. Fuel economy on the IS 200t is 22mpg city and 32mph highway – I managed 27mpg on the highway, in Eco mode.
On the road, the IS 200t has no trouble getting up to speed. It accelerates well with a faint rumble from the dual exhaust as the turbo spools through the gear changes. Steering is light and precise. You always know where the front wheels are and can maneuver the IS 200t with marksman-like accuracy. The paddle shifters would be more entertaining if the engine had more grunt; it felt like I was just flicking the paddle on an arcade game. The brakes are always at the ready to stop you on a dime if needed. During my review, I raced my own mother in her own sporty sedan, a 2015 Kia Optima turbo. The Kia has 271 horsepower and a 6-speed transmission. Off the line, the Kia had the Lexus beat by a full car length but the Lexus managed to pull off a win when its 7th and 8th gear kicked-in and gave it longer legs to catch up and pass the Kia…barely.
Pricing for the 2017 Lexus IS 200t starts in the high $30’s, with the F-Sport package adding $3,545 to the sticker price. The model shown retailed at $46,545. The Ultrasonic blue paint was a $595 option, and Navigation / Mark Levinson Audio system added $2,835 to the final price. Thankfully, it comes with plenty of safety features as standard:
- Pre-collision Warning with Pedestrian Detection
- Dynamic Radar Cruise Control
- Lane Departure Alert with Steering assist
- Automatic Intelligent High Beam Headlamps
FINAL THOUGHTS: Maybe my expectations were too high. I’m sure many will disagree with what I thought about the 2017 Lexus IS 200t, but I just couldn’t find enough reasons to justify its sticker price. It feels like the type of vehicle a premium brand puts out for people who buy based off brand recognition, the kind of people who wear their pay check and care more about the brand name than the actual product. Lexus has the ability to make amazing vehicles, but didn’t put their heart and soul into the IS 200t. It’s a car that relies too much on its name history and therefore feels as if it doesn’t have to try as hard to get our attention. If you are in the market for a Lexus vehicle I would highly recommend spending more money (GS?) on a model that is higher in Lexus’ line up.