A busy weekend up in Brisbane meant I needed a car that could do a few things: it needed to be stylish, and fun to drive – but also comfortable, and practical. Luckily, I grabbed the keys to the Lexus IS200t sedan.
This wasn’t just any IS, but a handsome graphite-grey Sports Luxury model with the new turbocharged engine.
I’ve driven the IS200t before, but not in Sports Lux trim – the top of the IS tree, with all the toys thrown in and the best materials inside the car.
Proving that the classic dark colour, light upholstery combination remains incredibly handsome, our IS 200t came with the optional caramel-and-black interior. I put a couple of hundred kilometres in and can say that Lexus still know how to make a great seat. They’re supportive and upholstered in soft, high-quality leather.
Compared with more conservative luxury four-doors, the IS is refreshingly different – even cool. The Lexus signature lights – featuring a Nike-esque tick pattern – work best on this well-proportioned and athletic little thing.
That’s one of the advantages of the IS – its size. I needed the car to do a few things: help me run errands in the city, pick up a few mates, and head out into the country for a faster, and more fun drive. For all that stuff, a small four-door is a great compromise.
If you do want to get people in the back, going for a four-door will save coupe headaches – and you’re not missing out as the IS is even sportier to drive than the two-door Lexus RC.
It’s also just convenient to be able to chuck an overnight bag on the back seat without having to tap into the large boot – though that’s where my suitcase slid into easily.
And when you’re dashing around the city, the manoeuvrability of a car this size is something you appreciate – the Lexus has this brilliantly tight steering. It was easy to slip into tight spots outside busy cafes in Brisbane’s James Street precinct.
The creases and sharp lines look great when you’re sitting with your cup of coffee – and we all know that sex appeal counts when stepping up to a premium model like this.
Particularly in a handsome grey colour like this, when you walk away from the car you want to turn around and have another look. That’s important.
My passengers were happy, too, with the Sports Luxury model coming with a sunroof that lets plenty of fresh air into the cabin without drowning out the awesome quality of the stereo.
With 835 watts of punch and 15 speakers, the Mark Levinson sound system in the IS offers great bass and crystal-clear detail. We loved it.
Only the navigation system bugged me, with the inability to enter or change destinations on the fly. That’s something that gets under your skin when you’re in a city you don’t know too well – and a Sydney boy gets lost easily in Brisbane!
The two-litre turbo engine was launched late last year and is quite a good partner for the smallest Lexus four-door. The 180kW of power and 350Nm of torque gets the car moving along smartly, though the V6 is another level of performance.
The four-cylinder puts the Lexus IS200t in the same league as the BMW 330i and Mercedes-Benz C250.
If you’re a keen driver you’ll like the IS350 better, with a 233kW six-cylinder that goes hard and sounds so sweet when working hard.
In the real world they use about the same amount of fuel so if you can spare the extra few grand, the V6 is an easy call to make.
A hybrid is available too … but why dull the experience of a car that handles so well?
I’ve liked the tuning of the IS steering since this shape came out a few years ago and it’s still pin-sharp and accurate. It’s nice and light in the city, which you want in Brisbane’s tighter streets, but it bulks up nicely once you pile on speed.
At about $75,000, the Sports Luxury model is pretty good value compared to top rival models, but the $71,000 IS 350 F Sport, with the delicious V6, is what I’d go for.
Do I recommend the Lexus IS? Absolutely. It’s refreshingly different. It looks cool. It feels really well built inside. The price is right. Yeah – I reckon I could happily live with a Lexus IS200t.
A few further pictures…