New 2.0 turbo adds a stronger pulse to the sporty compact
Heart transplants are a big deal, even among today's medical marvels. Little wonder then that Lexus is breathing deep as it prepares to launch a new engine in the IS compact sports sedan.
The IS250 is dead, the 2.5-litre V6 a victim of blocked arteries that couldn't deliver enough power and needed too much fuel to respond to a horde of turbo engines.
In its place is, no surprise, a 2.0-litre turbo that shames its predecessor with an extra 27kW/97Nm and yet uses 7.5L/100km in place of the 250's 9.2L.
That's hugely impressive — in isolation. As good as it is, the turbo loses a little on fuel efficiency against European rivals, among them the astonishingly successful Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4.
Put that down to weight. At 1620kg-plus it is lardier than the newer competition.
Clawing back ground on price, the IS200t starts at $57,500 in Luxury guise. That makes it dearer than the outgoing car — as well as more expensive than the entry models of its rival brands.
The 200t doesn't play at the entry level, though. It merits comparison with the likes of the BMW 320i and Benz C250 in terms of performance and the interior still exudes style and substance.
The IS200 will be sold in three guises, with the upper-spec F Sport and Sports Luxury models coming in at $65,500 and $76,500 respectively.
That gives the Lexus a cascading price range with the IS200t, IS300h and IS350 overlapping on cost depending on trim level.
Standard specification across the range includes an eight-speed automatic transmission, adaptive cruise control and a pre-collision safety suite that includes autonomous emergency braking.
Stepping up to the F Sport adds a more aggressive front and rear bumper, adaptive variable suspension and softer front brake pads for more bite.
The Sports Luxury includes lane departure warning, adaptive high beam headlamps, 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio, moon roof and woodgrain trim.
The IS200t looks the goods. It's a good thing behind the tiller, too, with a poised chassis and grippy Dunlop rubber inviting the driver to attack bends.
The steering isn't honed to carve curves like a scalpel and it shouldn't be — save that for the IS F down the track.
It delivers decent feedback, along with the occasional kickback if the front hits bumps too hard and with too much lock during cornering.
The suspension is an example of how the Japanese can get the job done
That's more an indication of how quickly the IS can corner than any fault with the front end geometry.
The eight-speed auto remains the weak link and needs more time spent on calibration — or more time for the software to recognise this driver's habits. We'll revisit that during a full road test.
The suspension is an example of how the Japanese can get the job done. In normal mode it rolls over most obstacles — flick the drive selector to sport and it squats and squirts through the turns.