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by Tony West and Sommer Thornton
Lexus’ IS is one of the brands sportiest whips after the recently added RC Coupe. Last year’s IS boasted a sexy paint job and efficient turbo powertrain. For 2017 Lexus added new sports car flair inside and out plus more standard safety technology. With its pricey F Sport package, the IS is a stunner on the road with sinister blacked-out trim, athletic suspension and a 17-speaker premium sound system.
We reviewed the 2016 Lexus IS 200t F Sport last summer, only to find out that Lexus was adding features we missed to the 2017 model, like a standard Pre Collision system that includes lane departure alert and high speed adaptive cruise control.
I applaud Lexus most for always making improvements to their wildly popular whips, never resting on past successes, and enticing a younger demographic. The 2017 Lexus IS is ideal for the millennial professional. It’s Lexus compact luxury finally with advanced safety and infotainment tech. And its efficient turbo powertrain gives the IS an edge over more expensive sports cars from Porsche and Mercedes.
Dynamic Youthful Flair Turns Heads
Lexus knows how to turn heads with their sporty whips. The 2017 stunts on the road, even in pitch black thanks to it bold new paint jobs. The palette of 10 color options now includes Caviar and Nightfall Mica along with already dope Redline and Graphite Black for the F Sport model. While the majority of the exterior design has been unchanged from the 2016 model, the 2017 model boasts standard 10-spoke 17 inch wheels and LED headlights.
The dimensions of the 2017 model are nearly identical to the 2016 IS 200t. But the new model looks longer – more like its RC sibling, growing by just an inch. The front and rear fascia has been redesigned with more muscle and a sleeker contour. The more low-slung 2017 model has big air intakes flanking the revised spindle grill.
The design of the front fascia is more aerodynamic enhancing its identity as a versatile sporty ill whip. The sleek low-slung IS 200t boasts new L-shaped triple layer taillights and LED brake lights. Big air intakes flow dynamically from the fenders providing more aggressiveness. Standard dual chrome exhausts are also cool and let out a little rumble when I punch the gas.
The base 300 has a wider spindle grill, while the F Sport model we reviewed has a dope 3D mesh grille with a jet black finish with brake ducts that enhance aerodynamic performance.
Inside the IS 200t cabin is classic Lexus luxury with F Sport athletic flair. The 2017 IS interior isn’t roomy, but it has a softer Chateau or Nuanced Black leather upholstery with perforations and contrast stitching. Gray Sapele wood is standard with the luxury package. And the cabin has a fresh teal ambient lighting. A 7 inch LCD screen with the remote touch interface is standard with Bluetooth, iTunes, Siri Eyes Free and 3D navigation.
Two issues I had with the cabin were that it was too short and the center stack – minus the F Sport 10 inch center LCD was called ‘old school’ by a friend of the magazine- who happens own a Toyota dealership. The ceiling of the IS so low that 5-ft 5-in tall Editor Sommer would scrape her head. Nevertheless with the front seat low and pushed way back, the whip is great for a laid back G-like posture. Drivers have a narrow 10-way power seat and passengers have an 8-way power seat
The center stack is unchanged with the same buttons as the previous models. It could be recessed back more and lowered to give the whip wider hip room. Lexus made a similar adjustment to the NX 200t. Trunk space is good at 13.8 cubic feet. But rear legroom is a mere 32 inches and the center rear seat is impossibly short and narrow. A grownup can’t sit comfortably.
The $3.5 k F Sport package gives the cabin much of its fresh sporty flair- like a perforated shift knob, black headliner, aluminum pedal, heated and ventilated sport front seats, aluminum scuff plates, revised dash gauge and TFT instrument panel.
The F Sport digital dash is one of my favorite features showing a ton of performance and customizable features. Along with audio, the digital dash shows a compass, cruise control, vehicle settings, lane departure alert, average fuel economy, average speed, oil temperature, oil pressure, range and navigation.
The eco driving indicator encourages eco-conscious driving with lower revs, and a Rev Indicator monitors a set Rev Peak at high speeds.
The 2017 IS 200t illuminates the flagship’s sporty identity balanced with efficiency and advanced safety. If Lexus could reduce the density in the front and rear of the cabin, the 2017 Lexus IS 200t could boast a thrilling luxury sports car experience in a compact whip.
Turbo-Compact Pretentious Performance
The IS 200t F Sport powertrain is impressive at 241 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. A 2.0 liter twin-scroll turbo inline 4-cylinder engine with Variable Valve Timing and Intelligence provides aggression on the highway and efficiency in city driving. The IS 300 boasts a V6 with 255 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. And the top-of-the-line IS 350 has a 306 horsepower V6 with 277 lb-ft of torque.
The 16-valve 4-cylinder with electronic fuel injection is the only turbo engine in the IS clique, but they all require premium fuel. I’m not 100% sure why. The IS attacks the road with a slight huff in sport mode, and in eco mode revs are low. I paid $45 in Chicago to fill up a non-premium compact whip with a 3,583 curb-weight. One great thing about the turbo compact IS 200t is its fuel economy at 26 mpg combined (22 mpg city/ 33 mpg highway.)
Lexus could drop some pounds with chrome accents and more aluminum under the hood. Moreover, the unitized steel framed compact whip drives hard- not light. A weight reduction could aid dynamic driving and straight-line acceleration.
All IS models except for the IS 300 AWD have an 8-speed automatic transmission with intelligence and paddle shifters. The trans is great with quick upshifting and downshifting that anticipates my next move.
Whipping the Lexus IS turbo on the highway is smooth sailing with a throttle trained-to-go. The IS can bob and weave at high speeds with precision.
Rack and pinion steering is fluid in Eco and Normal mode and tighter in Sport Mode. And double wishbone front and multilink rear suspension should help the whip roll smoothly regardless of road conditions. Yet I could feel bumps and craters on Chicago streets that made the luxury Lexus feel more like a Scion FR-S. Acceleration is smooth once I’m over 30 mph. But from a standing stop, it’s more sluggish.
F Sport adds advanced suspension, but still needs more resilience. Cornering in the IS 200t is tight- when rolling over 10 mph. The steering wheel can turn nearly 360 degrees to fit in tight sparking spots with ease. Four-wheel power-assisted disc brakes are spongy but sturdy.
For $37k I expected the 2016 Lexus IS to have more standard safety features. The base mode IS has 10 standard air bags along with ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, traction control and Vehicle Stability Control.
Finally for 2017 Lexus Safety System + is standard featuring its Pre-Collision System, lane departure alert with steering assist, Intelligent High Beam and Adaptive Cruise Control. Blind Spot Monitor with rear cross traffic alert is available as is Intuitive Park Assist, a backup camera, Lexus Enform Remote to control the whip from a smart phone and Lexus Enform Service Connect to view vehicle health and maintenance reports.
Fully loaded, the 2017 Lexus IS 200t costs $46k – dizzam. That’s the cost of a C-Class Benz or a BMW M3, and more than an Infiniti Q50. All of these sporty whips have a cabin layout better suited for its athletic performance. And their suspensions are more advanced. The IS is a great little turbo whip – ideal for young professionals with no children and a flair for high performance with a touch of sophistication.