BEHIND THE WHEEL: Lexus IS200t

MONDAY JULY 4, 2016
Shiang
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Here’s my confession, I was never a fan of Lexus’. Their cars have always been slower, worse to drive, less efficient and worst of all more expensive than its rivals. In comparison to the recently driven Jaguar XE, the closest rival (in terms of price at least) I could think of is the IS200t. In my eyes the IS is a handsome looking thing where some may argue otherwise. Even if it isn’t, it is the least of things, striking. I’d very prefer it to be striking than pulling one of those familiar corporate faces.

 

Lexus Malaysia has been very reputable and admirable car company. Their sales team is one where other car dealerships should learn a thing or two from where the utmost professionalism is practiced regardless of closing a deal or not. I’ve left them with my number, made multiple calls to one of their dealerships and all I get was nothing. How much the world has changed over the years because this could very well be the most difficult car to get my hands on.

PRO

Ease of drive

Striking design language

Properly screwed together

CON

Not rewarding to drive quickly

A knob of an infotainment

Expensive

SPECIFICATION

2-litre inline-4

241hp 350Nm

8-speed Sports Direct Shift

0-100 km/h: 7s

Top speed: 230 km/h

RM 349,900

Lexus IS

When the third generation of the IS was introduced, no one cared since it only had a new face and borrowed everything from its predecessor. I normally am offered to have the car sent my way but this one was assertive on having me in their showroom despite being ten minutes away. With little surprise the F Sport wasn’t available so the Luxury trim it is. It seems like Lexus has put a higher importance in lending the F Sport model to magazines instead to potential customers that would actually buy their cars.

 

Once you’re in the IS, it Lexus faire as usual. I must admit I do like the ‘LFA’ inspired interior but I was surprised to find scratchy plastic bits on the steering wheel and throughout its interior where Audi uses softer ones. Comfort access, memory seats that tilt back/forward and ventilated seats are all well and good to provide the best experience with little effort from the driver. Sadly, seats are on the firmer side which made me reminiscence the heavily bolstered seats in the second generation.

Lexus IS interior

I immediately got the signal indicator mixed up since I’m configured to the left side of things. Could it be Lexus is finally proud of its Japanese roots or trying too hard to be different from its European counterparts. Having strolled a hundred meters in the IS, steering is precise, light and everything is easy to get used to. Its passive dampers (active dampers only available on F Sport model) is nearly on par with Jaguar XE’s comfort. Despite that, tyre roar and sound insulation are two things that can be bettered upon. It too lags behind the Jag with no power tailgate.

 

On Normal mode, the reaction of the car to throttle input is very much docile while the Eco mode can be altogether dismissed with BMW’s EcoPro. Dial it into Sport, the steering weights up nicely and the throttle pedal starts to get things right. Even so, the IS is never rapid and the traction control does not allow any slip. Fortunately, the 8-speed in-house gearbox shifts smoothly in both modes throughout the rev range which brings me to another problem. The creamy V6 of the past is gone and we are now left with an inline-4 that isn’t heinous sounding like an A250. Then again, nothing is.

Lexus IS clock
Lexus IS F sport

This department could be the weakest link in any Lexus for its difficult to control infotainment system paired to a rather meniscus low resolution screen. If you want the best in-car multimedia, go to BMW while Audi isn’t far behind them in this aspect. Sure the IS has surround and reverse camera which can be useful but it’s blind spot monitoring that’s little to no purpose. And on the subject of Lexus Premium Audio, I’d say it is only good enough for FM.

Lexus IS back

When knocking at the door of 350 thousand, one is almost spoilt for choice. Completely ignoring used car at this price point, the IS’ creeps dangerously into 5 series and Mercedes E class territory which are both higher up in the food chain. In other words, the IS offers less value for the money. Its closest rival would be the Jaguar XE but the IS-lite could be had for 40 thousand less if you can live without many of the gizmos that are essential to not make the it an expensive Camry.Buying a car is no easy decision especially during these hard times. I would think hard and long for this one.

Lexus IS200t
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