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Lexus always seems to be just a step behind the big boys in Germany, particularly in turbocharged, small-displacement engines. Today, however, it takes a step forward with the introduction of the turbocharged IS 200t.

Though it took some time, the boosted IS was a near certainty once Lexus introduced the 2015 Lexus NX 200t and its turbo four-cylinder. What made it even more obvious that the IS 200t was on its way was the fact that the aforementioned NX 200t had a pile more power than the base-level, V-6-powered IS 250.

Despite its healthy power ratings, the IS 200t is oddly slow in acceleration, as the 328i will beat it to 60 mph by a pretty wide margin. However, the world of luxury auto shopping isn’t always won at the drag strip. A lot of it depends on bang for the buck.

Does the Lexus IS 200t have what it takes to complete with the German powerhouse?

Continue reading my review to find out.

  • 2016 Lexus IS 200t
  • Year:
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    241 @ 5800
  • Torque @ RPM:
    258 @ 1650
  • Displacement:
    2.0 L
  • 0-60 time:
    6.8 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    143 mph
  • Price:
    38000 (Est.)
  • car segment:
  • body style:


2016 Lexus IS 200t High Resolution Exterior
- image 635180

On the outside, the IS 200t looks identical to the rest of the IS lineup of sedans, save for the telltale “IS 200t” badges. That’s not a bad thing though, as the current-generation IS lineup is pretty fine looking. It is bold, but not over the top, and it looks sporty without taking away from its classiness.


2014 - 2016 Lexus IS High Resolution Interior
- image 489684

Note: Regular Lexus IS interior shown.

Lexus didn’t make any mention of the IS 200t’s interior, so I suspect that it’ll be essentially the same as the current IS sedans. It’ll likely fall somewhere between the IS 250 and the IS 350 in terms of standard features.


2015 Lexus NX - First Drive Drivetrain
- image 562529

Note: Lexus NX200t engine bay shown.

Under the hood is where the IS 200t makes its mark; it features the first turbocharged four-cylinder engine in a Lexus sedan. This 2.0-liter engine, which features a water-cooled intercooler, plays ball with Bimmer and Mercedes, with 241 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 258 pound-feet of torque between 1,650 and 4,400 rpm.

This 2.0-liter engine, which features a water-cooled intercooler, plays ball with Bimmer and Mercedes

For those keeping score at home, the current IS 250’s 2.5-liter V-6 produces just 204 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque, which essentially makes this engine obsolete.

Thanks to D-4ST fuel injection, which combines direct injection and port injection, and VVT-iW that allows the engine to switch from the Otto cycle to the Atkinson cycle, this engine is not only powerful but also fuel efficient. In the U.K. it is rated at 40.4 mpg combined.

The 2.0-liter turbo-four mates to an eight-speed Sport Direct Shift auto transmission that delivers the power to the rear wheels. This transmission also adjusts its shift points relative to the G forces in the car. This means the transmission can hold a gear going through a turn, giving you almost immediate power once you exit the bend.

Altogether, this amounts to a 0-to-62 mph time of seven seconds and a top speed of 143 mph. This makes it 1.1 seconds quicker to 60 mph than the IS 250 and 3 mph faster.

Drivetrain Specifications

Engine code 8AR-FTS
Engine type 4 cylinders in-line, turbocharged petrol with aluminium alloy block and head
Valve mechanism 16 valve DOHC, Dual VVT-iW
Displacement (cc) 1,998
Max. power 241 HP @ 5,800 RPM
Max. torque 258 LB-FT @ 1,650 – 4,400 RPM
Max. speed 143 MPH
0 – 62mph acceleration (sec) 7.0


2016 Lexus IS 200t High Resolution Exterior
- image 635182

There is no pricing available for the IS 200t yet, but it is slated to hit dealers in the Europe in September 2015. There is no information on if the U.S. will get this new IS soon or not.


2016 BMW 328i

2016 BMW 3 Series High Resolution Exterior
- image 629400

The BMW 328i is clearly the model that the new Lexus IS 200t has in its crosshairs. This Bimmer sedan comes standard with a 2.0-liter TwinPower Turbo four-cylinder engine that produces 245 horsepower between 5,000 and 6,600 rpm and 258 pound-feet of torque. The 2.0-liter mates to a standard six-speed manual transmission that delivers the horses to the rear wheels. The result is a 5.9-second 0-to-62 time and a 155 mph top speed.

Check out our full review of the 2016 3 Series here.

2015 Mercedes-Benz C200

2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class High Resolution Exterior
- image 536064

In the U.K., the closest to the IS 200t that Mercedes-Benz has to offer is the C200. This model comes equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that puts down 184 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 221 pound-feet of torque between 1,200 rpm and 4,000 rpm. Standard on this model is a six-speed manual gearbox, but a seven-speed auto is available. This amounts to a 0-to-62 mph sprint in as few as 7.3 seconds and a top speed of 147 mph.

Though it may be a tad slower than the Lexus, it is still a Mercedes. That’s gotta stand for something in this comparison.

Check out our C-Class review here.


2016 Lexus IS 200t High Resolution Exterior
- image 635181

Though Lexus teased BMW about using turbocharged four-cylinder engines in its commercials, I knew it was only a matter of time before the Japanese automaker jumped on the bandwagon. When the 2.0-liter four-cylinder in the BMW 328i dwarfs the IS 250’s V-6, you need to do something about it. Something is exactly what Lexus did with the new IS 200t. I have to give the automaker credit for launching this turbo four-cylinder, but it now needs to work on its acceleration, as the Bimmer still smokes it in a straight line.

  • Leave it
    • Still a lot slower than the 328i
    • How about AWD?
Justin Cupler
Justin Cupler
About the author

Press Release

The Lexus IS saloon will adopt petrol turbo power for the first time with the introduction of the new IS 200t. It is the third model to be announced with the new Lexus engine, following the NX 200t crossover, which is already on sale, and the future new RX 200t SUV.

2016 Lexus IS 200t High Resolution Exterior
- image 635180

In the IS the 2.0-litre unit will deliver 241bhp (180kW) and maximum torque of 350Nm. It promises rapid acceleration up to a top speed of 143mph, driving the rear wheels through an eight-speed Sport Direct Shift automatic transmission that was originally developed for the RC F high-performance coupe. Nought to 62mph acceleration can be achieved in seven seconds, while average fuel consumption is from 40.4mpg.

The engine benefits from a raft of innovations and technologies that secure, fast throttle response, instantaneous torque, minimal turbo lag and strong fuel economy. Key elements include D-4ST fuel injection and a water-cooled cylinder head with integrated exhaust manifold and twin-scroll turbocharger.

Innovative engine technologies
Lexus has used a world-first combination of engine technologies to achieve a high level of responsiveness, minimal turbo lag and good low-speed torque, together with excellent fuel economy.

The four-into-two exhaust manifold pairs cylinders according to their expansion or compression stroke. This innovative structure acts in conjunction with the highly efficient twin-scroll turbocharger and prevents interference between the exhaust gases from each cylinder, generating high torque across the widest possible rev range.

2016 Lexus IS 200t High Resolution Exterior
- image 635181

The engine also uses an air-to-liquid intercooler mounted directly on the engine, significantly reducing the intake volume downstream of the turbo, so minimising turbo lag and securing highly responsive performance.

The twin-scroll turbocharger itself features variable waste gate valve control. This minimises pumping losses by reducing back pressure during low engine loads when the turbo isn’t required.

D-4ST fuel injection
D-4ST uses a high pressure fuel system for injection directly into the cylinders and a low pressure system for port injection. Injection is split between the direct and port injectors according to engine load, optimising fuel combustion in all driving situations to improve both low-speed torque and fuel economy.

It works in combination with turbocharging technology to create a high level of compatibility between the high tumble ratio (achieved by optimising the shape of the cylinder head intake ports and the piston tops) and the turbo boost control.

Dual VVT-iW technology
The turbo engine features innovative dual intelligent variable valve-timing technology – Dual VVT-iW. This allows torque to be optimised throughout the rev range and lets the engine run at start-up on the Otto cycle, before switching to the more fuel-efficient Atkinson cycle. The system applies VVT-i to the exhaust valves and VVT-iW to the intake valves, and also allows for wide open throttle performance.

The late closing of the intake valve on the Atkinson cycle reduces pumping losses and boosts fuel economy. VVT-iW incorporates a mid-position lock which enables the Atkinson cycle to be maintained without sacrificing starting performance in cold weather.

Light weight and further advanced features
The engine is remarkably light and compact, weighing just 160kg. Cast with low nickel content heat resistant steel, it features a cylinder head cover, intake manifold and intake pipes formed in a resin material. The unit underwent more than 10,000 hours of bench testing prior to covering more than a million kilometres in on-road trials.

2016 Lexus IS 200t High Resolution Exterior
- image 635182

A number of measures were taken to reduce friction losses in different parts of the engine, helping improve fuel economy. These include using an offset crankshaft to lower the piston thrust load; improved machining of the cylinder bore; and a surface treatment for the piston skirts which reduces slide resistance. Low-tension piston rings have been used and the weight of reciprocating parts has been reduced.

The engine uses a lightweight roller rocker valvetrain and a low-friction timing chain. Low-friction materials have also been used for the crankshaft oil seals, and the flow of lubricating oil has been optimised, with a variable discharge mechanism reducing the oil pump flow.

Careful heat management inside the engine further improves fuel efficiency: a rapid warm-up system for the cylinder block suppresses the flow of coolant into the block when the engine is cold, and a piston-cooling oil jet control system cuts the oil supply to the pistons to improve warm-up speeds.

Smoothness, quietness and turbo sound
The rigidity of the engine’s main structural components is optimised to suppress vibration, and a balance shaft with resin gears is fitted to achieve even greater smoothness.

New calcium-free lubricating oil helps prevent engine knock at low revs; the piston cooling oil jet system further improves anti-knock performance.

The water-cooled intercooler provides strong advantages in acceleration from standstill, and delivers a 0.3-second reduction in the 0-62mph acceleration time compared to an air-to-air unit. The acceleration curve prioritises torque delivery at low speeds.

Turbo engines tend to be noisy when the throttle is closed – the effect known as “turbo sigh”. Lexus has used an electric air bypass valve and resonator to greatly reduce the characteristic turbo noise. As a turbocharged engine requires a smooth intake flow for performance, Lexus’s engineers focused on creating special duct shapes that deliver power without noise.

Eight-speed transmission
In the IS 200t the turbo engine is matched to an eight-speed Sport Direct Shift transmission with paddle shifts – a unit originally developed for the RC F high-performance coupe. The rear-wheel drive IS 200t is the first Lexus saloon to vary gear shifting in line with G-forces.

2016 Lexus IS 200t Emblems and Logo Exterior
- image 635183

The transmission automatically downshifts under hard braking on the approach to a corner, then hold a lower gear through the bend for best control, and then selects the most suitable gear on exit to give the driver greater throttle response.

Sales launch
The IS 200t will be available to order from September; UK specifications and prices will be announced nearer the on-sale date.

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