If you haven’t noticed, Lexus isn’t satisfied with its reputation for perfection anymore.
The aggressive designs of its most recent models, culminating this year with the release of the six-figure LC coupes, hope to incite more excitement – or at least opinions – than its previous lineup.
I’m driving the 2017 Lexus IS200t for a few days, which was conceived before the “excitement” days. Here are some of my initial thoughts.
I don’t know what percentage of IS sales are the F Sport model over the standard one, but apparently auto scribes are the ones who have the problem with the gigantic black mesh grille. Because the day after I picked up this Caviar (black) IS from Lexus, I saw half a dozen IS F Sports not more than a block from my house.
Maybe the looks are growing on me, four years after we first saw them. With the metallic black paint, the grille and gray wheels all sort of just blend in anyway.
But between the low-slung driving position and thick pillars, it’s difficult to place the corners of the car. And while my test example has a clear rearview camera, it lacks a front camera or parking sensors on any part of the car. Parking is trickier than it should be.
Controls and feels
The mouse-like infotainment controller rears its head again here, although I’m starting to prefer it to the maddening trackpad found in some Lexus cars like the high-line LC.
But at least it’s basically all nice finishes inside. The new aggressive Lexus interior design may still jar a bit, but nearly every surface looks and feels beautiful.
In and out
I once lived with a previous-generation IS250 AWD, a car notable for having not much in the way of power once you pushed the right pedal down, but able to produce more than its fair share of engine noise. The 2.0-liter turbo four in this car is the opposite, largely quiet yet more than able to keep up with traffic.
The power delivery, however, is at best lumpen and at worst spastic when you’re just trying to drive at 30-ish mph on city streets. Part of the problem is the 8-speed automatic’s propensity to hit eighth as much as possible, but the turbo comes off as a little laggy, too.
Not bad, not expensive
The IS200t starts at a reasonable $37,000, but this one with the F Sport package and nav pack with the Mark Levinson upgrade for the audio system comes in at $45,000. That’s still not bad considering it’s hard to spend much less than $50,000 on a similarly equipped BMW 3-series or Audi A4 these days.
I already sense the IS200t isn’t as well-rounded as either of those cars, but there’s nothing that really puts me off yet that would immediately clear the Lexus off my luxury sedan shopping list. And I’m getting used to the face.
The IS will get some road trip time this weekend, but what questions do you have now? Sound off in the comments.
Photos: Zac Estrada/Carscoops