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19 Apr 2017 | Text by Julian Kho, Photos by Low Fai Ming
Life In a Smooth And Fast Lane
The updated Lexus IS sports a host of subtle changes and is a smooth samurai that's easy to drive fast.
At $224,000 (as of 20th March 2017), the 2.0-litre turbocharged Lexus is significantly cheaper than the $241,888 (as of 17th March 2017) Mercedes-Benz C250 AMG Line as well as the $233, 800 (as of 24th March 2017) BMW 330i M Sport - both of which sport 2.0-litre turbocharged engines that are perfect rivals to the Lexus IS200t F Sport that you see here.
The looks match the goods
Design-wise, the Lexus IS has made subtle tweaks to its front fascia and its lights, both front and back, to surpass the bland tastes from its German peers.
The aggressive F Sport grille on our test car, coupled with twin trapezoidal exhaust tips, replacing round tailpipes, further enhances this very fact.
As for its road manners, the Lexus is never disheartening. The steering - while lacking feedback compared to a 3 Series - is sharp and precise, with a perfect weight to haul it around bends with reckless abandon at illegal speeds, without feeling insecure.
Tone it down a couple of notches and the strikingly attractive car in Heat Blue will maintain a polished and charming character as the engine works effortlessly with the quick-shifting yet velvety smooth eight-speed gearbox.
Is it a viable option for enthusiastic drivers then?
It can certainly be, and then some. Beneath the surface of the plush Lexus IS is a 2.0-litre turbocharged powerplant that is capable of sending 241bhp and 350Nm of twisting force to the rear wheels. Unlike most turbocharged cars, power delivery is linear, which also means that you don't feel the bulk of the 241 horses forcing you back to the seat as you pedal to the metal.
It's no slouch, nonetheless. In more ways than one, the updated Lexus IS has a lot to give, thanks to its admirable ride that's firm yet cushy and a laudable handling that's tight and confidence-inspiring.
You mentioned a host of subtle updates?
Apart from the aforementioned aesthetic changes on its sheet metal, the Lexus IS now sports a larger 10.3-inch infotainment screen that's controlled by the carmaker's Remote Touch Interface system.
A new drive mode has also been added to the Drive Mode Select system. Other than the usual Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport+, there is now a Customise mode, which will come in handy if the two said Sport modes are a tad too over-the-top for you.
Other parts of the car remain the same, including space and the kind of perfection and attention to details you'd come to expect from Lexus. This also means benches are comfortable, with sufficient space to snugly fit four occupants.
Don't ask for the moon, we have the stars
Lexus has done well to understand that it needs tweaking to make the IS a worthy buy. It is now a highly desirable and stylish luxury compact sedan that wouldn't look out of place when parked beside a German competitor.
You could also think of the car as something that's rather special because instead of purely copying the competition, the way some carmakers do, Lexus has clearly forged its own route with the IS. You can call it stubborn or even old school, but you just cannot deny that the car is somewhat a star in the making.
Audi A4 2.0 TFSI S-tronic Design vs Lexus IS Turbo IS200t 2.0 Executive
4-cylinder in-line 16-valve DOHC Twin-scroll Turbocharged Dual VVT-iW
180kW (241 bhp) / 5800 rpm
350 Nm / 4400 rpm
Acceleration (0-100 km/h)