2016 Lexus IS

Starting MSRP: $37,325 - $45,750

Estimated MPG: 22 city / 33 hwy

2016 Lexus IS Review

Combining an aggressively styled exterior, a thoughtfully designed interior, excellent driving dynamics and a trio of engine choices, the 2016 Lexus IS offers upscale transportation at a competitive price. With fierce competition from the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Lexus has upped the IS sedan’s game with a new base model that features an efficient and powerful turbocharged engine.

By Chris Brewer
Last Updated 05/03/2016

Very few vehicles balance practical performance and luxury as gracefully as the cars that comprise today’s entry-level luxury sports sedan segment. Lexus brings a strong contender with the 2016 IS. Futuristic styling sets the IS apart from the competition, especially for those who enjoy bold design.

For 2016, Lexus has repowered the lineup by introducing the IS 200t, which replaces the outgoing base model’s 2.5-liter V6 with a punchy turbocharged four-cylinder engine that is more powerful and efficient. If you’re looking for all-weather capability, Lexus offers the IS 300 with V6 power and all-wheel-drive. Performance enthusiasts who want a little more than the base turbo has to offer will be interested in the IS 350’s more potent 3.5-liter V6 and available all-wheel-drive.

An optional F Sport package adds performance-oriented exterior and interior styling touches and an enhanced suspension and handling package. Unique 18-inch wheels grace all F Sport models and the V6 variants get a sport-tuned intake that enhances the sound coming from the engine.

Exterior

Exterior
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Very few entry-level sports sedans make the visual statement of the 2016 Lexus IS, especially in F Sport trim. The outrageously oversized spindle grille is flanked by a pair of boomerang LED daytime running lights. Smooth flowing lines are punctuated with sharp angles to create an athletic design that is decidedly Lexus. The front fenders appear to flow right into the doors of the car, giving the IS a wonderfully wide stance. All IS models include an attractive power tilt-and-slide moonroof. An integrated spoiler dresses up the rear fascia, ensuring that the IS looks like it means business whether it is coming or going.

My review vehicle was a 2016 Lexus IS 200t F Sport, which takes the aggressive styling to another level with a bold F Sport front bumper and spindle grille, LED headlights and a lovely set of 18-inch five-spoke wheels. The Redline paint makes a visual statement all by itself, setting the IS 200t apart in the sea of white and gray that dominates today’s parking lots.

While I am a big fan of the IS, the boldly styled sedan may be too strong of a visual statement for others. Lexus didn’t back down when they designed the IS and the finished result is not for the weak of heart.

Interior

Interior
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Living up to the premium branding, Lexus creates luxurious interiors that provide a near perfect balance of form and function. The attention to detail is almost flawless, and even a skeptic is easily won over by the brand’s choice of materials and the meticulous build quality.

The IS 200t’s open greenhouse, which is complemented by the aforementioned moonroof, gives the sedan’s cabin an open and airy feeling. Seating materials are plush and long-wearing, the standard leatherette is certainly adequate and the optional perforated leather is even better. The standard seats offer excellent support and finding a comfortable seating position is easy with the power-adjustable front seats.

The driver-focused cockpit puts every control well within reach, enhancing the sedan’s performance even before you push the start button and fire up the engine. The dashboard features a “two-zone” design that separates the “display zone” from the “operation zone.” The goal is better driver and vehicle interaction with fewer distractions.

Redesigned for 2014, the current IS sedan’s longer wheelbase and new front seat design affords rear-seat passengers an additional 1.6 inches of legroom. With plenty of headroom and hip space, the design yields a cabin that is comfortable for two adult or three children.

My IS 200t F Sport features a pair of attractive heated and ventilated F Sport front seats, a perforated shift knob, black headliner, aluminum pedals and a rearview camera. The F Sport styling package works really well and takes an already aggressively styled interior to another level, providing the driver and occupants with a sports car experience in a nicely appointed sedan.

The IS sedan’s 13.8 cubic feet of cargo space is fairly good for the segment. The current BMW 3 Series offers 13 cubic feet and the Audi A4 provides 12.4 cubic feet. Meanwhile, lowering the standard 60-40 split-folding rear seat provides some additional utility.

Performance

Performance
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New for 2016, the base IS 200t features a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 241 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The engine was first introduced in the 2015 Lexus NX, representing the first-ever turbo engine for the brand. Coupled with an eight-speed automatic transmission, the IS 200t finds a nice harmony of sport and efficiency, zipping from 0 to 60 mph in less than 7 seconds while offering 22 mpg city and 33 mpg highway.

The new turbocharged engine provides excellent midrange torque, but initially struggles with full-throttle launches. The split-second full-throttle lag is enough to be noticeable, and enthusiasts will miss the instant acceleration offered by a non-turbo V6 power plant. Still, for casual everyday driving the turbo-four pushes the IS 200t around just fine.

The all-wheel-drive IS 300 uses a 3.5-liter V6 engine attached to a six-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The duo is good for 255 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. Gas mileage equates to 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway.

The performance-oriented IS 350 has a retuned 3.5-liter V6 with 306 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission sends power to the rear wheels, while all-wheel drive models get a six-speed automatic. Fuel economy for the rear-wheel drive IS 350 and all-wheel drive IS 300 is identical, with each model rated at 19/26 mpg city/highway.

My IS 200t F Sport was equipped with the optional F Sport tuned suspension, which takes an already nicely balanced vehicle and adds a higher level of enthusiast-pleasing handling to the mix. The composed sedan offers responsive steering, authoritative braking and adequate acceleration. While not quite to the levels of the top offerings from BMW or Mercedes-Benz, the Lexus strives at finding middle ground and offers more than enough performance for the majority of today’s drivers.

Technology

Technology
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Loaded with standard technology features, the Lexus IS boasts a 7-inch touch-screen operated infotainment system. USB connectivity, Bluetooth, satellite radio, an in-dash CD player and HD Radio fill the cabin with sound using the standard eight-speaker, 293-watt audio system.

An industry-first subscription-free traffic and weather service that’s powered by HD Radio alerts the driver to current road conditions and weather alerts. Siri Eyes Free smartphone connectivity provides powerful integration with iPhones. Optional fuel, sports and stock market information applications further connect the IS to the information highway.

Another new standard feature is Lexus Enform Service Connect. The service offers remote access to the vehicle’s current status and required maintenance. Lexus Enform Service Connect can be accessed through a web portal or a mobile app and is complimentary for the first year of ownership.

Lexus also offers a navigation system that’s bundled with an available Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system. With 17 speakers and 835 watts, the Mark Levinson system provides crystal-clear audio.

Safety

Safety
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The 2016 Lexus IS earned a top, five-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for its performance in crash tests. It also offers excellent standard and optional technology-based safety features.

Standard safety equipment includes 10 air bags, anti-lock brakes, traction control and stability control.

A rearview camera, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control and blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert are available.

Cost-Effectiveness

Cost-Effectiveness
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The 2016 Lexus IS 200t comes nicely equipped and starts at $37,325 (excluding a $950 delivery fee). That price lines up well with similar sedans from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Jaguar and Cadillac. The top IS 350 F Sport with all-wheel drive retails for $45,750.

My 2016 IS 200t F Sport included a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross traffic alert ($600), the F Sport package ($3,545), navigation ($2,645), a cargo net ($65) and a wheel locks ($75) for a total of $45,195 after destination.

Adding to the IS 200t’s value is excellent fuel economy that does not detract much from performance. Sure there are faster, better handling luxury sedans on the market, but the IS sets itself apart with unique style and flair. Lexus’ reputation for building reliable vehicles with strong resale values also enhances this sedan’s appeal.

Overall

Overall
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It is hard to quantify a personal reaction to a vehicle, but I certainly found myself affectionately looking back at the 2016 IS 200t every time I parked the car and hit the lock button on the key fob. The cabin is comfortable enough for extended road trips and is an excellent environment for daily driving. And while the aggressive front grille and wildly sculpted exterior may not be for everyone, the IS 200t F Sport offers a near perfect balance of performance, utility and fuel efficiency that should work well for a number of buyers.