FEW cars have experimented with as many engine configurations in such a short lifespan as the entry-level version of Lexusís top seller, the IS.
The original IS200 mimicked the dominant BMW 3 Series of the day with an in-line six-cylinder layout, before shifting to a V6 configuration for the IS250.
Now the IS200t has slipped into line with its contemporary rivals with a 2.0-litre turbo four-pot.
The 200t is the usual boosted deal: more power and torque with an 18 percent fuel-economy improvement, thanks in part to auto stop-start. The IS200t is now competitive at 7.5L/100km.
The raw numbers have the power up to 180kW and torque at a stout 350Nm. Throw in an extra couple of ratios to the auto Ė eight in total Ė and it translates into a 0-100km/h claim of 7.0 seconds.
All of which plonks the IS200t closer to the C250 and 330i.
Price-wise, it straddles the early parts of German rivalsí ranges, with the entry-level Luxury up $2500 to $57,500 and the flagship Sports Luxury $76,500. In the middle is the F-Sport ($65,500).
Lexus still offers the IS300h hybrid for $2500 more than the 200t, and the V6-powered IS350 at a $6000 premium.
The IS200t is porkier than a BMW 3 Series or Mercedes-Benz C-Class, but the new engine has a generous dollop of low-rev muscle, albeit with some darting between ratios when reapplying power. Combined with excellent refinement and the ability to access that full 350Nm from 1650rpm, much of everyday acceleration can be tackled low in the rev range.
Sink the right foot and it maintains its newfound enthusiasm up to its shift point.
It feels like thereís more revs left in it but the computer intervenes, even when in manual mode and the sportiest Sport+ mapping.
Chassis tweaks centre around a stiffer body and a Yamahadeveloped Ďperformance damperí.
The IS200tís chassis is capable and well controlled. Grip from the 18-inch Dunlop tyres is good, but itís an understeerer when pushed.
Other IS traits remain. The interior is more modern than traditional; in the F-Sport thereís no wood, for example, but the faux carbonfibre, soft leather and rubber-like touch to some finishes enhances the luxury factor.
The update brings more gear, too, including rain-sensing wipers, electric steering adjustment and auto emergency braking.
Gripes include the foot-operated park brake and tight rear leg room.
The base Luxury misses out on a digital speedo, but little else.
Indeed itís value thatís still the standout of the IS range, with the new turbo engine bringing it closer to its luxury opposition.
Weight; manual gearbox mode not manual enough; tight rear seat Modern interior; high equipment levels; torquey t ; q y urbo; excellent quality Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Kerb weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Lexus IS200t F-Sport 1998cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v turbo 180kW @ 5800rpm 350Nm @ 1650-4400rpm 8-speed automatic 1650kg 7.0sec (claimed) 7.5L/100km $65,500 Now
The IS200t is the second Lexus to get the new 8AR-FTS 2.0-litre turbo (after the RAV4-based NX SUV), with the RC200t coupe and GS200t to follow next month.
The engine uses both direct fuel injection and port injection, depending on the load, as well as fuel-saving Atkinson and regular Otto combustion cycles.
Lexus says the 200t will sway more buyers to pure petrol over the hybrid models that are the fuel misers in its line-up, though hybrids are expected to account for half of the brandís sales by 2020.