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Under the hood of a Lexus IS Turbo with the F Sport Package

Lexus refreshes the IS200t for a second time.

We’ve all had to learn: The lady you take to prom may not be the one you want to marry. When Lexus dolls up an already refreshed IS200t, dubs it the IS Turbo, and slaps on an F Sport package, the end product is a real looker that you want to get into right away.

Sleeker headlights, massive 18-inch wheels and aggressive air intakes along its flanks make it look hungrier for road than its predecessors. The inviting interior features plush leather upholstery in a reserved shade of rose, sporty aluminium foot paddles, and a nifty instrument gauge that whirs into different configurations at the driver’s behest. The piece de resistance? A leather steering wheel. Luxurious to the touch and comfortingly substantial, no matter the manhandling it receives. First impressions don’t get much better.

Lexus IS Turbo

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Let’s consider the second date. Contact with the wheel is compromised as we try to tweak certain settings on the fly. The culprit is a carry-over from the earlier IS iteration: a notorious joystick-button hybrid called the remote touch interface (RTI). It makes navigating the generously sized infotainment screen an arduous finger-control exercise – the lightest excess of pressure and your cursor will overshoot its intended mark. Now, imagine spelling out a road name, letter by letter.

The 8-speed automatic transmission does an admirable job when building into a cruise, but it hesitates even when a heavy foot is applied, often delivering unintuitive ratios that a driver will have to master. Only by going Sports+ does the turbo lag reduce to negligible levels.


ENGINE 2-litre, 4-cylinder turbo
POWER 241bhp at 5,800rpm
TORQUE 350Nm from 1,650 to 4,400rpm
0-100 KMH 7sec
TOP SPEED 230kmh

Thankfully, the paddle shifts are world-class and the IS Turbo’s response to them is crisp. Pity there isn’t a manual option for a vehicle that otherwise delivers excellent road handling. It’s feature-packed, sporting modern day conveniences such as a keen-eyed parking assist cam and a reliable blind spot monitor. Plus points in the safety department: 10 air bags stand ready to cocoon all passengers on board should things go awry.

Do these redeeming points a good marriage make? Perhaps. Take this nugget of relationship advice: Opt out of the satnav package if possible. In place of the RTI, you’ll get a classy silver knob that does the job better, and a pleasant time with a solidly built sedan that turns heads.