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Driven: New engine to turbocharge Lexus IS sales

Blown away: The IS200t improves on the fuel economy, power output and 0-100km/h sprint time of the outgoing V6-powered IS250.

Introduction of turbocharged IS200t expected to lift interest in Lexus IS range


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24 Sep 2015

LEXUS has introduced its 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine to the IS mid-size range, and the car-maker says Australia’s love of turbos will ensure it is the top seller within the range.

The blown unit made its local debut earlier this year under the bonnet of the NX crossover and has proven to be so popular in that model that there is now a customer waiting list for 200t turbo versions.

The IS200t replaces the IS250 that was powered by a thirstier 2.5-litre V6 unit, and it becomes the new entry point to the range, which has seen prices increase on all variants.

Lexus Australia chief executive Sean Hanley said he was satisfied with the response to the IS300h hybrid and the more powerful V6-powered IS350 since the model launched in mid-2013, but welcomed the arrival of the turbo powertrain.

“I am happy with the 350 and very happy with 300h,” he told GoAuto at the IS200t launch in Brisbane. “However it was clear to me that we needed to get into that turbo technology as soon as possible. Now we were late in the market versus competitors but the reason is pretty simple.

“Lexus studied and refined until we got this 2.0-litre engine absolutely perfect to the point where we could broaden its appeal across a number of Lexus models, hence we were a little longer getting to market. Better late to the party than not showing up at all.”

The 2.0-litre turbo unit will be rolled out to a number of other Lexus models, including the RC coupe, the GS sedan and the new-gen RX SUV, and it gives Lexus a direct powertrain rival for its main competitors, including the top-selling Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3 Series, Audi A4, Jaguar XE and Infiniti Q50.

Mr Hanley said he expects the new 200t to make up 45 per cent of overall IS sales in Australia, with the 300h grabbing 30 per cent and the 350 25 per cent.

In terms of variant split within the IS200t range, Mr Hanley said the base Luxury will take the lion’s share with 30 to 40 per cent, the F Sport will take a similar percentage and the rest will be the Sports Luxury.

Pricing now kicks off from $57,500, plus on-road costs, for the base IS200t Luxury an increase of $3500 over the outgoing IS250, while the F Sport is up by $3527 to $65,500 and the Sports Luxury rises by $2890 to $76,500.

Meanwhile prices have alse crept up on the two existing variants, with the hybrid-powered 300h lifting by $3000 apiece for the Luxury and Sports Luxury, while the 350 adds between $890 and $1890 depending on the specification.

Lexus says the price increase for the IS300h and 350 variants can be put down to the inclusion of its Pre-Collision Safety System and adaptive cruise control as well as other new technology as standard, such as rear seat side airbags, rain-sensing wipers and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

The IS200t price increase over the 250 is mostly down to the new high-tech powertrain.

The new engine is a 2.0-litre turbocharged unit producing 180kW at 5800rpm and 350Nm at 1650-4400rpm – up from the 153kW/252Nm output of the old 2.5-litre V6 – and it marks the first time the engine has been used in a rear-wheel-drive car.

Fuel economy is rated at 7.5 litres per 100 kilometres, an 18 per cent improvement over the old model and it is matched with an eight-speed sports automatic transmission that features an auto blip on downshifts and full torque-converter lock-up from second to eight gears for clutchless manual shifting.

The zero to 100km/h dash is taken care of in 7.0 seconds, making it not only more powerful and more fuel-efficient than the model it replaces, but also quicker in the sprint by 1.1s.

Underneath, Lexus has tweaked the IS to accommodate the new powertrain, including the use of high-tensile steel and aluminium, while a performance damper has been fitted to the front of the chassis to ensure noise and vibration is kept to a minimum and to improve handling.

The IS200t has a double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension set-up and in F Sport and Sports Luxury guise it uses an adaptive damping system to alter chassis response.

All grades feature the Drive Mode Select system with Eco, Normal, Sport and Sport S modes on offer, while the F Sport and Sports Luxury add a Sport S+ setting which alters the steering and chassis response.

The extensive standard features list on the Luxury includes satellite navigation, reversing camera, eight parking sensors, heated and ventilated seats, keyless entry and start, digital radio, powered front seats, idle-stop, the Lexus Enform system, ‘advanced’ Bluetooth connectivity and a 4.2-inch full-colour screen.

It also gets bi-Xenon headlights, 60/40 split-fold rear seats, soft-touch cabin materials, dual-zone climate control, hill-start assist and 17-inch alloy wheels.

The F Sport adds unique F Sport styling flourishes, adaptive variable suspension, sports pedals, high-friction front brake pads, 18-inch alloy wheels, sports front seats and unique instrumentation.

Range-topping Sports Luxury variants add a moonroof, auto high-beam woodgrain trim, a 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, a lane-departure warning, a rear sunblind, a blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert.

The IS200t introduces three new body colours – Sonic Quartz, Caliente and for F Sport only, Cobalt Mica.

Lexus offers a number of enhancement packs for each grade.

2015 Lexus IS pricing*
200t Luxury$57,500
200t F Sport$65,500
200t Sports Luxury$76,500
300h Luxury$60,000
300h F Sport$68,000
300h Sports Luxury$79,000
350 Luxury$63,500
350 F Sport$71,500
350 Sports Luxury$82,500
*Excludes on-road costs

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