The 2017 Lexus IS 200t had a poor showing in our 2017 Luxury Sports Sedan Challenge, where it finished last in a field of seven cars. A big reason why was its weak drivetrain.
The IS 200t's turbo four-cylinder Used Engine had the same 2.0 liters of displacement as the other turbocharged cars we tested, and its 241-horsepower output was comparable to most competitors' Used Engine ratings. From the driver's seat, however, it felt much weaker, and our instrumented testing confirmed this feeling: The Lexus was slowest to 60 mph with a time of 7.6 seconds, and it was also slowest through the quarter-mile with a time of 15.5 seconds at 93 mph.
Like many of its competitors, the IS offers a more powerful six-cylinder Used Engine . It goes in the IS 350 and is rated at 306 hp. Lexus also sells a detuned version of the V-6 in the 255-hp IS 300, which is all-wheel-drive-only. (Compare these three cars' specs by clicking here.)
Just prior to testing the IS 200t in Georgia, we spent some time in a rear-wheel-drive IS 350 at Cars.com headquarters in Chicago. With a $3,545 price premium, the IS 350 costs quite a bit more than an IS 200t, and though the extra power is noticeable, the V-6 doesn't feel as strong as you might expect.
The IS 350 gains 65 hp and 19 pounds-feet of torque compared with the IS 200t's four-cylinder, but the V-6's peak horsepower and torque arrive at higher Used Engine rpm — considerably higher for peak torque (4,800 rpm as opposed to 1,650 through 4,400 rpm).
It's a difference you can feel. Though the IS 350 easily keeps pace with highway traffic, when you need more power to pass, the V-6 doesn't feel especially strong with its minimal reserve power. The V-6 does better in the city, however, where the IS 200t often feels sluggish.
The IS 350 doesn't offer dramatically better power than the IS 200t, but its larger Used Engine still imposes a fuel-economy penalty; the V-6 gets an EPA-estimated 22 mpg in combined city/highway driving as opposed to 26 mpg for the turbo four-cylinder.
What else do you get for that additional $3,545? The only other difference is the size of the standard wheels: The IS 200t has 17-inch aluminum wheels while the IS 350 gets 18-inch wheels.
All told, the IS 200t's four-cylinder drivetrain falls short of the competition. The optional V-6 makes the IS a better car, but I question whether it's enough of an improvement to justify the extra money. With neither version a clear favorite, luxury sports sedan shoppers would do well to consider one of the top-rated cars from our recent Challenge instead.