By Don Fuller, Contributing Editor
KBB Expert Rating: 9.2
In the highly competitive entry-level luxury- sedan market the 2016 Lexus IS is an enticing choice, with high style, advanced technology, impressive performance, indisputable prestige, impeccable detail, relentless quality and an unmatched reputation for owner satisfaction. Among a group where excellence is the minimum standard, the IS is formidable. The competition is an automotive Who’s Who: BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4, Cadillac ATS. Yet the Lexus IS is more than a match. Its brand defines owner loyalty, the interior stuns, the driving experience is as good as it gets, the fit-and-finish is flawless and it’s wrapped in a distinctive, rakish style. For 2016 there’s a new 200t model, with a ferocious turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 241 horsepower.
You’ve reached a point where you can drive what you want and don’t care what others think. What you want is a luxury sedan with striking looks, great driving and flawless quality. You’re a competent driver. You shop around. You choose the Lexus IS. You’re very happy with your decision.
For some, the striking looks of the Lexis IS might be just too out there. Some people just want a Bimmer. Some just want a Benz. Some need a pickup to tow the boat. Maybe the IS just isn’t for you.
KBB Expert Ratings
The biggest news for the IS lineup for 2016 is the new 200t model with a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged engine that cranks out 241 horsepower. There’s also a new IS 300 all-wheel drive (AWD) model with a 3.5-liter V6, a new Premium Plus Package and 18-inch wheels for the IS350.
Every competitor in this segment offers exceptional driving dynamics; it’s the price of entry, and the 2016 IS more than holds its own. Around town it’s all silky luxury, with...
... a supple suspension that smothers bumps and blankets potholes. Then aim it around corners and it points like a curved laser. The steering feels like a machine tool, the brakes soak off speed, the tires get a handshake with asphalt, and the strong, responsive engines drive it down the straights or up the hills with smooth, committed purpose. It’s a genuine delight to drive, even just bopping down to the corner to pick up deli sandwiches. The optional F packages add mainly trim stuff, slightly bigger tires, higher-performance brake pads and some suspension tuning but, at the price premium of around $3,000 or more – and given the excellence of the IS in “normal” form – we have trouble making that recommendation.
Lexus prides itself on its technology, so it makes sense that the 2016 Lexus IS would be on the cutting edge. The infotainment system features a reconfigurable home screen, 3D building icons and the Lexus Enform mobile application suite – all certain to prove worthwhile.
2.0-LITER TURBOCHARGED ENGINE
The 200t’s new 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder, turbocharged engine makes 241 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 258 lb-ft of torque from 1,650 to 4,400 rpm. It utilizes both direct and port fuel injection and has an 8-speed automatic transmission. Toyota says 0-60 mph in 6.9 seconds. We say zowee!
The Lexus IS instrument panel has a family resemblance to that of the Lexus GS sedan, and the conventional and touch-sensitive switches are all easy to find and use. We particularly like the familiarity and friendly operation of the mouse-like controller for the infotainment system. Front passengers are comfortable, and rear legroom is acceptable, if not great. As expected, the detail fit-and-finish is precisely impeccable. The Lexus LFA-inspired gauges in F Sport models, with their digital instrument cluster and sliding bezel, are attractive but difficult to justify, based on the costs of the F packages.
The IS exterior is a study in striking, almost rakish style and should not be mistaken for anything else on the road or at valet parking. The now-signature "spindle grille" dominates the front. Along the sides, the angles of the panels and surfaces wrap functional elements, such as the wide stance and long wheelbase that enhance stability. Little details abound; the wind-cheating underbody panels and vortex generators on the outside mirrors and taillights that improve aerodynamics. Like it or not (and we like it) the 2016 IS does not look like the near-twin of anything else in the segment.
This new Lexus IS is, as expected, comprehensively equipped. Standard are a moonroof, HID headlights with LED running lights, LED fog lights and 17-inch wheels. Inside, there's push-button start with keyless entry, Bluetooth and programmable Lexus Personalized Settings that allow certain electronic settings to be tailored to the owner's preference. A notable standard feature is Siri Eyes Free Mode, which accommodates better integration with the infotainment system and Apple's iPhones. There's also an 8-speaker audio system with a 7-inch VGA screen on the dash, USB and auxiliary inputs and a wide variety of additional comfort and convenience items.
The available navigation system on the Lexus IS sedan is among the best, and the same goes for the optional 15-speaker Mark Levinson sound system. The Premium Package includes a rearview camera and other nice features but, if you really want to go all the way, you should combine the Premium Plus Package with the loaded Luxury Package and end up with the Premium Package goodies, plus rain-sensing wipers, power-tilt/telescoping steering wheel, leather interior, wood trim, memory, Intuitive Parking Assist and several other high-tech items. The F Sport package adds sportier suspension and brakes and lots of sporty trim.
For 2016 the Lexus IS is offered with three engine choices. New for 2016, in the 200t, is an exciting and very high-tech 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes a rousing 241 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque and is matched to an 8-speed automatic. We suggest you give it your consideration. The IS 300 AWD (All-Wheel Drive) has a 3.5-liter V6 of 255 horsepower. At the top is the IS 350 with a 3.5-liter V6 of 306 horsepower, matched with an 8-speed automatic. The IS 350 is also available with all-wheel drive, and both the IS 300 AWD and IS 350 AWD utilize a 6-speed automatic. It should be clear by now that, if you’re looking for a recommendation, we like the new IS 200t.
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
241 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
258 lb-ft of torque @ 1,650-4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/32 mpg
255 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
236 lb-ft of torque @ 2,000-4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/26 mpg
306 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
277 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/28 mpg (rear-wheel drive), 19/26 mpg (all-wheel drive)
The 2016 Lexus IS 200t has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of a little over $38,000, including destination; we think it’s the best buy of the line. The IS 300 AWD is around $40,500, and includes the security of all-wheel drive. The IS 350 with rear-wheel drive is close to $42,000 and with all-wheel drive it’s around $44,000. These prices will be roughly in line with the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, but an Audi A4, BMW 3 Series or Cadillac ATS may start somewhat lower. Part of the problem with pricing is determining what, exactly, is meant by “comparably equipped.” The IS F models are roughly $3,000 more. Check out the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for a 2016 Lexus IS. Finally, rest assured that the IS, like just about all Lexus vehicles, will maintain a relatively high resale value over time.