More often than not, information on the changes to the new model year's Lexus IS will originate in the United States, then work its way to other markets such as Japan, the United Kingdom, the rest of Europe, Canada and Australia. For 2016, however, the pattern was turned on its head with the first official reports on the upcoming 2016 Lexus IS sedans originating with a Friday 26 June trio of official press releases from the brand's <A HREF="http://newsroom.lexus.eu/pressrelease/4454//lexus-launch-200t-innovative-2.0l-turbo-petrol-engine">European</A>, <A HREF="http://media.toyota.co.uk/2015/06/lexus-is-to-gain-turbo-power/">United Kingdom</A> and <A HREF="http://media.lexus.ca/releases/the-lexus-is-::-complete-driving-enjoyment-with-a-whole-lot-of-new-for-2016">Canada</A> newsrooms. Given the vagaries of the world's time zones, it was Lexus Europe that, by a few hours, kicked off the 2016 IS information blast, so we'll start our commentary there. (Stay tuned for our separate commentary article on the 2016 Lexus IS changes in Canada)
The big news is the long-rumored and long-awaited replacement of the V6 IS 250 with the 4-cylinder turbocharged IS 200t. Before we delve into the newest IS's particulars and specifications, however, we should remind you that <A HREF="http://www.lexus.eu">Lexus Europe gives each of its 34 individual markets</A> (some of which are more properly Eurasian such as Russia, Turkey, Cyprus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Azerbaijan) considerable leeway as to which models and powertrain options to offer. In a number of these countries, Lexus' model lineup is pretty much hybrid-only, with stray exceptions in some locales such as RC F and NX 200t. Thus, we figure that markets in which the IS 300h hybrid is the sole powertrain available for the brand's smallest rear-wheel-drive sedan and the NX 200t is not available (those would be Finland, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and Ukraine) may not even bother to offer the IS 200t, either. A quintet of markets (Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Turkey) offer the IS only as a hybrid but do offer the NX gasoline turbo, so those could go either way. The remaining 19 European markets offer hybrid and non-hybrid choices on both the IS and NX lines, so those are the likeliest to offer the IS 200t as part of their repertoire.
The IS 200t engine is the 1998cc 8AR-FTS 4-cylinder turbocharged engine that made its debut in the Lexus NX 200t C-segment crossover (hence all the NX 200t references in the previous paragraph). The engine itself is among Lexus' (and Toyota's) most sophisticated and advanced, with attributes including dual Atkinson and Otto cycle capability; dual intelligent variable valve-timing technology (Dual VVT-iW), with the W denoting wider opening (and later closing) of the intake valves; dual direct and port fuel injection; a water-cooled cylinder head with integrated exhaust manifold and twin-scroll turbocharger featuring variable waste gate valve control; an air-to-liquid (water-cooled) intercooler mounted directly on the engine; and a low-friction timing chain. The engine itself weighs just 160 kg (just under 353 lbs) an impressive figure given all its bells and whistles, and one that makes it just over 13 lbs (6 kg) lighter than the IS 250's 4GR-FSE, according to <A HREF="http://www.clublexus.com/forums/is-third-generation/789315-lexus-euro-press-release-for-is200t.html">online research by Club Lexus member JDR76</A>.
In its IS 200t application, the 2-liter turbo produces 241 SAE hp / 245 DIN hp /180 kW @ 5800 rpm, an increase of 6 SAE hp / 7 DIN hp / 5 kW over the NX 200t. Torque, however, remains equal for both versions, at 258 lb/ft (350 Nm) from 1650-4400 rpm (the latter a 400 rpm increase versus the NX). Perhaps of greater interest, however, is how those figures compare to the outgoing IS 250. The latter's 204 SAE hp / 208 DIN hp / 153 kW see a 37 hp / 27 kW jump with the move to turbo power, with maximum power available at 800 rpm lower, to boot. Torque figures climb even more dramatically, by 73 lb/ft (98 Nm), available, as noted earlier, as low as 1600 rpm, versus the IS 250's 4800 rpm torque peak.
The outgoing Lexus IS 250 used Aisin's A960 6-speed automatic transmission, a unit shared with the Toyota GT 86 / Scion FR-S / Subaru BRZ triplet sports cars and, interestingly enough, their archrival Mazda MX-5 Miata (in both its outgoing NC and upcoming ND iterations). The IS 200t's higher torque output, combined with the quest for improved fuel economy lead to its replacement by Aisin's 8-speed automatic. In Lexus vehicles, it bears either AA80E (RWD LS 460, IS F, RC F and upcoming GS F V8s), AA80F (AWD Lexus LS 460) or AA81E (RWD IS, RC and GS 3.5-liter V6s) transmission codes. On <A HREF="http://my.is/forums/f41/3rd-gen-lexus-powertrains-459322/">April 2013 we noted that</A>,
Yet, on September 2014, <A HREF="http://pressroom.lexus.com/releases/2015+lexus+rc+f+product+news.htm">a Lexus USA Newsroom press release on the RC F</A> clearly states that its AA80E transmission has also received G-sensor AI-Shift control. Consider it a tossup, then, which of the two iterations of the AA 8-speed the IS 200t will receive, or if it'll be yet another variation, say, an AA82E....all 8 individual forward gear ratios are identical between AA80 and AA81. Perhaps the key difference between the two is the AA81E-exclusive G-force Artificial Intelligence (G-AI) shift control, which downshifts in response to G forces and restricts gear changes during cornering, or "holds the automatic transmission to a single gear as you move through a tight corner, which helps prevent automatic-shifting surprises"
Given those notable increases in horsepower and torque for the IS 200t versus the IS 250 which we outlined a few paragraphs ago, we'd expect substantially improved acceleration. If we go by the numbers provided by Lexus' UK Media Site, the <A HREF="http://media.toyota.co.uk/2015/06/lexus-is-to-gain-turbo-power/">Lexus IS 200t goes from 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 7 seconds</A>, versus a <A HREF="http://media.toyota.co.uk/wp-content/files_mf/1429279756150330MLEXUSISTECHNICALSPECIFICATIONS.pdf">0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) time of 8.1 seconds for the outgoing IS 250</A>. Ok, so the IS 200t is 1.1 seconds faster, right? Not so fast, it may not be that simple. A glance at the <A HREF="http://pressroom.lexus.com/releases/2015+lexus+is+250+350+product+specs.htm">U.S.-market specifications for the 2015 Lexus IS 250</A> reveals a much faster 0-60 mph acceleration time of 7.7 seconds. Normally, 0-60 mph times are no more than a tenth or two of a second faster than 0-100 kph / 62 mph, and we've never seen such a 0.4 second discrepancy between the two. Indeed, a comparison of <A HREF="http://media.toyota.co.uk/wp-content/files_mf/1430485309150305MNXtechnicalspecifications.pdf">UK 0-62 mph</A> and <A HREF="http://pressroom.lexus.com/releases/2015+lexus+nx+200t+product+specs.htm">US 0-60 mph</A> times for the NX 200t show a variation of only 0.1 second between the two. <A HREF="http://my.is/forums/f41/lexus-c-f-2011-europe-418006/">Once upon a time, back in 2010</A>, such a notable performance spread between U.S. and European versions of the IS 250 could be explained by the European version using a higher (numerically lower) 3.727 final drive gear ratio versus the United States' 3.909. For the current generation, however, the U.S. and Europe share the 3.727 final drive, and individual gear ratios in the A960 automatic are also identical between the two markets. Color us baffled, then, by that 0.4 second discrepancy. It also complicates efforts to guesstimate 0-60 mph acceleration times for the IS 200t. Depending on your logic and methodology, arguments can be made that it could be as fast as 6.6 seconds, or as "slow" as 6.9, or somewhere in between.
The IS 200t's top speed is 143 mph, matching the IS 250. Metric top speed, however, is cited as 5 km/h faster for the IS 200t (230 km/h versus 225 km/h for the IS 250).
Beyond the obvious "your mileage will vary" caveat, we should remind you that the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe and Japan not only use different units of liquid measure for gasoline (U.S. gallons, UK/Imperial gallons that equal 1.2 U.S. gallons, and liters) but divergent driving cycles and methodologies to attain city (or urban), highway (or extra urban) and combined fuel economy figures. And the U.S. EPA cycle, though oft lambasted, is probably the most accurate and easily achievable of the lot! On the other hand, UK and European cycles take into account something that may seem picayune and ridiculous to U.S. eyes: wheel size options and, to some extent, the effect of varying trim/equipment levels on fuel economy.
To exemplify what we mean, official <A HREF="http://www.lexus.eu/car-models/is/is-250/#BuildYourIS">Pan-European Lexus IS 250</A> fuel economy numbers are 8.6 liters of fuel consumed in 100 kilometers of combined city/highway driving if the IS 250 in question has 16" or 17" wheels, versus 9.2 liters/100 kilometers for an IS 250 with 18" wheels. (Note that, unlike miles per gallon-based measures, a higher number denotes worse fuel economy, and a lower number less fuel used). For the new IS 200t, fuel consumption is an even 7 l/100 km on the combined cycle when equipped with 17” wheels and 7.2 l/100 km with 18” wheels. In other words, the IS 200t uses somewhere between 1.6 and 2 liters less fuel per 100 kilometers driven.
In the United Kingdom, official combined city/highway fuel economy figures are 32.8 miles per Imperial gallon for the SE (16' wheels) and Luxury (17" wheels) trim levels; and 30.7 miles per Imperial gallon for the F Sport and Premier models, both shorn with 18" wheels. For the IS 200t, a single 40.4 miles per Imperial gallon figure is given, without clarifying wheel size. Thus, the fuel economy gains are somewhere between 7.6 and 9.7 miles per Imperial gallon, which equals a 6.3 to 8 miles per U.S. gallon improvement. On the surface, however, those gains sound wildly optimistic and, again, are numbers that do not account for the vagaries of different fuel economy testing regimes.
Excellent and well-thought-out analysis of what the Lexus IS 200t's eventual U.S. EPA fuel economy ratings might be come to us from Club Lexus moderator <A HREF="http://www.clublexus.com/forums/is-third-generation/789315-lexus-euro-press-release-for-is200t.html">corradoMR2, who notes that</A>
In other words, corradoMR2 is predicting the IS 200t's U.S. EPA fuel economy ratings to be 24 mpg city (a 3 mpg improvement over the IS 250's 21 mpg); 32 mpg highway (a 2 mpg gain versus the IS 250's 30 mpg); and 28 mpg in combined city/highway driving (a 4 mpg gain over the IS 250's 24 mpg rating). It will be interesting to see how accurate those predictions turn out to be.- In Europe, NX 200t AWD is rated at 7.9 L/100 km.
- In Canada, NX 200t AWD is rated at 9.5 L/100 km combined (10.6 city/8.4 hwy).
- In the US, NX 200t AWD is rated at 25 mpg combined (21/28).
So how does this translates to the IS in N.A.?
- The IS RWD is approximately 13% more fuel efficient than the NX AWD (7.0 vs 7.9) in Europe.
- Apply this factor onto the NX Canadian model and you get for the IS 200t RWD: 8.3 L/100km combined (9.3 city / 7.3)
- Apply this factor onto the US NX model and you get for the IS 200t RWD: 28 mpg combined (24/32)
Just as important, if not more so, to Old Continent car buyers are the CO2 emissions numbers that are integral to many European vehicle taxation schemes and are, in a sense, the local equivalent of the U.S. CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) rules. Again, lower numbers are better. An IS 250 with 16" or 17" wheels emits 199 grams per kilometer driven of CO2 (carbon dioxide), while a model with 18" wheels emits 213 g/km. For the IS 200t, those numbers drop to 162 g/km when equipped with 17” wheels and 167 g/km with 18” wheels.
In the original version of this article, we noted that, per the Lexus <A HREF="http://newsroom.lexus.eu/newsrelease.do;jsessionid=CEC0FE882990D42CE6FF17A7B6B5E6AA?&id=4454&allImage=1&teaser=lexus-launch-200t-innovative-2.0l-turbo-petrol-engine&mid=">Europe</A> and <A HREF="http://media.toyota.co.uk/2015/06/lexus-is-to-gain-turbo-power/">United Kingdom</A> newsrooms, the curb weight of IS 200t sedans ranges between 1590-1680 kg, depending on equipment. We then compared those numbers to IS 250 figures posted on a <A HREF="http://media.toyota.co.uk/product_info/is-2013-current/">Lexus IS Technical Spec Vehicle Document on their UK Media Site</A> and <A HREF="http://toyotamedia.iconicweb.com/mediasite/attachments/2013_Lexus_IS_DPL_EN.pdf">page 38 of the full Lexus Europe press kit issued for the 3rd-gen IS launch</A> (1555-1645 kg, depending on equipment) and concluded that an IS 200t is 35 kilograms (77 pounds) heavier than an equivalent IS 250. We went on to finger the Aisin AA80-series 8-speed automatic replacing the lighter and simpler 6-speed A960 from the outgoing IS 250 as the likeliest culprit, with extra insulation measures required to calm the inherently noisier and rougher 4-cylinder engine and turbo engine ancillaries such as the intercooler as other possible contributors.
While official consumer-oriented Lexus websites in the <A HREF="http://www.lexus.co.uk/car-models/is/is-250/index.tmex#/PricesAndSpecifications">United Kingdom</A> and <A HREF="http://www.lexus.fr/car-models/is/is-250/index.tmex#/Introduction">France</A> echo the above numbers, we should note that European-based <A HREF="https://lexusenthusiast.com/2015/06/26/lexus-is-200t-coming-to-canada-new-is-300-awd-also-announced/#comments">Lexus Enthusiast commentator spwolf </A> steered us in the direction of <A HREF="http://kontakt.lexus.de/lexus/v10/ebrochure.asp?bdata=isstandard&bhash=E6EFA039-3F5C-4F9B-8008-C28CB0C1B824">an online PDF of the official German Lexus IS brochure</A> that cites a 1630-1720 kg curb weight range for the IS 250. If those numbers are accurate, then the IS 200t would be 40 kilograms (88 lbs) lighter than the IS 250. We'd certainly love for those numbers to be the correct ones, but we can't help notice that more evidence points to a heavier IS 200t.
Some color commentary...
The photos of the Lexus IS 200t released by the carmaker along with its official news release show no visible exterior changes to speak of versus the 2014 and 2015 model years (expect a minor exterior refresh for the 2017 model year). Eagle-eyed observers, however, will note that the shade of red gracing this particular IS 200t is noticeably brighter than the 3R1 Matador Red Mica (known as Morello Red, Mesa Red or Burgundy outside North America) that has been the IS's sole red offering for roughly the last decade. Although 3R1 has, by far, been Lexus' most common, popular and widely offered red hue throughout the Lexus line during that time, other brighter reds have since appeared in other models, such as the GS's 3S8 Riviera Red, the CT's 3T2 Redline and the RC's 3T5 Infrared. The latter is Lexus' reply to the growing genre of extra-cost, multi-coat and tinted clearcoat rich red shades (think Mazda's particularly compelling Soul Red Metallic, Ford's Ruby Red Tinted Clearcoat Metallic or Cadillac's Crystal Red and Red Obsession Tintcoats), Infrared consists of, <A HREF="http://pressroom.lexus.com/releases/lexus+all+new+rc+launch+in+the+red.htm">in Lexus' own words,</A>
If yours truly would hazard a guess at what shade of red we're looking at in the photos accompanying this article, however, I'd go with the CT's 3T2 Redline. On the other hand, we can't help but notice a resemblance to the stalwart 3P0 Absolutely Red that has graced past and present Toyota, Scion and Lexus models. Might we be witnessing a reconvergence of the brands' color palettes after a decade or so of careful separation of Lexus paints from Toyota and Scion?...a meticulous paint process using four base coats of paint...
For the red exterior, the factory starts with a base coat of silver and then applies a clear coat. Then, the clear coat is covered by a translucent red coat, which is then topped with another clear coat. The four coats of paint are baked twice to set the color.
As a result, light hitting the paint reflects off the red layer and also off the silver layer below, which adds depth and a metallic highlight to the red coloration. Prior to this new, two-color base process, the factory used base coats with the same color tone (red and red).
When? How much?
Both Lexus' <A HREF="http://newsroom.lexus.eu/pressrelease/4454//lexus-launch-200t-innovative-2.0l-turbo-petrol-engine">Europe Newsroom</A> and <A HREF="http://media.toyota.co.uk/2015/06/lexus-is-to-gain-turbo-power/">United Kingdom Media Site</A> suggest a September 2015 on-sale date for the new IS 200t, as does <A HREF="http://www.lexus.com.au/about/news/2015/06/29/news-News">Lexus Australia News</A>. The <A HREF="http://media.lexus.ca/releases/the-lexus-is-::-complete-driving-enjoyment-with-a-whole-lot-of-new-for-2016">Lexus Canada Newsroom</A> is a bit more vague, only suggesting an arrival in dealerships this fall. As to the United States, they are, so far, officially silent on the whole IS 200t subject. We suspect that they're waiting until July twenty-something to issue a full press release blast including more detailed specifications, options and packages information, pricing and an answer to the burning question of whether or not the IS Convertible lives on to see another model year. Pricing and specifications for Europe will be announced separately as well, closer to the September on-sale date.