This past November, my family and I decided to head out of town for a bit of a Thanksgiving “staycation” in Orlando. Rather than spend the typically stress-filled weekend running around like a turkey with our head cut off, we’d instead be pampered, served, and introduced to the joys of footgolf.
Along for the ride – actually, our ride itself – was a spicy-hot red Lexus IS200t courtesy of DriveShop USA.
The littlest Lexus provided everything a family ready to spend hours on the road would expect; it possessed style, space, power, and comfort.
The twice-removed blood ties to Toyota’s appliance-on-wheels Camry were apparent…but the IS200t was just a little bit “extra. For better, and for worse.
Your first impression of this particular Lexus IS200t might range from shock to admiration, to suspicion. This thing wasn’t red; it was R.E.D. I drove around in constant fear of hordes of enraged bulls relentlessly assaulting the car from all angles.
This particular shade made the Lexus IS200t easy to spot in parking lots, and emphasized many of the already dramatic styling cues.
I loved it – at first. Unfortunately, nothing else about the car matched the bold color choice. The IS200t was quiet both inside and out. It rode smoothly. It was practical and technologically-advanced. For all intents and purposes, this was a luxury car in an elaborate costume. It was water, saturated in neon food coloring, and packaged as an infused, post-workout hydration supplement.
The contrast was jarring, and didn’t sit right with me…no matter how many times I stole glances at it every time we passed the hotel parking lot.
The Lexus IS200t is equipped with a 2.0 liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine making a smidgen over 240 horsepower. Lexus introduced this option in 2016 with the goal of providing performance and efficiency. Mission somewhat accomplished.
The small turbo and direct injection combine for a surprising surge of mid-range torque. Dip your foot into the throttle, allow the car to downshift right into its sweet spot, and suddenly there’s no mistaking you aren’t in your aunt’s Camry.
Keep your foot down though, and the sensation dies as the RPMs climb. The engine runs out of breath quickly, subconsciously demanding your foot to back off; there’s nothing to see here. The engine’s Jekyll/Hyde character made it very responsive on surface streets in lower gears, but left plenty to be desired when passing a long line of snowbirds hogging the left lane of the turnpike.
The Lexus IS200t did return decent fuel economy, however. We averaged near 30 MPG over the course of our trip, which included around a 70/30 split between highway and city driving.
Please Find A Seat
Inside, the theme continued. The dashboard was remarkably styled, featuring multiple tiers which housed climate controls, a clock, and center-mounted touchscreen. Also present was Lexus’s touchpad located behind the shifter. I found it entirely unnecessary; it was finicky and hard to use, even after a week’s worth of practice.
Touching the screen itself required less distraction, and was much quicker.
The seats were upholstered in tight black leather, and appeared to be of high quality. Combined with the artsy dash set-up, the interior gave off an Avant-garde vibe unusual at this price point. However, Lexus once again strayed a little too far from their lane with the aggressive bolstering of the two front seats. Even after days of ingress and egress, I never got used to the deep bottom and high side bolsters.
Like the exterior color, they just didn’t fit the car, and became more annoying than curious given time. It was like attending a black-tie cocktail party with live music by the Foo Fighters. A combination of things that, while good on their own, needn’t be combined.
Be Careful What You Wish For
Despite my own criticisms, I do admit I appreciate the sporting intentions Lexus elected to pursue with this entry-level version of their rear wheel drive sedan. While the paint code and seats are probably more at home on a sports coupe, it would have been easy to go a more safe, boring route and pull in the slightly more adventurous Camry buyer.
Normally I’d clamor for this sort of direction, but in this instance, it just didn’t suit the car. The Lexus IS200t excels at being an ordinary car; the other novelties are just a little too much “extra.”