April 1, 2016

Lexus Weds F Sports To Turbos

Lexus Weds F Sports To Turbos

Lexus is boring.  Yes?  Well, no, although past cars were less than invigorating.  Lexus quality and customer service have always been impeccable, but the cars were just well-built vanilla wafers.  If you believe this, you haven't wedded F Sports to turbos in the IS200t and RC200t.

IS200t F Sport:  Pure Sport Sedan

To look at it is to want to throttle it.  Lexus' trademark spindle grille looks like it will grate Audis; the taut body with neatly-creased bodysides, LED headlamps, and chiseled-in LED running lamps add spice.  Aggressive ground effects and gray 18-inch alloy wheels marry it to pavement.

Turning wheels is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine delivering 241 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque through an 8-speed automatic transmission.  Eco, Normal, Sport, and Snow modes adjust the powertrain and steering for varying conditions, making the car more responsive in Sport mode and less so in Eco and snow modes.  Go Eco to see 22/33-MPG city/hwy.

The interior is not overtly luxurious, but is driver-ready.  Heated and ventilated leather seats grip your underrsides and side sides no matter the velocity of your rides.  The leather-wrapped steering wheel begs to be palmed through turns.  Lexus forgoes wood for machined aluminum-look strips on the dash and doors, plush door coverings, and an overall sense of quality.  There's a surprising amount of legroom in the rear, so take along some friends.

Infotainment, including navigation and sweet-thumping Mark Levinson Audio, is controlled with a joystick in the center console.  Gauges are via a large LCD screen.  Adaptive radar cruise control with collision warning, blind spot monitor, and cross traffic alert systems enhance safety.  Bluetooth and USBs keep everybody connected.

The IS200t F Sport feels tight, precise, and genuinely sporty.  The turbo-four won't dominate Germany's famed motorways, but it's fine on American Interstates.  While the IS starts at $37,325, our F Sport came to $46,300.

RC200t F Sport:  Sportier and Sexier

If you think two doors are sportier and sexier than four, hang on.  Even at a relative's funeral, the RC200t F Sport was the star of the show.  Well, at least in the parking lot.  My 13-year-old nephew went bats.  He's a pretty savvy kid.

By looking at the car's spindle grille, bulging fenders, fastback roofline, and LEd lights, you might guess the RC is based on the mid-size GS sport sedan.  You'd only be half right.  The RC's front structure is based on the GS while its rear cribs the IS.  The middle part is taken from the reinforced IS convertible.  Engineers tuned the suspension and steering for optimal handling.

In F Sport trim, the RC rolls on 19-inch smoked alloy wheels shod in summer tires.  Like the IS200t, the RC200t's steering and throttle can be adjusted for Eco, Normal Sport, and Snow.  Unlike the IS, the RC comes with Lexus' Adaptive Variable Suspension that adjusts from touring car comfortable with a subtle float to bone-jarring firm for terrorizing fast asphalt.

Aiding the asphalt carnage is the same 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and 8-speed automatic transmission found in the IS200t.  Fuel economy rates 22/32-MPG city/hwy.

The interior is mostly shared with the IS, but is a little fancier.  The console would be at home in a starship with touchpad for commanding the infotainment system and touch-sliding climate controls.  Crank 835 watts of mark Levinson audio.  Stitched coverings on the dash/console show attention to detail.

The technology suite includes adaptive radar cruise control with pre-collision system, TFT electronic instrument cluster, and blind spot warning.  Contrasting color heated/ventilated leather front seats, power stereing column, moonfoor, USBs, and Bluetooth satisfy mad divas.

The RC200t looks a little ungainly from some angles, and underpowered for many, but it's the kind of car Lexus needs.  A base price of $39,995 -- $50,345 as tested -- challenges the Cadillac ATS Coupe, Mercedes C-Class Coupe, BMW 4-Series, and Audi A5.  Add two doors to each to challenge the IS200t.

Storm Forward!

Watch Casey's video review of the IS200t F Sport; follow him on YouTube and Twitter:  @AutoCasey. 


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