Motor Mouth Gordon Hall
by the Midlands Motoring Man, Gordon Hall
Evolution: 2017 Lexus IS 200tE
Some people won’t buy Lexus because they think “it’s just a fancy Toyota with terrible resale value.”
Instead of parroting others people’s prejudices, why not open your mind to new possibilities? Lexus is a range of luxury sports saloons built, incidentally, by Toyota. That means they’re solid, well made, have bullet-proof engines and are reliable.
They’re also more charismatic and fun to drive than any mainstream Toyota built today. If you’re beyond a certain age you’ll remember Celicas, GTs, Supras and, more recently, the 8-6; brilliant sports cars that captured enthusiasts’ hearts around the world – so you know it can be done.
The point about resale is interesting too: A recent UK survey showed that only 29.4 percent of buyers placed depreciation among their top-four priorities when choosing new cars. Are you that different? If it really is an issue, ask Lexus Financial Services about FutureDrive, an innovative financing model that guarantees future value.
Moving on, Lexus IS has been available here as a mid-size sports sedan for a number of years but the importers offered only the naturally aspirated 3.5-litre engine in conventional and F-Sport guises. Then, in October 2015, they added IS 200t with its two-litre, twin-scroll turbocharged engine in two trim levels; E and EX.
This engine is somewhat special. In square (86×86 mm bore and stroke) configuration, it’s an inline four (the 8-6’s motor is a boxer) with sixteen valves operated by something called VVT-iW (variable valve timing, intelligent, wide). Sidestepping the engineering waffle, it enables the engine to run in either Otto Cycle for most power or Atkinson Cycle for best economy.
As any marketing lecturer will tell you: “Features are meaningless. Sell the benefits,” so here it is – the science simply means that this motor can operate as two different kinds of engine whenever needed. The switch-over is seamless so you won’t realise when it happens. Just know that when the engine is able to run super-economically it will and when it’s time to play dirty it will do that too.
And play dirty it can; it develops 180 kW at 5800 rpm which means it’s only lightly ‘charged – the other “86” motor develops 147 kW naturally aspirated. It also develops 350 Newton-metres of torque – what 3.5-litre Mercedes’ did a few years ago – but over a band extending from 1650- to 4400 rpm. That translates into zero to 100 km/h in seven seconds and a top speed of 230.
It looks and feels the part too. It’s lean and sharply chiselled; you ease yourself in and wear it like a flak jacket; the warmed and vented leather seats hold you snugly while the tall centre console concentrates you on the job at hand. Instruments and panels are all black-gloss and business-like. Controls are simple and neatly laid out.
Dials are big, circular and analogue. The few concessions to modernism include a push button starter, rotating knobs for the electronic aids and a powered button to adjust the steering wheel. Naturally, both front chairs are powered too.
The IS will carry four in comfort (a small fifth one if you have to) and 480 litres of luggage before tipping the seatbacks down, so it’s perfectly capable of handling the Monday-to Saturday commuting and family chores. Sundays, holidays and winding country roads are what it’s about, though.
The front suspension was recently reworked with a new, lightweight lower arm assembly, new bushes, revised spring rates and upgraded dampers. The brakes are built for business and you know about the engine. Select Sport on the dial, slip into manual mode (stick or paddles) and floor it.
Did I mention that it’s rear-wheel drive? The car becomes an extension of your inner evil persona and rewards with beautifully neutral handling, vice-free responses and good clean fun.
Despite moments of hilarity and seeming irresponsibility, it’s designed and kitted to be safe. Ten airbags including knee units for those in front, ABS brakes with all the acronyms you ever heard of, childproof locks and ISOFix, automatic locking, tyre pressure monitoring, hill start assistance, front and rear parking aids and cruise control make up a good package.
Navigation, a reversing camera, 18” wheels, an upgraded sound system with 10.2” touch screen (standard is 7”) and a more comprehensive service plan come with the EX model that is otherwise identical.
If you’re bored with “same old” cars from you-know-where and want something different; something with actual charisma, try a Lexus. You’ll keep it beyond your usual sell-by date for personal cars; simply because you want to.
Test unit from Lexus SA press fleet
Price: R601 900
Engine: 1998 cc, DOHC, 16-valve, four-cylinder inline, twin-turbo petrol
Power: 180 kW at 5800 rpm
Torque: 350 Nm between 1650 and 4400 rpm
Gearbox: 8-speed, electronically controlled, Aisin-Toyota automatic
Zero to 100 km/h: 7.0 seconds
Maximum speed: 230 km/h
Real life fuel consumption: About 8.5 l/100 km
Tank: 66 litres
Luggage: 480 litres
Warranty and service plan: 4 years / 100 000 km; at 15 000 km intervals
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