The 2016 Lexus IS gets a mid-cycle refresh that doesn’t include any stylistic updates, but does bring a new engine and adds a third model designation for the 2016 model year.
In a move that surprises no one, the new motor is the 2.0L turbo four-cylinder mill recently launched in the NXt compact crossover, and it goes to work in the base IS 200t model, making the same 241 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque as it does in the NX.
Next up the ladder is the IS 300. What this trim’s name doesn’t tell you is that it uses the same 3.5L V6 found in the IS 350, but tuned for 255 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque.
Finally, the IS 350 returns as the top trim, with its version of the 3.5L making the same 306 hp and 277 lb-ft as it did in last year’s model.
All-wheel drive returns, but only in IS 300 and 350 trims, leaving the 200t as a rear-driver. That will no doubt put off fans of turbocharging who might have cross-shopped the 200t as a competitor to four-cylinder upscale cars like the Mercedes-Benz C 300 (which comes standard with 4MATIC all-wheel drive), BMW’s 328i xDrive and the Audi A4 quattro. Instead, Lexus has effectively positioned the IS 200t as a competitor to the wimpy 320i (which can also be had with AWD, by the way) and the A4’s unloved base “FronTrak” model. It seems a waste of a good motor, considering how many premium car sales these days go to those with AWD. As before, the IS will be an automatic-transmission-only proposition.
On the upside, fans of Lexus’ F Sport treatment will like that all three IS models can be optioned with at least one so-named package: IS 200t can be had with a Series I package, while the IS 300 and 350 will be available with more feature’dense Series II and Series III option groups.
The 2016 Lexus IS goes on sale this fall; pricing will be announced closer to that time.