Lexus IS 200t Review: A $40K Sport Sedan That Does All the Little Things Right

It may be entry-level, but it is undeniable luxury.

I was on the outskirts of the desert with the adaptive cruise control engaged. It was a spring evening in California, the air still thick with warmth from the waning sunset, and the Lexus IS 200t ($37,835, base) was my companion for a blissful escape to Palm Springs. But alas, we were hardly going anywhere.

I was mired in traffic of the classic LA variety: alternating quarter-mile stretches of cruising and crawling, restless drivers weaving in and out of lanes, horns honking into the void of a gridlocked hell. It was then that I appreciated this little Lexus for doing all the little things right. It may be entry-level, but it is undeniable luxury.

As traffic moved in brutal fits and starts, my feet remained comfortable on the carpet instead of hopping pedal-to-pedal. Seat cooling and heating linked with climate control; infotainment perfectly intuitive; sight lines generous. Later, on a back road, my high beams turned on and off automatically as cars passed. During a quick pit stop, I pulled up much too close to a concrete curb, too used to my SUV daily driver. The IS, even with its low, sporty stance, hovered centimeters above curb height for a clean getaway.

This all may seem trivial at first blush, but as a car owner, the subconscious details become critical. Your vehicle is a second home; flaws become grating. It’s nice to feel coddled by a car, like it’s looking out for you, making your life a bit easier. Too often, automakers seem to understand this concept, but only deliver it to the highest bidder. But the IS is an exercise in delivery, not upselling.

Better yet, careening through the hills above Palm Desert, it handled deftly and surely, never floaty like a soft sedan. Sure, there were loads of turbo lag, but I considered that extra time to reflect on life before accelerating.

Once the engine does get its boost, power is delivered with urgency, delivering everything you need and want in terms of legal fun…assuming you ever actually want to take it off cruise control.

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