2001 Lexus IS 300

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2001 Lexus IS 300
Available in 1 styles:  2001 Lexus IS 300 4dr Sedan shown
Asking Price Range
Estimated MPG

18 city / 23 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 2 of 7
2001 Lexus IS 300 4.8 20
$ 2,024-11,056
October 29, 2000
A soul stirrer

When this little Lexus arrived, I was struck by how ordinary it looked. This was supposed to be Lexus' high-performance sports sedan, but it looked for all the world like a superhero cloaked behind a secret identity. This is not unusual since Lexus' newest model, the IS 300, started out life as the Toyota Altezza, a model not imported here.

But don't think the plebeian lineage has somehow detracted from the heroic pleasure this car imparts.

The new IS 300 is a real kick to drive, something that can't be said of your father's Lexus. After all, most "Lexi" go for comfort and luxury over pure handling prowess, so while the cars are wonders of sophistication, refinement and isolation, they do little to stir the soul.

Consider the IS 300 a soul stirrer.

This little (176.6 inches, slightly bigger than a Corolla) Lexus is a rear-drive car that aims to challenge its German and Japanese rivals (Audi A4, BMW 3-Series, Mercedes Benz C-Class, Infiniti I30 and Acura TL) as well as its American ones (Cadillac Catera and Lincoln LS). This it does with a healthy dose of performance. In this case, the performance is courtesy of the Lexus GS 300 whose 3-liter inline six-cylinder engine is shared by the IS 300.

The engine is blessed with 215 horsepower and 218 foot pounds of torque at 3,800 rpm. Hooked to a five-speed automatic transmission, the car reaches 60 mph in a tic over 7 seconds. (A five-speed manual is coming for 2002.)

Needless to say, power is impressive. Huge P215/45R17-sized tires put the power to the pavement in a true neck-snapping manner. Power is available throughout the rev range and a huge singular exhaust tip makes beautiful music as you cruise into ticket-getting speeds.

The five-speed transmission ticks off the shifts smoothly, and the F1-style steering-wheel-mounted shifter buttons help take some of the sting out of the automatic, but it's still no replacement for a manual trans.

The power feels fierce, but the somewhat numb, although quick, power steering takes this little beauty exactly where its pointed. Braking is as impressive as the power, with four-wheel-disc brakes and anti-lock providing for extremely short stopping distances with little nose-dive.

Ride is different from other Lexi in that it absorbs bumps, but you'll actually still notice them. Road noise is louder than you might expect. Cornering is relatively flat.

Still, this is a Lexus, so despite its super performance capabilities, it's equally at home playing the part of mild-mannered sedan for a great international car company.

Thanks to the details, the IS 300 was sharp enough to turn heads, despite the Clark Kent body shell. Up front, a tough-looking grille and high-intensity gas-discharge headlamps give the car an early 21st century appearance, while out back tail lamps derived from the GS 300 give the car a family resembla nce. Aluminum wheels help the car look muscular.

But the true distinction is inside, where the car has a few touches that make it stand apart from the rest of the Lexus line.

The dash has no wood trim, instead, it's decorated with a titanium-finished plastic. The gauges are cleverly styled to resemble a chronograph watch. They're different and take some getting used to.

Simple touches help accent the theme, whether it's the rugged-looking climate control knobs or the chrome-wrapped knob-topped shifter. The seats are covered in a combination of suede and leather that are hard, but supportive. The scuff plates on the door and pedals have a chrome finish as well. This is one interior that's as stylish as they come. Yet it's never a case of style over function. Don't expect a lot in the way of power amenities, aside from the usual power locks/windows/mirrors. This car is about power and handling as much as luxury. Still, the lack of amenities is a disappo tment in a car approaching the $35,000 mark.

But there's nothing disappointing about its performance. This car has a powerful, rip-snorting powerplant and stylish interior that takes on its competitors with overwhelming super power and panache. Just like you wouldn't expect a super hero to have read Emily Post, this car is lacking on a couple of the smaller points.

Just beware of the power hiding behind the IS 300.

    Expert Reviews 2 of 7

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