2004 Lexus IS 300

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Key Specs
Our Take
Overview
Photos
Reviews
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Key Specs

of the 2004 Lexus IS 300. Base trim shown.

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Performance
  • Handling
  • Maneuverability
  • Resale value
  • Energetic response

The Bad

  • Instrument layout
  • Interior space
  • No manual shift for SportCross

Notable Features of the 2004 Lexus IS 300

  • 215-hp engine
  • E-Shift automatic transmission
  • Available manual gearbox in sedan
  • RWD layout
  • Available SportCross wagon

2004 Lexus IS 300 Overview

By Cars.com Editors
Vehicle Overview
Introduced for the 2001 model year, the sporty, compact, rear-wheel-drive Lexus IS 300 was meant to be a noteworthy rival to BMW’s 3 Series and other European sport sedans. An IS 300 SportCross body style joined the original IS 300 sedan later that season. In 2002, Lexus added a manual-shift sedan that targeted drivers who weren’t satisfied with the original automatic transmission.

All versions of the IS 300 use the same 215-horsepower, 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder engine. For the 2004 model year, each gets a two-position memory feature for the driver’s seat, a maintenance indicator light and automatic door locking/unlocking. New 11-spoke wheels are optional.

Exterior
Slanted rear roof pillars give the IS 300 a semi-fastback profile. The chiseled-look body has short front and rear overhangs. Back-end styling resembles that of the larger Lexus GS 300 and GS 430 models. This year, smoked gray light surrounds go on the IS 300’s headlights, taillights and fog lamps.

The IS 300 is mounted on a 105.1-inch wheelbase. It measures 176.6 inches long overall and is 14.5 inches shorter than the front-wheel-drive Lexus ES 330 sedan. Standard alloy wheels and tires are 17 inches in diameter, and 16-inchers are optional.

Interior
Few automobiles have a more distinctive dashboard than the IS 300’s, but its fashionable style could get in the way of utility. Lexus says the chronograph-style instrument cluster was inspired by sport watches. Three sma...
Vehicle Overview
Introduced for the 2001 model year, the sporty, compact, rear-wheel-drive Lexus IS 300 was meant to be a noteworthy rival to BMW’s 3 Series and other European sport sedans. An IS 300 SportCross body style joined the original IS 300 sedan later that season. In 2002, Lexus added a manual-shift sedan that targeted drivers who weren’t satisfied with the original automatic transmission.

All versions of the IS 300 use the same 215-horsepower, 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder engine. For the 2004 model year, each gets a two-position memory feature for the driver’s seat, a maintenance indicator light and automatic door locking/unlocking. New 11-spoke wheels are optional.

Exterior
Slanted rear roof pillars give the IS 300 a semi-fastback profile. The chiseled-look body has short front and rear overhangs. Back-end styling resembles that of the larger Lexus GS 300 and GS 430 models. This year, smoked gray light surrounds go on the IS 300’s headlights, taillights and fog lamps.

The IS 300 is mounted on a 105.1-inch wheelbase. It measures 176.6 inches long overall and is 14.5 inches shorter than the front-wheel-drive Lexus ES 330 sedan. Standard alloy wheels and tires are 17 inches in diameter, and 16-inchers are optional.

Interior
Few automobiles have a more distinctive dashboard than the IS 300’s, but its fashionable style could get in the way of utility. Lexus says the chronograph-style instrument cluster was inspired by sport watches. Three small gauges are positioned within a large speedometer, but those tiny dials are difficult to read. A separate tachometer sits to their left.

Standard equipment includes automatic climate control, heated outside mirrors, remote keyless entry, and a stereo system with cassette and six-CD players. The IS 300 seats five people, but the driveline tunnel divides the three-place rear seat. A pass-thru section from the rear seat augments the trunk’s 10.1-cubic-foot cargo capacity.

Under the Hood
Lexus borrowed the 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder engine from its larger GS 300 sedan, but the IS 300’s version is rated at a lower 215 hp. The E-Shift five-speed-automatic transmission has steering-wheel controls that permit manually selected gear changes when desired. A five-speed-manual transmission is also available.

Safety
Side-impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain-type airbags, antilock brakes and traction control are standard. Lexus’ Vehicle Skid Control electronic stability system is optional on sedans equipped with the automatic transmission.

Driving Impressions
Lexus did it right by creating a sporty sedan that delivers on its promise of athletic behavior and invigorating action. The IS 300 strives to satisfy enthusiastic drivers who can appreciate a taut suspension and a rear-drive layout with curve-hugging capabilities. When pushing hard on the gas pedal, the IS 300 is prepared to respond with a level of energy that can come as a surprise. Better yet, the sedan’s athletic maneuvers aren’t accompanied by a decline in ride comfort.

The IS 300 is well behaved in ordinary driving and is ready to be pushed. The E-Shift automatic transmission operates easily and effectively. Flicking neatly between gears, the manual gearbox is one of the easier-to-operate units, compared to manual transmissions in rival models.

Except for the instrument layout, there’s not much to distract the driver from an enjoyable experience.

 
Reported by Jim Flammang  for cars.com;
Posted on 9/26/03

Latest 2004 IS 300 Stories

Consumer Reviews

Exterior Styling
(4.6)
Performance
(4.6)
Interior Design
(4.2)
Comfort
(4.5)
Reliability
(4.8)
Value For The Money
(4.6)

What Drivers Are Saying

(5.0)

Most reliable well made car I own

by Lexus888 from Arizona on July 10, 2018

Ive owned this car for 14 years and everything is still working! The styling is timeless and it is built to last. I have a 2018 Honda and the Lexus is still built better Read full review

(5.0)

Fun to drive and HAD A MANUAL TRANSMISSION!

by BigT on June 17, 2018

Very stable when cornering. Instant acceleration from 0 to 30. Faster off the line than most because of the manual transmission. Also much easier to moderate speed on the freeway. Great braking and ... Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2004 Lexus IS 300 currently has 1 recall

Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

The 2004 Lexus IS 300 has not been tested.

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The IS 300 received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker