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I consider myself to be lucky in many respects. I have a house, I have a beautiful cat, I can walk in a straight line, and get drunk on two pints (a cheap date am I).
However, I feel lucky to be able to own an IS200. However, I can see that you are already confused, as this is a review for an IS300!
Lexus are very kind people and look after their customers, and, once a year, in many parts of the country, hold an ‘Open Road’ event, where customers and non customers alike are able to drive the whole Lexus range without a sales droid sat in the back (Not that Lexus have sales droids… Even the sales staff feel honoured to work for Lexus!).
This gives us mere mortals the chance to Lord it up, and look great in cars that cost more than a years wage!
So, having attended a few of these events, I thought I’d write about the IS300.
Styling: Despite the car now being over 5 years old, the styling is still NOW. From the front, the fox eye headlights and dark grill look great, as does the slight bulge in the middle of the bonnet (hood), hinting at something a little raw despite the smooth styling. The lines form the side look great, but one of the biggest bug bears I have with Toyota / Lexus is that they have never quite managed to sort out a good looking car from the rear! However, despite every chav known to man having Lexus type rear light clusters celloptaped to the back of their rust bucket, the rear clusters on the IS300 are now smoked, fitting in well with the Granite Sky colouring of the car I drove. In bright sunlight, the car sparkled due to the huge flecks of metal in the metallic paint.
The car also comes as standard with 17 inch alloy wheels, although you can get 18 inch alloys, which, in my opinion, make the car grip even further into the corners.
Interior: The IS’s come in two main styles (unless you get the IS200 / IS300 S, which is cloth), being a beige leather or black leather. The one I drove came with the Alcatara, which is leather with suede effect material, which, in the summer and winter, is much nicer. The car I drove, being dark grey outside came with the dark interior. The quality is noticeable instantly, from the full leather, two tone steering wheel, to the quality of the plastics used.
The switchgear is also very high quality, and you just know that nothing will fall off or break (if you own an Italian car, you’ll know what I mean).
One thing to note is the lack of boot space. The seats don’t drop in the normal saloon, although they do in the sports cross (Estate type car), and the entrance to the boot is also narrow, limiting what you can get in there.
Equipment: When it comes to buying a lexus, there is very little to ask for by way of extra equipment. Unlike anything German, the cars come fully loaded right from the start. Included equipment: Climate Control 6 CD auto changer (which is in the dash, not in the boot), with 8 speakers Cruise Control Traction Control / ABS Electronic seats that are heated
Gear box: I love the manual 6 speed box I have in my IS200, although the Auto box that comes with the IS300 is just beautiful! There are two ways you can use it, Auto and Manual. In Auto mode, the gear change is slick, and you never really notice it. The kick down takes some getting used to, although I rarely used it in full Auto mode due to the other mode available, which was manual. Putting the box into manual then brings into play the buttons on the steering wheel: Up and Down. Yes, you change gear using the buttons! This was fantastic, giving you manual operation with the slickness of the auto box.
One thing to note was the Sports button near the gear lever. In Auto mode, this doesn’t change the gears until you are into very high revs… More of this later!
Handling: I’ve always worried about the handling in an automatic car… I prefer to shift down a gear or two for roundabouts and known bends: It gives you plenty of power if you start to get into trouble.
Now, for people used to front wheel drive, unless you are careful, you will get into trouble in this car! My first lesson, and greatest lesson was in bends… You NEVER back off in a corner. Remember that and you will be fine.
The ABS works well, and you never notice it, which you shouldn’t, and the traction control also works well. Turn it off at your peril…. You’ll be surprised how often it is used!
Anyway, in a word, the handling of the car is great. It’s as smooth as hell, yet when thrown around corners, there’s no body roll. How Lexus achieved this balance is just unbelievable! You won’t be disappointed!
Engine: The IS200 engine is great, smooth as hell, but lacks very much low end grunt. Read any review of the car, and this will be mentioned. However, this is not an issue with this car. When setting off, many automatics set off in 2nd gear, including this car. So, I’m trundling along at around 3 miles per hour, in full auto mode, with the sports button pressed. I do the only thing I could to test the engine: Floored it. Within a few seconds, we were doing 80 MPH with no effort at all! It’s smooth, fast and just perfect. However, you never buy a Lexus for speed, but if you do, you won’t be disappointed!
Lexus aftersales: There is a reason Lexus always end up winning the JD Power survey (amongst others) every year. For example, my current Lexus’ clutch started to slip (worn clutch I guess). This is something you would have to pay for with any other type of car: Not Lexus! Was replaced free and I even got a courtesy car!
Cost: Lexus have announced the new IS series, which will start to be delivered late 2005. If you can find a pre registered IS300, you should be able to pick one up, with extras (Body kit, sat nav, etc) for around £23000
The IS300 is a great car to drive, and you have to weigh up whether the extra expense of the Auto box and bigger engine is worth it over the IS200. In my opinion…. Yes!
Pictures of Lexus IS 300 3.0 24v
Scarletti Red colour
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