Auto Service World
Feature   May 1, 2000   by CARS Magazine

2001 Lexus IS 300 Sport Sedan

Power and rear-wheel drive with a liberal dose of high tech


Lexus will go toe-to-toe with sport sedan benchmarks Audi A4 and BMW 3-series with the all-new IS 300 compact sport sedan, which arrives in July as a 2001 model. Power and rear-wheel drive are standout features of the IS300, whose standard powerplant will be a 215-horsepower, 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder. Lexus expects the IS 300 to enhance the brand’s appeal among buyers in the 25-40 age group – “bust” and “trail” baby boomers in marketing lingo. The IS 300 inherits its powertrain from the larger GS 300 sedan. As in that model, the engine employs Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) to optimize valve overlap throughout the engine’s speed range (not just at one or two set speeds). VVT-i eliminates the traditional compromise between low-end torque and high-rpm horsepower, giving the IS 300 the feel of having a larger-displacement engine. The IS 300 engine produces 218 lb.-ft. of peak torque at 3,800 rpm. The IS 300 engine will be paired with an electronically controlled five-speed automatic transmission with Formula One-inspired E-Shift steering-wheel gear-selection controls.

A low 0.28 coefficient of drag (Cd) ensures low wind noise and low fuel consumption. External detailing that highlights the angular lines includes clear-lens taillights, standard High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights set behind composite covers and a low-slung front airdam with built-in foglights.

Standard luxury features include cruise control, tilt steering column, power windows with one-touch up/down for the driver, illuminated entry, heated outside mirrors and a spacious trunk with large rear-seat pass-through. The standard remote entry system integrates the ignition key into the control fob, which includes a trunk opener. The IS 300 comes standard with a security alarm and engine immobilizer system.

By locating the engine center 2.2 inches behind the front wheel center, the battery behind the front suspension tower and the fuel tank under the rear seat, the layout gives the IS 300 a low “yawing moment of inertia,” engineer-speak for responsive performance. The four-wheel independent suspension features a double-wishbone layout in the front and rear, similar to the GS sedans. Four-wheel disc brakes (ventilated front) provide ample stopping power. The standard 16″ x 6.5″ alloy wheels mount 205/55 R16 all-season performance tires. Buyers seeking even sharper response can choose the available 17″ x 7″ alloy wheel package with 215/45 R17 performance tires. As specified by Lexus, these low-profile tires enhance handling without significantly altering ride quality.The low-profile tires hook up through standard anti-lock brakes and full-range traction control (TRAC). SSGM