The Lexus IS300 debuted in 2001. It was slated as the perfect competition for the BMW 325 and 330. At first, just the Base model was available. The SportCross model was introduced late in 2001 sporting slightly different styling and features. The E-shift model was introduced in 2002 with a special automatic transmission system that gave drivers the best of manual and automatic transmission power.
Little changes for 2003. If you want for a well-priced alternative to the BMW 3 Series, look no further.
Body Styles: sport sedan
Engines: 3.0-liter six-cylinder
Transmissions: five-speed automatic
Models: Lexus IS300, Lexus IS300 E-shift, Lexus IS300 SportCross
The 2003 Lexus IS300 remains relatively unchanged. It gains a redesign of the tires, a nice, subtle touch that makes it look a bit sportier.
The Lexus IS300 has slanted pillars, something that gives the IS300 a slanted profile. Really, the exterior of the vehicle looks uninspired compared to other sport sedans on the market. Some short overhangs on the front and back of the vehicle gives the 2003 Lexus IS300 similar back styling to the GS 300/430 series.
Standard exterior features on the base include 17-inch alloy wheels, performance tires, variable intermittent windshield wipers, remote power door locks, power mirrors, one-touch power windows, and a rear defogger.
The interior of the 2003 Lexus IS300 has one of the most distinctive dashboards around. Lexus prides itself on the interior design of this vehicle. The instrument cluster on the dash has a chronograph style that Lexus says pulls inspiration from sport watches. This results in a speedometer with three small dials in it that look very difficult to read, making it a real pain for the driver who needs to keep his eyes on the road. However, a separate tachometer sits on the dash, which looks much easier to read.
Unfortunately, the 2003 Lexus IS300 lacks storage space. The trunk only holds 10.1 cubic feet of cargo, even with fold-down seating.
The Base sedan has a lot of equipment including cloth upholstery, bucket seats, a pass-through center armrest, rear ventilation ducts, a front console with storage, front and rear cup holders, front door pockets, 12V power outlets, a tilt-adjustable steering wheel, interior air filtration, dual illuminating vanity mirrors, eight speakers, and an AM/FM, in-dash, six-disc CD player.
A DVD navigation system and leather upholstery remain optional.
Performance & Handling
The IS300 comes equipped with a three-liter, inline six-cylinder engine. This engine comes from the GS300 sedan. However, the horsepower on the engine fitted in the IS300 remains lower, coming in at 215 horsepower. The engine pairs with an E-shift (electronic shift) five-speed automatic transmission. The E-shift has electronic manual controls fitted to the steering wheel, allowing you to make on-the-fly shifts to the transmission. This gives it a sportier feel than it would have with a standard automatic transmission system.
The 2003 Lexus IS300 provides a well-tuned sport vehicle, even if the exterior styling says otherwise. The handling seems near perfect. The firm suspension allows the Lexus IS300 to hug corners with grace, even when coming in at top speed. The engine, even though only a six-cylinder, really revs when you press the gas pedal. The IS300 has a shocking amount of power and acceleration. Ride comfort also feels pleasant.
The E-shift transmission proves easy to use and very smooth. In fact, playing with the manual gearbox with the paddles on the steering wheel makes for a very pleasant experience.
The 2003 Lexus IS300 comes equipped with four-wheel anti-lock brakes, front head airbags, dual side-mounted airbags, a remote theft system, ventilated front disc and solid rear disc brakes, rear-door child safety locks, daytime running lights, traction control, electronic brakeforce distribution, emergency interior trunk release, and self-leveling headlights.
The NHTSA gives the Lexus IS300 five out of five stars for front and rear side impacts. It has not tested the IS300 for driver and passenger safety. The IIHS gives the Lexus IS300 its best score of ?good? for frontal-offset crash tests, but only a score of ?marginal,? its second worst, for rear impacts.
EPA Fuel Economy
Lexus IS300: 16/23 mpg city/highway
Lexus IS300 E-shift: 16/22 mpg city/highway
Lexus IS300 SportCross: 16/22 mpg city/highway
- Great driving style
- Interior decor and features
- Competitive pricing
You Won't Like
- Small rear seat and trunk
- Small storage space
- Lame styling
Not a BMW 3 Series, but worth it.
If You Like This Vehicle
- Acura TL
- BMW 325
- Infiniti G35