2001-2005 Lexus IS300

David E. Davis, Jr.
Mark Gillies

On the other hand, we found the four-wheel disc brakes to be superb, perhaps best in class. These consist of 11.7-inch vented discs in the front and 12.1-inch solid discs in the rear, augmented by ABS and electronic brake-force distribution, which ensures that all four brakes work at maximum effectiveness during an aggressive stop.

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Most Japanese sedans are content to go with Mr. MacPherson's struts, but the IS300 is fitted with upper and lower control arms, coil springs, and an anti-roll bar at the front and, at the rear, upper control arms, lower lateral links, toe-control links on either side, coil springs, and an anti-roll bar. A Torsen limited-slip differential is optional. Steering is by rack and pinion. Our test vehicle had the 17 x 7 alloy rims and Goodyear Eagle GS-D tires. When winter came, we called Tire Rack and fitted four of their striking Mille Miglia sixteen-inch wheels, shod with Dunlop SP Winter Sport M2 snow tires. Both left-side wheels were damaged by one of Michigan's prodigious potholes and had to be replaced before spring arrived.

Those tire changes, in fact, incurred our only nonwarranty repair costs. Total warranty costs--paid by the manufacturer--came to about $1500, $1300 of which involved the stereo. This was one good car, and it earned the affectionate admiration of all who drove it. At the same time, our Lexus dealer--Meade Lexus of Southfield, Michigan--provided service as good as the car itself. We wound up loving the Meade Lexus employees, too. Copy editor Matt Phenix feared that one of his favorite CDs was lost when our test car's CD changer ate it. Upon discovering that the disc was wedged in the number two slot in the changer, the service people simply removed the original-equipment CD player, sent it off to Japan for an autopsy, and replaced it with a new one. Imagine Phenix's delight a couple of weeks later when the CD in question was returned to him--from Japan--unharmed.

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When we received our IS300, the car was not available with a manual transmission. Pragmatic engineering logic told the development team that a sophisticated five-speed automatic, enhanced by pushbutton manual controls on the steering wheel, would provide the most practical shifting solution for the largest number of IS300 prospects. It became abundantly clear early in the program that the Lexus would not be fully accepted in the enthusiast community without a traditional hand-shifted lever and clutch pedal. This demand is not practical or pragmatic. It has to do with a car enthusiast's ideas of driving fun and self-expression, colored by the important fact that the BMW and Audi competitors are available with manual gearboxes that continue to be quite popular.

If the target market breaks down to 80/20 or 70/30 in favor of automatics in a car of this type, our staff probably breaks down to 60/40 in favor of manual shifting. We were crazy about this car, but several of us complained about the manually shifted automatic as a substitute for the genuine obsolete article. There were also complaints about the complexity of the shifting protocol. After experimenting briefly with the pushbuttons, we tended to ignore them and drive the car purely as an automatic. Now, however, the IS300 is available with a very slick five-speed manual transmission, and grumbling about the gearbox should go away.

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