2002-2005 Lexus IS300 SportCross

0110 Lexus Is300 Sportcross 01

Ann Arbor - Being radical is supposed to be all about throwing off the shackles of conformity, but it seems to have a hegemony all its own. Consider the Lexus IS300 SportCross. Fearful of alienating the multipierced hipsters the company wooed to its first lively-driving car, the IS300, Lexus dared not add a hatchback (deemed too economy car) or a station wagon (thought not edgy enough, although the Audi A4, the BMW 3-series, and the Mercedes-Benz C-class all have one).

Thus emerged the shape you see here, not as square as a wagon, not as sloped as a hatchback. Functionally, though, the SportCross is closer to the latter. It's only 0.4 inch longer than the sedan and 1.2 inches taller. Rear-seat riders who don't turn around might never know they're in anything other than an IS300 sedan, as the SportCross's back-seat space is identical. (A giveaway would be if the right front seatback were folded forward to make a table; that's a trick only the SportCross can do.) And, of course, the SportCross can bring along another 11.7 cubic feet of active lifestyle stuff that the sedan would have to leave at the curb. But don't fret, my goateed friends, the SportCross's 21.8-cubic-foot cargo hold is hardly wagonlike.

Because it's only 125 pounds heavier, the SportCross drives pretty much the same as the IS300 sedan. Unless, that is, you're comparing it with the new-for-2002 IS300 sedan with the stick shift; that transmission, and the firmer suspension that accompanies it, won't be offered to SportCrossers. The SportCross does share the IS300's other '02 updates, however, including standard side curtain air bags and brake assist and optional all-leather interior, stability control, and navigation system (perfect for getting to that hard-to-find rave).

Although we're hopelessly unhip, we like the IS300 a lot. We can't see why Lexus would have any trouble getting 5000 dudes per year to go for the IS300 SportCross--unless the slope of its backside somehow is insufficiently radical.

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