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2001 Lexus IS 300 Road Test

2001 Lexus IS 300 - Wicked Little Wonder

Lexus has come a long way since it stood the luxury car manufacturing world on its ear 10 years ago with the wonderfully refined LS 400 sedan and Toyota Camry-based ES250. From a fledgling two-model line-up, Lexus is now producing six distinct models, including two sport utilities, one sports coupe (soon with retractable hardtop) and three sedans. You would think with three sedans Lexus have all angles covered, but this isn't how they saw it. Until now, they were missing an important ingredient in the mix, a compact sport sedan.

But wait, Lexus, the small sport sedan market is sacred territory. After all, with BMW practically creating and owning this category since time immemorial, and superb competition form Audi and Mercedes-Benz nipping at its low profile heals, what room is there for a Japanese upstart like Lexus? Plenty, as it seems.

First of all, Lexus made one thing very clear from the get-go. The new car would be all about performance. Did they succeed? In spades! The IS 300's rear-wheel drive configuration endows it with respect even before stepping inside, but that's not where the admiration ends, as this little bomb offers much more go than show. First of all, it's one of the nimblest handling sedans on the market, period. While zipping in and out of tight traffic or kicking the rear end out on a twisting backcountry road, the little Lexus yearns to go flat out. It's a blast to drive. This handling prowess is due as much in part to its performance-tuned, four-wheel, double-wishbone suspension system as it is to its 16 by 6.5 inch alloy wheels shod with P205/55 R16 Bridgestone performance all-season radial tires - and the aforementioned rear-wheel drive layout, of course.