- Helping you drive happy

2002 LEXUS IS 300

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Alex Law

In an attempt to keep building interest in the IS 300 sports sedan it launched in June, Toyota Canada's upscale Lexus division will bring out two more iterations of that model this August.

In the view of Larry Hutchinson, the national manager of the Lexus division of Toyota Canada Inc., "Each of these new models offers important alternatives to IS 300 owners with differing lifestyles and needs."

The 5-speed manual edition is essentially the fulfillment of a promise made when the original model was launched, so it's the IS 300 SportCross that will be the most interesting addition to the brand.

SportCross is a 5-door hatchback that bows deeply in the direction of the wagon-ute segment created by the Subaru Outback, though it stops short of offering any form of all-wheel-drive.

Hutchison says SportCross does offer the same sporty performance as the sedan with a five-door body style and the "flexible interior configuration that suits an active lifestyle."

SportCross "blurs the lines between body types," Hutchison says, as it combines a "dynamic performance image with a level of versatility normally found only in a conventional wagon." Like the other IS models, the SportCross was designed for the European market and brings that sensibility with it across the Atlantic.

According to Nobuaki Katayama, chief engineer for the car, this look "admittedly places unique design ahead of maximum utility. We wanted to preserve the image of dynamic performance with the IS 300 SportCross. We felt that a conventional wagon body would detract from that image, and on the other hand we also knew that IS 300 customers were less inclined to require the full utility of a boxy shape."

The hood, front fenders and front doors are adopted from the IS 300 sedan, Hutchison explains, but are combined with a new front fascia, roof, rear quarter panels, rear doors and rear side glass. "The tailgate is unique to the SportCross, but does share the sedan's taillight design. A subtle rear roof spoiler adds a touch of flair."

Hutchison says SportCross's utility comes from it having a tonneau cover to keep valuables out of sight, a luggage box, a cargo area "false floor" to keep small items hidden, a folding passenger seat with a seatback table, and a rear power outlet.

As well, the "Split-folding rear seats and the folding front passenger seat offer convenient flexibility for carrying large or long equipment," he says. "Taking advantage of the new cargo area of the SportCross, Lexus upgraded this model's audio system to nine speakers from the sedan's eight."

Like the sedan, the IS 300 SportCross will be offered in one high-content equipment level, with just a few options and option packages available.

Powered by the same engine and five-speed automatic transmission as the IS 300 sedan, the SportCross is also equipped with the racing-inspired E-Shift steering wheel shifting controls.

"The crisp 5-speed manual transmission in the sedan will cater to drivers who prefer a more 'hands-on' relationship with the 3-liter inline-6's power. The manual-equipped sedan will also feature slightly firmer suspension tuning than the automatic model."

The IS 300 engine, which is shared with the larger GS 300 performance/luxury sedan, produces 215 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 218 pound-feet of peak torque at 3,800 rpm. According to Hutchison, this engine delivers both high-revving power and strong low-end and mid-range torque, due in large part to Variable Valve Timing with intelligence.

All IS 300 models for 2002 will benefit from new safety technology and interior detail enhancements. The standard anti-lock brake system (ABS) with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) will add the Lexus Brake Assist feature for 2002.

"Brake Assist can determine emergency braking and, if the driver has not stepped hard enough on the brake pedal," Hutchison says, it will "supplement the applied braking power."

Every Lexus is covered by an industry-leading warranty, covering the entire vehicle for 48 months/80,000 kilometres. Power train and major components are covered for 72 months/110,000 kilometres, and corrosion perforation is warranted for 72 months with unlimited distance.

The 48-month Lexus roadside assistance program provides travel planning as well as the extra security and confidence of a dedicated toll-free telephone number and emergency service or towing 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Alex Law
Alex Law
Automotive expert