Lexus IS300 and IS350 history and description

Click here for the IS-F

First generation: IS300

Just as the LS targeted Mercedes' S-Class - and beat it rather nicely - the IS targeted BMW's 3-series, albeit less effectively, with sales around 20% of the small BMWs. The IS300 was smaller than the BMW, with a fairly tight rear seat, but its comfort level was higher. (The Lexus IS300 was sold as the Toyota Altezza in Japan.)

The IS 300 was first shown in 1999, and went on sale in June, 2000, appearing shortly afterwards as the CART Championship pace car. In 2001, a five-speed manual-transmission version was unveiled along with the IS 300 SportCross. The little-known SportCross was publicized somewhat by two racing entries in the 2001 Grand-Am Cup North American Street Stock Series, along with the sedan.  The IS was competitive immediately and scored its first pole position in its fourth race and first race win in the fifth round at Virginia International Raceway. (The SportCross and 5-speed manual versions went on sale in August 2001, along with the limited-edition L-Tuned model, sold only in Western states).

Two years later, in March 2003, the IS SportDesign was launched – essentially, a cosmetic package with a special grille, tailpipe, and other touches. 

The Lexus IS 300 used an in-line six-cylinder engine (shared with the Supra) with rear-wheel drive; the interior was more sport than luxury, with beautiful watch-like gauges. The six produced 215 horsepower and 218 lb-ft of torque, using variable valve timing to broaden its torque curve; it also had a two-stage induction system and a two-way bypass muffler to enhance breathing and lower noise. A double wishbone suspension provided excellent handling.

The automatic transmission sedan and SportCross featured E-Shift steering wheel-mounted shift buttons for finger-tip control over gear shifts when desired.

The IS 300 SportCross was essentially a wagon/crossover version with similar dimensions as the sedan.  The rear tailgate, split fold-down rear seatback and fold-down front passenger seatback allowed the SportCross to carry long or oddly shaped items that might not fit easily in conventional sedans.  The folding passenger seat had a seatback table and rear power outlet.

A low 0.29 coefficient of drag (Cd) on the sedan lowered wind noise, while sound-dampening asphalt sheets in the roof and floorpan quieted the interior without dulling the growl of the engine.

A rear spoiler was optional for the sedans, and the SportCross had a unique spoiler as standard equipment.

The IS 300 had drilled aluminum pedals with rubber pads, stainless steel doorsill scuff plates, and supportive height-adjustable seats.  Standard features included 17-inch wheels, low-profile performance-tread tires, auto-dimming side and rearview mirrors, High-Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights and a high-power audio system with a cassette player and a six-disc in-dash CD changer with eight speakers (nine in SportCross). 

The interior could be outfitted with an optional leather/Alcantara trim package or a full leather-trimmed interior in ivory or black.  Other options included eight-way power driver’s and passenger seats, heated front seats, and a power moonroof .

The Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) system was available as an option on the SportCross and automatic sedan.  VSC helps control traction while cornering on slippery or dry road surfaces by using throttle intervention and/or applying individual wheel braking to help control any discrepancy between where the driver is steering and where the vehicle is heading. VSC supplements the standard full-range traction control (TRAC), which helps to limit rear-wheel slip on acceleration.  The four-sensor, four-channel anti-lock brake system (ABS) features both Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist.  EBD optimizes front-to-rear brake balance for added control under hard braking and left-to-right under hard braking when cornering.  Brake Assist is designed to determine if the driver is attempting emergency braking and, if the driver has not stepped firmly enough on the brake pedal to engage the ABS, the system supplements the braking power applied until pedal pressure is released.

The front seatbelts in the IS 300 models incorporate pretensioners and height-adjustable anchors, along with force limiters that help manage the forces to the upper torso in a serious frontal collision.  The Supplemental Restraint Systems (SRS) include dual front airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags, and side curtain airbags for the driver and front passenger.  Mounting the side airbags in the seats keeps them consistently placed relative to seat occupants regardless of a front seat’s position.  The speed-sensitive and shift-linked automatic door lock/unlock system is a personal security feature.

The optional Lexus Navigation System uses a DVD for map storage, containing the contiguous United States, and major cities in Canada, on one disc.  Functions include high-speed route calculation (about five seconds), multi-route calculation, route preview, simplified highway junction graphics and a dual-map screen mode. The navigation system screen deploys from the dashboard, allowing the owner to hide it when it is not in use.  Simple-to-use remote controls for the system are located between the front seats in the center console. Models not equipped with the navigation system feature a dashboard storage compartment with a spring-loaded retractable lid.

Second generation: IS250 and IS350

The larger, quicker, quieter second generation IS was introduced in October 2005, as 2006 models. Both featured new high-performance V6 engines with rear wheel drive; the IS250 had optional all wheel drive and a choice of a manual or automatic transmission. The IS350 came only with rear drive and an automatic, but used the new Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system, a more sophisticated and powerful stability control than used in the IS250. The chronograph-inspired dashboard was replaced with a more conventional unit, and the automatic gained steering-wheel paddles for upshifting and downshifting.

Safety features include front and rear side curtain airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags, driver and passenger airbags, automatic locking retractors for all but the driver who got emergency locking retractors, seat belt pretensioners, front ventilated dsic brakes, tandom brake booster, four-sensor/four channel ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, vehicle stability control (or vehicle dynamics integrated management), tire pressure monitoring, impact beams and crumple zones, impact-dissipating and soft upper headliner and pillars.

For more details, see our IS350 test drive. | Click here for the IS-F

 Lexus IS sedan specifications and such


2005 2007


105.1 in.


Overall Length

176.6 in.


Overall Width

67.9 in.


Overall Height (unloaded)

55.5 in.


Tread Width     - Front/Rear

58.9 in. / 58.5


Ground Clearance (unloaded)

5.3 in.


Interior Dimensions



Seating Capacity



Headroom - Front / Rear

39.1 in. (37.8 in. with moonroof) /
37.7 in. (37.3 in. with moonroof)

39.0 (37.2)
36.9 (36.7)

Legroom   - Front / Rear

42.7 in. / 30.2 in.

43.9 / 30.7

Shoulder Room – Front / Rear

52.6 in. / 53.5 in.

54.4 / 52.7

Hip Room  - Front / rear

52.8 in. / 53.9 in.

54.1 / 53.7

EPA Passenger Volume             

89.2 cu. ft.

88.3 c.f.

EPA Cargo Volume

10.1 cu. ft.

13.0 c.f.

Curb Weight

3,255 lbs (MT) / 3,285 lbs.  (AT)

3,435-3,651 (250)
3,527 (350)

Weight Distribution

54 / 46 (MT) / AT: 54 / 46

52/48 (RWD)
54/46 (AWD)

Fuel Capacity

17.5 gal.

17.1 gallon


IS250 IS350
Engine 2JZ-GE (in-line six cylinder) 4GR-FSE V6 2GR-FSE V6


Cast iron block with aluminum head

Aluminum block and heads


DOHC 24 valve with VVT-i

Same but with dual VVT

Displacement, bore, stroke

3.0 liter /  3.39 in. x 3.39 in.

2.5 l / 3.27 x 3.03 3.5 l / 3.7 x 3.27

Compression Ratio


12.0:1 11.8:1

Horsepower (SAE)

215 hp @ 5,800 rpm

204 @ 6,400 306 @ 6,400


218 lb.-ft. @ 3,800 rpm

185 @ 4,800 277 @ 4,800

Maximum Engine Speed

6,400 rpm

6,600 rpm 6,600 rpm

Fuel Requirement

91 octane premium unleaded

Emission Certification

LEV (50 state) as of 2005 ULEV II





IS250 IS250 AWD

Transmission Type

5-speed manual

5-speed automatic

6-speed manual 6-speed auto




RA62 A760H(250)
A760E (350)

Gear Ratios        1st



3.79 3.52




2.28 2.04



1.52 1.40



1.12 1.00




1.00 0.72
6th     0.79 0.59




3.47 3.22

Differential Ratio



3.73 4.10 (250)
4.08 (350)


Chassis and Body


IS250 RWD, IS350

Body / Frame

Unitized steel body/frame structure


Double wishbone, coil springs, stabilizer bar front; multilink rear with coil springs, stabilizer bar

Steering - Type

Engine speed-sensing power-assisted rack and pinion

Electric variable power asisst rack and pinion

- Overall Ratio



- Turns, Lock to Lock



- Turning Circle

34.1 ft.

33.5 ft


Front, 11.65 in. vented disc; rear, 12.09 in. solid disc

Front 11.65 Vented (13.15 spiral-vented on IS350); rear, 11.45 solid disc (12.2 vented, IS350)

Standard Wheel Size / Type

17x7 JJ (SportCross rear 17x7.5 JJ) five-spoke aluminum alloy

225/45VR17 front
245/45VR17 rear

     - Option 1

Graphite-polished finish

225/40YR18 summer front
255/40YR18 summer rear

     - Option 2

11-spoke aluminum


     - Option 3 (SportCross)

16x6.5 JJ five-spoke aluminum alloy


Tire Size / Type

215/45ZR17 summer (SportCross rear 225/45ZR 17)


     - Optional

All-season (same sizes)


     - Optional (SportCross only)

205/55R16 all-season


Spare Tire and Wheel

Full size tire with aluminum wheel




SportCross IS250 IS250 AWD IS350

0 – 60 MPH

M/T: 6.8 sec.
A/T: 7.3 sec.

7.4 7.9 8.3 5.6

0 – 1/4 mile

M/T: 15.1 sec.
A/T: 15.5 sec.

15.6 16.0 16.0 14.2

Top Track Speed

143.7 mph

  142 M/T
140 A/T
130 142

EPA mpg – City / Highway

M/T: 18 / 25;
A/T: 18 / 24

  20/28 M/T
24/32 A/T
22/28 21/28

Coefficient of Drag (Cd)


0.31 0.28 0.28 0.28


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