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I just got off the phone with a car dealer who my family has bought several cars from over the last decade. I've been waffling as to whether or not I want to sell my truck and ski boat in favor of a car I can get back into autocrossing with. I've had a thing for the Lexus IS300 since they came out in '01, but my fun money has been tied up in other internal combustion toys. After a few summers of lots of time on the boat, I think it may be time to make the move. I've researched this car and e-mailed with autocrossers, and it looks like this car is a competatively classed (though the new ZHP BMW may edge it out) for stock class. It will be an awesome daily driver, and selling my Yukon and boat will just about pay for the Lexus, not to mention pleasing all of the SUV haters over on LBYM... So, I think it's official. My guy is going to talk to his Lexus contacts and watch auctions for me. I will only go for a 5 speed with limited slip diff, so it may take a while to find the right one.

Guess I better bring lunch to work to save my money for race tires!

PAK--car nut
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Sounds like a lot of fun Peter!

Does the IS300 have an upgraded suspension from the IS250? A friend of mine bought an IS250 recently, and when I drove it, I thought it was kinda soft and had too much body roll.

I just ordered a new set of wheels for my S2000, and I'm debating putting a set of Toyo RA1s on the OEMs for some weekend fun.

Jeff
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I got to drive the IS300, BMW 323 and a bunch of other cars in that class during an Edmunds test thing they had just when the new 3 and IS300 came out....I guess around 2001.

On the first run, of the 5 cars, I had the IS300 and then the 3 series as the top two in that order.

After driving for a while, even with the IS300 having the extra power....the 3 series just had a better feel to it and all around better run. In the end....there was no question the BMW won and the 3 came in a relatively distant second.....even though it had more power. If I was driving the 325.....there would be no comparison.

FYI: The course was a small autocross type setup and I was sliding all over the place with all of them. For an autocross car......the Lexus just isn't the one I would choose. Then again, I own a Miata these days. I highly suggest testing out the Bimmer's of the same year......I think they will win hands down....especially for autocross.
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Thanks for the responses guys. I don't know much about the IS250's, and it has been some work to track down the information I wanted on the 300. I think that because it has not been produced in massive numbers and is still to expensive to be available to the younger generation--therefore not a ton of information on forums.

dbruce, the 2001 model was only available in automatic, and when they made the five speed the base in 2002 it also got a stiffer suspension than the auto models. The zero to sixty numbers are also about a half second quicker with the stick.

For stock autocrossing the 3 series is a definite threat. I think if set up correctly, it comes down to the driver. I like the styling of the Lexus better and while BMW makes great cars, I like the idea of Toyota reliability a little bit better. I'm pondering a stiffer front sway bar to start, and if I do get really serious some revalved Koni's and an exhaust. For now, I'll be excited just to be playing in the cones again, even if it is on street tires to start.

PAK
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I've had a thing for the Lexus IS300 since they came out in '01

I seriously cross-shopped the IS300 in 2003, before I bought my RSX Type-S. I thought then, and still think, that the looks of the IS300 are WAY cool. The interior is to die for, and the exterior is VERY sharp, IMHO, much edgier than the bland, even blah, Lexus-corporate styling of the IS350.

I don't autocross, and have no idea how it stacks up in autocrossing. However, in street performance, as best as I could tell in several test drives, in pure stock, dealer test cars, I liked the Acura better. The Acura FELT lighter, not surprisingly, since it is 500 lbs. lighter. Just seat of the pants performance testing, the extra 15hp of the IS300 didn't seem like enough to make up for the 500 lb. weight difference, particularly given the fact that it had one less gear ratio.

Again, not surprisingly, the IS300 felt like an inline six, torquey, extra-smooth, powerful. The exhaust note, though, was especially disappointing - don't want to scare the bourgeoise in their LS430's when you bring it in for servicing. My dad has an M3, one of the Lexus' targets in designing the IS300, and it has a much more aggressive exhaust note.

In comparison, the RSX Type-S felt like a VTEC four - not nearly as much torque as the IS300, and much less smooth. On the plus side, you get the VTEC rush at 4000-plus RPM, and you can rev to 8000. Although I don't race, it felt more like a race car to me.

Overall, my take on the IS300 is that it should be a great choice if you tweak it a little bit to overcome Toyota's inherent conservatism. With a more aggressive exhaust, in particular, and maybe a few other performance mods, I bet it'll be a blast to drive. How much tweaking can you do within the autocross regs?

martybl
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How much tweaking can you do within the autocross regs?

There's no limit whatsoever to the amount of tweaking you can do to your car and still participate in autocross. It's just a matter of what class you will compete in and how tweaked the other cars will be that you're going up against.

I race in AS (A Stock) which means I can't really do anything to my M Roadster. My girlfriend races in SM2 (Street Modified 2) because she'd dropped forced induction and all sorts of go-fast bits into her Miata. There's a guy we see each meet who has stripped his miata down to basically one seat, an engine, and two doors. I have no idea what class that is, but his car is scary to ride in. :)
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My dad has an M3, one of the Lexus' targets in designing the IS300, and it has a much more aggressive exhaust note.

I happened to have a 95 M3 at the time I went for the Edmunds test drive. The IS300 in no way compared to the M3. It just didn't have the soul. All cars I had to drive had an auto at Edmunds.....unfortunate but not the reason for my downgrade of the IS300. My M3 at the time had a 5-speed.

Just in the fun factor area.....the Lexus just didn't make it. My friend test drove a few cars in 2003 and decided on a 5 series above the IS300 with similar feelings to what I had. The salesmen from the dealer we test drove the IS300 mentioned that I would not be allowed to test drive a car ever again at their dealership (I had a tendancy to really test a car).

Reliability is important....but I believe you give up a lot considering the competition out there.



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From my previous post, look into a 1995 to 2000 M3 (E36). The car will make the IS300 look like I toy. The IS300 is a nice car.....the E36 M3 was a machine.

The E36 M3 can be had for 10-20K depending on year and condition. They are very reliable. One of the tuners near my house has/had the highest HP E36 M3 in the country. He also had a loaner E36 with 200K on it that was very reliable with the treatment it got on a daily basis.
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Peter,

This article in Autoweek may interest you.... sounds like the driving nannies are taking over in the IS.

BMW 330i vs. IS350
http://www.autoweek.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060206/FREE/60126002/1012/DoubleTake

It is the two approaches to yaw control that stands out. As we said, BMW's DSC and DTC can be turned off. Lexus' VDIM can also be turned off, but then it magically switches itself back on at around 30 mph, and stays on. You can scramble the computer and cancel VDIM completely via a complicated pedal dance that must be performed every time you start the car, but Lexus doesn't want you to know about that. In fact, Lexus reps swear to us there is no way to circumvent the system.

The IS 350 had hinted it might be a contender. It feels well-balanced and tossable, controllable at the limit and great fun... as long as you keep it under 30 mph. Now how the heck are you supposed to do that? We have never gone through the slalom at anywhere near 30 mph. Even in the most bloated minivan or the most flatulent SUV, we are well over that speed. A car like this should achieve at least 45 mph in our tight, 490-foot slalom.

You cannot do the slalom at 30 and call yourself an enthusiast driver, or even alive and aware of your surroundings. And VDIM is not just a suggestion. It shuts down the whole operation by braking various corner wheels and cutting power to the engine until you are crawling around through the cones like a flopping drunk on the sidewalk. The real tragedy here is that the reason the Lexus doesn't clean the BMW's digital clock is simply because its darn electronics cannot be shut off without going all Norman Bates. After several runs trying to work things out, we had to divorce ourselves from the Lexus based on irreconcilable differences. Any speed over 30, 35 mph, and the car becomes hobbled. Lexus could suddenly find itself winning some of these inevitable comparison tests if it would just reprogram a few algorithms. For whatever reason, it won't.

Lexus brought a knife to a gunfight and still managed to shoot itself in the foot. The 3 Series is indeed the better car.
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This article in Autoweek may interest you.... sounds like the driving nannies are taking over in the IS.

Man, so close Lexus. You made a good looking car, the right style and size to take on the 3-series. And it has the major HP advantage in the IS350 too, a seriously fast car. You could've at least won over the power junkies. And then you saddle it with an auto-trans and the electronic helping-hands that you can't turn off. I'm sure the average buyer welcomes that stuff but the 3-series is all about reputation and image. You gotta win some magazine tests to challenge the 3. And you can't do that with stubborn stability control and a slush-box.

-Andrew
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