I got my 2001 IS300 used with over 100,000 miles on it. My family has owned 8 Toyotas and 3 Lexus, and combined with what I've read and heard from automotive experts and mechanics, I was confident in Toyota's legendary reliability. I did a LOT of research before settling on this car. In two years I've replaced tires, brake pads (some idiot installed metal pads which warped the rotors, instead of the original ceramic pads), spark plugs, and a K&N FIPK. All routine, preventative, or optional maintenance.
I couldn't afford $33,000 for a new one, so I paid less than half that for a used one. At this price range ($15,000), it outshines any new Civic, Corolla, or Hyundai (with the exception of gas mileage). We're talking about a car adapted from the Japanese Toyota Altezza (already a very sporty sedan) to compete with the BMW 3-series. So even though it's used, for the price I have a VERY nice car.
Here's what I mean by "best balanced"
. I had 3 priorities coming from the Honda Prelude and Celica GT.
1.) Excellent handling and decent acceleration:
I didn't want to give up the precise, sporty handling I enjoyed in the Celica and Prelude for the floaty, insulated feeling of the Lexus ES and GS I had driven. I was not disappointed. The IS300 goes from smooth, effortless city driving to wild canyon carver instantly. The 2JZ inline-6 engine from the normally aspirated Supra has great torque and a silky rev. I love the steering response & feedback, and wonderfully balanced suspension! Unfortunately, Road&Track described the newer IS as feeling "like a baby GS" with a softer suspension than the previous model. Toyota took the Supra away, then the MR2-Spyder and Celica. Lexus dulls their only driver's car to a mini-luxury sedan (kudos for 91 more horsepower though). What are we sports car/Toyota fans supposed to drive? 350Zs and S2000s? Ok off the soapbox.
Lexus/Toyota has a well-deserved reputation as the most reliable car in the world. I read over a hundred reviews written by BMW 3-series owners. Reliability seemed hit and miss. Half said "Best car I've ever owned" while the other half said "It's in the shop more than I drive it". And these were new car buyers, while I planned to find a more affordable used car. The BMW 330i was the only small sports sedan that topped the IS300 in performance (at the time).
I would love to just drive a Honda S2000 or an MR2-Spyder to work everyday. But I am married now and I frequently take on more passengers than just my wife. And with kids on the horizon, a sedan was pretty important. The IS300 has a good sized trunk and nobody has complained about the back seat being small. (In my family, they would not hesitate.) I might complain that the back seats don't fold forward to extend the trunk, but I threw a blanket over the seat and laid my mountain bike across last weekend. So far it hasn't hampered my lifestyle.
was somewhat lower on my priorities. For me, it's more about what the car does for me when I'm driving, than what it does for other people when they see me go by. But I do like the 17" chrome rims, the aggressive front end, the leather-trimmed, suede-like, alcantra seats, and the cool, chrono-style gauge cluster. More plastic and less leather or wood doesn't bother me at all. The interior is very sharp and well assembled.
The IS300 was the only choice for me with the perfect combination of amazing handling and muscular engine, Lexus reliability, and practical trunk and backseat. I may have compromised on performance by not getting a 350z or S2000. I may have compromised on room and luxury by not getting a larger car (Lexus GS). But I got a great mix of the two in this solid little car that fits the daily life of this 32-year-old professional perfectly.
Amount Paid (US$):
2001Model and Options: