Lexus IS Saloon 1999 - 2005

Lexus IS Saloon 1999 - 2005

Review by it
Monday, May 16, 2016

Pros:

  • Sporty and active
  • Well equipped and built to high standards
  • Good reliability

Cons:

  • Too little space at the rear and in the boot

Overview

Lexus IS was developed as a cheaper entry-level luxury car to tempt European and North American buyers away from BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C Class. It made its debut as a pilot project in 1998 as the Toyota Altezza. After it had proven technical reliability and salability they launched the sporty model in Europe and USA. The IS was significantly cheaper than other Lexus products and competitively priced to be a contender in the busy European compact executive market, the baby Lexus was soon one of the most popular cars in its sector.

Exterior and Interior

Although the car spent the first year of its life as the Altezza (and finding a core fan base), the whole design team behind the project was 100% Europe-focused. The car was designed as a direct competitor to the European models hence so much emphasis was applied to make it appealing for the Western customer. The small Lexus is a good looking car. It came with several design innovations, including a new type front lights and the characteristic round extra brake lights. The same style lights were also featured on the GS model, but were unfortunately dropped with the introduction of the 2nd generation models. When it comes to interior design, you cannot really wish for more. Everything is made of good-quality materials and is assembled carefully. The inside the Lexus IS feels sporty, a sensation that is enhanced by the smart chronograph-styled dials. The front seats are brilliant to sit in as they are incredibly comfortable and there's even plenty of space for taller people. Considering the IS was made a little shorter and narrower than its main competitor, the BMW 3 Series, the rear seats feel rather crammed. Having 3 passengers at the back is an option due to the number of seats, but they won't feel comfortable, especially at the shoulder level. Due to the short body, the boot volume is 400 litres, which is 10% smaller than the 3-Series. The kit level is not disappointing no matter which trim you choose, however, if find the thought of a Lexus without leather seats a weird idea avoid the S trim.

Performance and Economy

Performance-wise there's really nothing to divide the IS with a similar age BMW 320i. The 2.0-litre engine by Lexus provides 153BHP, accelerates to 60mph in 9.2 seconds and has a top speed of 134mph. The BMW 3-Series was sold with almost an identical engine producing 148BHP accelerating from 0-60mph in 9.9-seconds and with a top speed of 134mph. With similar size and handling characteristics, the only way you can choose is according to your design and image preferences. For sporty high-rev engines, the Lexus units are quite efficient. The 2.0-litre V6 provides 29mpg, while the 3.0-litre engine is capable of 26mpg. Both engines are quite thirsty when driven in town but that's what you expect from any V6 petrol engine.

Like to Drive

The Lexus IS offers a quality driving experience for those sportier drivers. It has a keen steering, safe brake system and superb grip. The trims are very comfortable and bumpy roads shouldn't trouble you. If you care for a sportier feel, choose an IS in a Sport trim. Unlike with some other competitors, the Sport trim doesn't mean a dull plastic add-on spoiler with a sticker ‐ the Sport IS comes with a stiffer suspension, which, depending on your taste, can be a great feature. It doesn't improve the comfort, just the opposite, but it makes the handling sharper and the car really benefits from this additional feeling.

Faults and Repairs

When Lexus was launched, one of their main commitments was to build reliable cars to have any chance of competing with the top European brands. With modern Toyotas already being quite reliable, the cars that were built to bear a Lexus badge enjoyed an even better level of craftsmanship. There is not much to worry about regarding technical issues in the IS. Problems may occur in used versions of the Lexus IS if the owners has taken the "Sport" badge a bit too far, the car is not built to take part in racing and does requires regular maintenance.


Overall Rating:
Review by matthewj1268
Monday, May 16, 2016

Overview

"Lovely car but dated"

Exterior and Interior

I think this is a very stylish car, easy on the eyes and the Anthracite colour suited it very well. My model only had 16' wheels, they 17' look much better. The interior design is funky but the materials are hard plastics from another era, not great in a car sold up to 2005. I love the chronograph instruments. The cloth seats are very comfortable and durable, my 2001 model had no marks, stand or rips. Space is adequate fro a car of this kind but low in utility.

Performance and Economy

It isn't a fire cracker, 150hp is not a lot these days. However it doesn't feel slow, it has good punch for overtaking. The economy is bad when being driven hard but once you learn how to treat it, the is200 will average 31ish mpg which is not bad for a 6 cylinder car.

Like to Drive

Its a beautiful car to drive, superbly weighted steering, she loads up wonderfully in corners with the RWD set-up offering just a little bit of predictable slip when driving hard. A joy! The engine is a dinosaur and it drones unpleasantly at motorway speeds but when driven enthusiastically it sings like few others. In summary, it is an ok highway car but best suited to blasting the b roads. <

Faults and Repairs

No faults on my car worth mentioning, nor were there any repairs in its entire life as I had all the documents and receipts. That is hugely impressive.
Quality
Performance
Comfort
Value