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Story by Toyota: 7th January 2000

Lexus Unveils All-New IS 300 Sport Sedan for 2001

Lexus will expand its award-winning line of luxury automobiles and sport utility vehicles with the all-new IS 300 compact sport sedan, which arrives in July as a 2001 model. With its 215-horsepower, 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine and a sophisticated rear-wheel drive chassis design, the IS 300 will challenge the notion that the best high-performance compact sport sedans come only with European nameplates.

Lexus IS300. Photograph by Wieck.

Positioned below the Lexus GS luxury high-performance models, the IS 300 will compete with such established sport sedans as the Audi A4 and BMW 3-series. Pricing, to be announced later, will be extremely competitive with those cars. Lexus expects the IS 300 to enhance the brand's appeal among buyers in the 25-40 age group - "bust" and "trail" baby boomers in marketing lingo.

The introduction of the IS 300 will give Lexus two distinct "entry" products to reach two different buyer groups. The IS 300 will offer renowned Lexus quality, craftsmanship, safety and attention to detail in a boldly styled, fun-to-drive, high-performance package. The highly successful Lexus ES 300 entry-luxury sedan will continue to cater to buyers who prefer elegant styling, a quiet ride and the benefits of front-wheel drive.

"The new IS 300 will appeal to buyers who value athletic performance and bold design over pure luxury," said Lexus Group Vice President and General Manager Bryan Bergsteinsson. "In many ways, the new IS 300 is close in character to the GS 400, the performance leader of the Lexus line."

Unlike competitive models that offer entry powertrains, the Lexus IS 300 will come standard with a 215-horsepower, 3.0-liter inline six cylinder engine that's more powerful than even the step-up engines in those cars. In fact, the IS 300 inherits its powertrain from the larger GS 300 sedan. As in that model, the engine employs Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) to optimize valve overlap throughout the engine's speed range (not just at one or two set speeds). VVT-i eliminates the traditional compromise between low-end torque and high-rpm horsepower, giving the IS 300 the feel of having a larger-displacement engine. The IS 300 engine produces 218 lb.-ft. of peak torque at 3,800 rpm.

The IS 300 engine will be paired with an electronically controlled five-speed automatic transmission with Formula One-inspired E-Shift steering-wheel gear-selection controls.

Lexus designed the IS 300 to exude a taut, athletic appearance and attitude while remaining true to its Lexus identity. The tightly drawn, sharp-edged lines of the IS 300 are like nothing else in the Lexus product line, yet the grille and headlight detailing make the car immediately identifiable as a Lexus. A wedge profile, semi-fastback roofline and very short overhangs combine to give the IS 300 a "condensed high performance" stance.

The sleek profile appeals not only to the eyes, but to the wind tunnel, as well. A low 0.28 coefficient of drag (Cd) ensures low wind noise and low fuel consumption. External detailing that highlights the angular lines includes clear-lens taillights, standard High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights set behind composite covers and a low-slung front airdam with built-in foglights.

"The IS 300 is an emotional design, inside and out, and we know it's different for Lexus," said Bergsteinsson. "But, we're confident at least 25,000 people a year will love it and will buy it."

The Lexus IS 300 interior design complements its bold, purposeful exterior and makes some competitors' "sport" packages look tame by comparison. Interior surfaces blend modern and classic sports car touches, including drilled aluminum pedals and stainless steel doorsill scuff plates with rubber pads. The gearshift and other interior accents feature a metallic finish. The IS 300 includes supportive height-adjustable sport seats as standard equipment, and customers can order the optional eight-way power combination leather/suede-like seats.

A unique, chronograph-style combination gauge cluster inspired by sport watches sits within the speedometer and dominates the instrument panel. While giving the IS 300 a unique interior appearance, the chronograph instrument cluster allowed designers to package eight instrument readouts within clear view through the standard leather-wrapped, three-spoke steering wheel. The cluster contains gauges for coolant temperature, battery level and average fuel consumption. Flanking the cluster are a tachometer on the left and a fuel level gauge and gearshift position indicator on the right.

The sweeping, no-gimmick center console houses the standard automatic climate control and high-performance stereo system, with large, easy-to-use controls. Along with the AM/FM/cassette head unit, the IS 300 comes standard with an in-dash, single-feed six-disc CD changer. The high-power system includes front door mounted full-range speakers, titanium tweeters in the A-pillar trim and 6" x 9" woofer and 2.5" mid-range coaxial units in the rear shelf.

Standard luxury features include cruise control, tilt steering column, power windows with one-touch up/down for the driver, illuminated entry, heated outside mirrors and a spacious trunk with large rear-seat pass-through. The standard remote entry system integrates the ignition key into the control fob, which includes a trunk opener. The IS 300 comes standard with a security alarm and engine immobilizer system. Sportscar-Inspired Chassis Fine-Tuned On Competitors' Home Turf The bold exterior design of the IS 300 perfectly reflects the high-performance platform under the sheet metal. By locating the engine center 2.2 inches behind the front wheel center, the battery behind the front suspension tower and the fuel tank under the rear seat, the layout gives the IS 300 a low "yawing moment of inertia," engineer-speak for responsive performance.

The Lexus IS 300 includes elements offered as extra-cost options on some sport sedans. The four-wheel independent suspension features a double-wishbone layout in the front and rear, similar to the GS sedans. Engineers developed the IS 300 suspension tuning on Germany's famous Nurburgring racetrack, as well as on Australian and European roads. As befitting a high-performance sport sedan, four-wheel disc brakes (ventilated front) provide ample stopping power. The standard 16" x 6.5" alloy wheels mount 205/55 R16 all-season performance tires. Buyers seeking even sharper response can choose the available 17" x 7" alloy wheel package with 215/45 R17 performance tires. As specified by Lexus, these low-profile tires enhance handling without significantly altering ride quality.

Standard anti-lock brakes and full-range traction control (TRAC) help give the IS 300 sure-footed performance, whether the road is dry or wet. A limited-slip differential is available.

The IS 300 shares in the latest Lexus safety technology, starting with a reinforced passenger cell protected by front and rear crumple-zone structures. Inside, there are three-point seatbelts for all five seating positions as well as dual front airbags and front seat-mounted side airbags. Mounting the side airbags in the seats keeps them properly placed regardless of front seat positions.

The front seatbelts include pretensioners and height-adjustable anchors, along with force limiters that help reduce upper torso injuries in a serious collision. Child restraint seat (CRS) top tether brackets comply with the federal CRS Anchorage Point Regulation. Daytime running lights help make the IS 300 more visible to other drivers under diverse lighting and weather conditions. The trunk includes an easy-to-see-and-use emergency release handle to help prevent entrapment.