Sunday, April 22, 2007

Lexus IS

2006 Lexus IS
Manufacturer Lexus

The Lexus IS is a series of entry-level luxury cars/compact executive cars produced by the Lexus marque of Toyota Motor Corporation. The IS was introduced as an entry-level model slotted below the ES in the Lexus lineup and competing against the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Nissan Skyline/Infiniti G35 sports sedans. The IS was originally sold as the Toyota Altezza in Japan until the introduction of the second generation Lexus IS design. The Altezza name is still used at times to depict chromed car taillights like those known on the first generation model.

The first generation Altezza (codename XE10) was launched in Japan in October 1998, while the Lexus IS 200 (JCE10) made its debut in Europe in 1999 and in North America as the IS 300 in 2000. The first generation, I6-powered IS featured sedan and wagon variants. The second generation IS (GSE20) was launched globally in 2006 with V6-powered sedan models. A high-performance V8 version premiered in 2007. According to Lexus, the IS designation stands for Intelligent Sport.

First generation

First generation
US-spec Lexus IS300
Also called Lexus IS SportCross
Toyota Altezza
Production 1998–2005
Body style(s) 4–door sedan
5–door hatchback/station wagon
Engine(s) 2.0 L 1G-FE I6 (AS200)
2.0 L 3S-GE I4 (RS200)
3.0 L 2JZ-GE I6 (AS300)
Transmission(s) 4–speed automatic
5–speed manual
5–speed automatic
6-speed manual
Wheelbase 2670 mm (105.10 in)
Length 4485 mm (176.60 in)
Width 1725 mm (67.90 in)
Height 1410 mm (55.50 in)
Curb weight 1510 kg (IS 200)

Produced as a direct competitor to the luxury sport sedans of the leading European luxury marques, the Altezza/IS was designed with a greater performance emphasis than typically seen on prior Japanese luxury vehicles.[2] The design received critical acclaim at its 1998 launch, and was awarded Japan's "Car of the Year" honor for 1998-1999. A year later, Lexus began marketing the IS equivalent models in Europe, and the IS debuted in the U.S. as a 2001 model.

The Altezza came in 3 variants:

  • The AS200 (Chassis code TA-SXE-10, sedan or TA-GXE-10 FR Gita wagon, TA-GXE-15, 4WD Gita wagon), powered by a 1G-FE inline-6 engine generating 160 PS JIS (118 kW) or 155 PS DIN (114 kW) and mated to a 6–speed manual transmission (4–speed automatic optional)
  • The RS200 (Chassis code GH-SXE-10, sedan) powered by a Yamaha tuned 3S-GE inline-4 engine generating 210 PS JIS (154 kW) and mated to a 6–speed transmission (5–speed automatic optional)
  • The AS300 (Chassis code TA-JCE-10 FR Gita Wagon, or TA-JCE-15, 4WD Gita wagon) powered by a 2JZ-GE inline-6 engine generating 220 PS JIS (162 kW) or 215 hp SAE (160 kW) and mated to only a 5–speed automatic for the FR Gita Wagon or a 4–speed automatic for the 4WD Gita Wagon.

Lexus IS vehicles sold in Europe and North America, as well as the Japanese hatchback/station wagon version called the Gita (called Lexus IS SportCross in the U.S. and Europe) were only available in the 3.0 liter 6-cylinder version (2JZ-GE). In the U.S. market, sales fell below expectations; after hitting a high of 22,486 units in 2001, IS sales dropped below the 10,000-unit mark in 2004. The IS 200 fared better in Europe and Asia, but still fell well short of the sales volume achieved by the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and other, mostly German-made competitors. This trend was indicative of Lexus' smaller global status; while Lexus' range of cars is very successful in North America, the marque's sales still lag behind its German rivals in Europe and several other markets.

The IS 200/300 interior featured unique elements not typically found in other Lexus models. These included a chrome metal ball shifter, pop-up navigation screen, and chronograph-styled instrument panel (with mini gauges for temperature, fuel economy, and volts). The styling cues of the rear light clusters on the first generation Lexus IS were copied by a number of after-market accessory manufacturers for applications on other vehicles. This iconic style of one or more internal lamp units, covered with a clear (or tinted) perspex cover made popular by Lexus, became known in many circles as 'Lexus-style' or 'Altezza' lights.

The EPA listed the first generation IS as a subcompact car, despite being a compact on the inside.


The 2JZ-GE powered IS series are popular amongst tuners in the U.S. because of their 6-cylinder engines. The Altezza is mostly popular amongst tuners not only because of its possible engine swap for the previous generation Toyota Supra's 2JZ-GTE motor, but as it is viewed as the successor to the renowned AE86. Modified versions of the 2JZ-GTE have been seen with over 750 kW (1000 hp).

2001 Toyota Altezza
2001 Toyota Altezza

In Japan, the RS200 has a wide availability of tuning parts, the engine block is similar to the last of the SW20 MR2 and ST202 Celica but offers an upgraded Dual VVT-i. As a result, a number of tuning companies has modified the IS/Altezza over the years.

TTE converted an IS 200 first, and within a few years RMM in the US converted an IS 300. The MillenWorks-built Lexus IS 430 was unveiled at the 2003 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. The IS 430 prototype is an IS 300 fitted with a 4.3 L V8 from the Lexus GS. Lexus dubbed the IS 430 a one-off with no plans for production. In Europe, Toyota Team Europe (TTE) shoehorned a supercharged 4.3 L V8 into a IS 300 bodyshell, the result is a 405 PS ECE (298 kW) sedan capable of accelerating from 0-100 km/h in 4.5 seconds. TTE also produced an aftermarket supercharger kit for the IS 200, raising the power output to 204 ps ECE (150 kw).

At the mean time, a number of Japanese tuning firms, HKS, Blitz, Top Secret, Sard, Power Enterprise, including Toyota's own TRD, started to develop plenty of performance parts, typically from super chargers, turbo chargers, and even individual throttle bodies, and sometimes complete car conversions.

The RS200 is also used by many racing teams, including TRD (Toyota Racing Development), to race in various touring car racing series across Asia. A Lexus IS 200, based on a heavily modified RS200, has also raced in the British Touring Car Championship with limited success.

Second generation

Second generation
2006 Lexus IS 250 AWD
Production 2006–present
Body style(s) 4–door sedan
Engine(s) 2.2 L diesel (IS 220d)
2.5 L 4GR-FSE V6 (IS 250)
3.0 L 3GR-FE V6 (IS 300)
3.5 L 2GR-FSE V6 (IS 350)
Transmission(s) 6–speed manual
6–speed automatic
Wheelbase 2730 mm (107.50 in)
Length 4575 mm (180.10 in)
Width 1800 mm (70.90 in)
Height 1425 mm (56.10 in)
Curb weight 1570 kg (IS 250)

The IS was completely redesigned for the 2006 model year and was introduced in the fall of 2005. The Toyota Altezza name ceased to be used with the introduction of the Lexus name in Japan. A pre-production car of the second generation IS model was shown in the 2005 Geneva Auto Show. The slow-selling SportCross station wagon version was dropped from the lineup worldwide.

The new IS was the second debut of Lexus' new L-finesse design philosophy on a production vehicle, following the premiere of the 2006 Lexus GS performance sedan. The new IS design featured sleeker, coupe-like contours, a fastback profile, and a repeated arrowhead motif in the front fascia and side windows. The forward design was reminiscent of the earlier Lexus LF-C coupe concept. The second generation IS made its North American debut at the 2005 New York International Auto Show.

For Japan, the United States and Canada, three IS models are sold by Lexus:

  • IS 250 - 2.5 L V6, 204 hp (152 kW), rear wheel drive
  • IS 250 AWD - 2.5 L 4GR-FSE V6 with all wheel drive, 204 hp (152 kW) (Not offered in Japan)
  • IS 350 - 3.5 L 2GR-FSE V6, 306 hp (228 kW), rear wheel drive

In the United Kingdom and parts of Europe, two IS models are sold by Lexus:

  • IS 250 - 2.5 L V6, 204 hp (152 kW), rear wheel drive
  • IS 220d - 2.2 L Inline-4, 175 hp (130 kW), diesel engine, rear wheel drive, manual transmission only

The IS 250 is available in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong (Automatic only), Taiwan, and South Korea. For China, Brunei, and Middle East markets, one model, the IS 300, with a 3.0 L 3GR-FE V6 engine (without gasoline direct injection), 228 hp (170 kW), and rear wheel drive, is sold. The diesel-powered IS 220d is only available in Europe.

The IS 250 RWD comes standard with a 6–speed manual transmission, and a 6–speed automatic transmission is available as an option. The IS 250 AWD, the IS 300, and the IS 350 are only available with the 6–speed automatic.

Compared to the first generation IS model, the second generation IS sedans offer a more typical Lexus interior with a focus on luxurious accouterments. The interior features leather seats, lightsaber-like electroluminescent dash display lighting, and the choice of metallic or Bird's Eye Maple wood trim. Lexus SmartAccess keyless entry with push-button start is a standard feature. A high-resolution touchscreen navigation system, Bluetooth, a backup camera, and a Mark Levinson premium sound system with 14 speakers are available options. Other available features include a moonroof, power rear sunshade, and parking sensors. A precrash system is the first offered in the entry-luxury performance sedan market segment.

IS 350 LED taillamps
IS 350 LED taillamps

The IS 350's performance was praised in a 2007 Road & Track Japanese luxury sports sedan comparison, in which the IS took first place and clocked a 0-100 km/h (0-60 mph) time of 4.9 seconds.[3] Citing independent testing by auto research firm AMCI, Lexus highlighted the IS' acceleration as the "fastest in its class." Some say this marks Lexus' first foray into the sport compact market that compares fairly well with its German competitors. However, prevailing criticisms are that its steering is not as communicative as that of the BMW 3 Series, its stability and traction control systems could not be fully disabled, and that the higher-performance IS 350 is only offered with an automatic transmission. In response to these criticisms, Lexus added a stability/traction control disable switch for 2007 IS models.

For 2006 IS models, the stability control system/traction control system can be disabled through non-conventional methods by using a code during engine start. This involves starting the car with the parking brake engaged, releasing the parking brake, pushing the brake pedal twice, holding it on the second push, engaging the parking brake twice, holding it on the second, and repeating until the vehicle traction light appears on the dash. This will effectively disable the system until the car is turned off.

In the 2007 IS models, in addition to the on/off switch for the traction-control system, Lexus added a roof-mounted shark-fin antenna. A new X-Package added special five-spoke wheels, illuminated scuff plates, and a rear lip spoiler.

The introduction of the second generation IS model marked a resurgence in sales, with a 332% increase overall in 2006 compared to the previous year. In its first year of sales, the IS sold over 49,000 units, making it one of the ten best-selling luxury cars in the U.S. Abroad, the Lexus IS spearheaded Lexus' growing sales efforts in Europe, Australia, and South Africa, becoming the best-selling model in Lexus' lineup in many of the aforementioned markets.


The second generation IS already has a variety of tuning parts from famous Japanese tuning companies. Although the new IS has only been on the market for a short period of time, there are already a number of body kits for it, showing the high demand for aftermarket tuning parts. In 2007, the Japanese TOM'S aftermarket tuning firm produced a modified IS 350 with a revised ECU, new air filter, modified exhaust, and additional available performance enhancements ranging from suspension to brakes. The pending release of the 2008 Lexus IS-F will feature the debut of the first production-sanctioned racing modifications to the second generation IS design. In 2007, Lexus announced a Project Vehicle Program for that year's SEMA show, centered around the high-performance IS-F model. Lexus invited SEMA manufacturer members to submit their project Lexus vehicles for its show exhibition. It was the first time that the manufacturer had a formal presence at the aftermarket convention.


The 2008 Lexus IS-F debuted at the Detroit Auto Show.
The 2008 Lexus IS-F debuted at the Detroit Auto Show.

In 2006, several automotive publications reported on rumors of a higher performance variant of the IS being tested at various stages of development. Spy photos of such a vehicle being tested in Germany and California were published in several magazines and websites. Among these spy reports, several photos were shown of a heavily modified and camouflaged IS sedan at the Nürburgring test track in Germany along with other disguised Lexus test vehicles. The previous generation IS 430 prototype vehicle was indicative of future possibilities for the IS series, including the likelihood that a second generation high-performance IS model could come equipped with a V8 engine.

On 6 December, 2006, Lexus officially confirmed the existence of the vehicle which they called IS-F in the press release. The IS-F sedan premiered at the 2007 North American International Auto Show on 8 January, 2007 as the launch product of Lexus' F-Series lineup of performance-focused vehicles. A 5.0 L V8 producing over 400 hp and 350 ft-lb powers the new IS-F. The engine also features a two-stage intake system, engine oil and transmission fluid coolers and an oil pump designed for high-speed cornering. Images were leaked a couple of hours before the official announcement.

Quad tailpipe design of the Lexus IS-F.
Quad tailpipe design of the Lexus IS-F.

At its press debut, Lexus revealed that a separate "skunk works" team designed the IS-F in a manner distinct from typical Lexus engineering efforts. The IS-F promises 0-100 km/h (0-60 mph) acceleration under 5 seconds. The vehicle featured an 8-speed direct sport-shift transmission, a new sport version of Lexus' electronic stability control system (Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management featuring three distinct on-off modes), and was equipped with Brembo brakes stamped with the Lexus emblem. Other design features included a four-passenger cabin with carbon-fiber panels, steering wheel paddle shifters, and 19-inch alloy wheels. The vehicle body was lowered by 1 cm (0.5 inches) compared to the standard IS.

According to an Autoweek item, Lexus may build only 1000 IS-Fs for the US market, a number that has not been confirmed by Lexus. Autoweek also suggested that the IS-F would have a top speed of 320 km/h (200 mph) (contradicting the generally accepted standard for this automotive class), leading automotive news sites to question the accuracy of their information. The editor and representatives of a major Lexus IS enthusiast website with Lexus press access further suggested that Autoweek's 200 mph, 1000-unit figures may be referring to the LF-A supercar, which Lexus did indicate could reach 200 mph. In 2007, the head of Lexus GB stated in an interview that 150 IS-Fs would be allocated for the UK market.


  • J.D. Power and Associates named the second generation IS 250/IS 350 sedans the best vehicles in the entry luxury class in its 2006 Initial Quality Survey.
  • J.D. Power and Associates named the first generation IS 300 sedan and IS 300 SportCross the best vehicles in the entry luxury class in its 2005 Initial Quality Survey.
  • Ward's Auto bestowed the IS 350 V6 engine with one of its 10 Best Engines awards in 2006. The IS 350 V6 engine was also named to the Ward's 10 Best Engines list in 2007.
  • The 2007 Lexus IS was the winner of the Golden Steering Wheel Award in the Luxury category, according to German newspaper Bild am Sonntag. This award, selected by a jury panel of 25 automotive experts, was presented to Lexus in a Berlin ceremony.
  • British automotive magazine Top Gear named the Lexus IS as the Executive Car of the Year in 2006.
  • The Canadian Car of the Year Awards, selected by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada, gave the IS 350 its Best New Technology award in 2006.
  • The Lexus IS was a finalist for Wheels magazine's Car of the Year (COTY) awards and also the World Car of the Year (WCOTY) award in 2006.
  • Kelley Blue Book gave the first generation IS 300 its Best to Hold Value Award in 2001


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