2002 Lexus IS 300 Review


Pros & Cons

  • Outstanding driving dynamics, slick interior decor, competitive pricing.
  • Small rear seat and trunk, not much storage space, styling more suited to baggy-panted masses.
List Price Estimate
$2,123 - $5,090

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Edmunds' Expert Review

Improvements this year make the IS 300 a true sport sedan. We feel sorry for those who couldn't wait and bought '01s.

Vehicle overview

Lexus, traditional purveyor or highly refined but generally characterless luxury automobiles, has been on a mission to change that very image. Have you noticed the subtle change in the company's tagline from "The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection" to "The Passionate Pursuit of Perfection"?

Fortunately, there is actually product to back up this change in philosophy, as opposed to some other auto companies whose idea of sport is often a couple of decals and embroidered floor mats.

No car in the Lexus lineup comes closer to embodying "sport" than the IS 300. Designed to offer the same (or better) spirited driving experience found in stalwart sedans like the Audi A4 and BMW 330i, the IS 300 is a well-built rear-drive sedan that can be had for thousands of dollars less than the competition.

The IS 300 looks and acts like a GS 300 that has been filed down and given a sharper edge. Its styling is subtle, angular and aggressive. Standard high-intensity headlights are mounted up front, and the whole shape manages to achieve a low 0.28 coefficient of drag. We aren't fans of the circular decklid-mounted taillights, though, and the clear rear lens covers look too much like the ones you see on your neighbor kid's lowered '94 Accord.

The car certainly doesn't drive like an Accord, though. The body structure is extremely stiff, and Lexus has done an excellent job of tuning the suspension to provide sticky handling without hurting ride quality on the street. The IS 300 is an easy car to pilot aggressively, thanks to its responsive steering and braking, nimble size and excellent driving position.

Power comes from a DOHC 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine. Other than some minor tweaks, this is the same engine that is used in the GS 300. Equipped with variable valve timing, the engine spins out 215 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 218 pound-feet of torque at 3,800 rpm. Last year, buyers could have any transmission they wanted as long as it was the five-speed automatic with E-Shift sequential shift mode. For '02, Lexus offers an IS 300 equipped with a five-speed manual as a separate model that also features slightly firmer suspension tuning than the automatic model.

Safety is also enhanced this year. Along with three-point seatbelts for each of the five seating positions, front seat-mounted side airbags, and pre-tensioners and force limiters for the front harnesses, Lexus has added head-protecting side curtain airbags and a brake-assist function to improve performance in emergency-braking situations. The SportCross and the automatic sedan also come standard with Vehicle Skid Control (VSC), a system that can help reduce dangerous spins and skids.

With a base price in the low 30s, the IS 300 isn't the bargain the LS 400 was when Lexus debuted a decade ago. And with both Audi and BMW offering all-wheel-drive technology in their elegant and smooth-riding compact sedans, not to mention superlative interior materials and manual transmissions, Lexus may find that it still has some work cut out for it as it learns what it takes to tackle Germany's finest.

2002 Highlights

Once a goal is set, Lexus is not a company to dillydally. Witness the 2002 IS 300. After just one year on the fiercely contested entry-level luxury sport sedan battlefield, Lexus has quickly moved to address the IS 300's short list of faults. A five-speed manual transmission is available, and it comes packaged with a sportier suspension than what is offered on the "regular" IS 300. The luxury side of the equation has also been upped. A navigation system and an all-leather interior are optional this year, and the rearview and driver-side mirrors are auto-dimming. Safety is also enhanced with the addition of head-protecting side curtain airbags (in addition to the regular side airbags), a BrakeAssist function and a stability control system. And for all of those golden retrievers out there tired of riding around in numbing RX 300s, take notice that Lexus has expanded the IS 300's lineup with a wagon version.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 2002 Lexus IS 300.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

Solid as Gibraltar
Thrilled owner,11/18/2010
Bought as a demo w/9k miles on it. Now has 188K and haven't had any unscheduled maintenance on it yet. Runs like new. Unbelievable reliability. Can't recommend enough. All the fun of a sports car in a sedan. 5-speed manual is a must for driving enthusiasts. My gas mileage is nearly identical to the window sticker rating, so I don't know why people gripe about the mileage. Besides, even though I might save $500/year in gas with a BMW 3-series, it would be offset by the several thousand per year extra I would have to spend on repairs. I'm willing to pay a tad extra for peace of mind.
Quarter Million Mile IS
Can't believe it's been 11+ years w/my car. I still remember the rush of the test drive. I took an on-ramp aggressively w/the salesman next to me & we both smiled. I couldn't believe I was in a sedan, let alone a Lexus. It was better handling than my old Eclipse Turbo. Better road feel, more grip, similar body roll & much faster turn-in. After a little negotiating, she was mine. I've been a Toyota guy since '88, but even I can't believe how reliable this car's been. Oh, there've been the usual tires, brakes & oil changes along w/one timing belt & one clutch. My odo is @ 248K mi & the only unscheduled maintainence I've done is a set of o2 sensors, ball joints & a fuel pump.
Hats off to Lexus
I'm closing in on 200,000 trouble-free miles. Every mile has been a delight. Wish I could give a vehicle score of 11 for the reliability and fun-to-drive categories.
Absolutely red :) 5M
Have to agree on the fun-to-drive factor!! Whew! this car is a blast to drive! Love the orange interior lights at night! Guage package likened to a wrist watch face is an original touch. Shifting is solid quality feel. Love the sound of the engine. Handles like she's' on rails. Just bought a set of 18" rims (all black) with potenza s-04 pole positions, so the ride should be on fire soon. Im' driving a Subaru GT wagon in the winter but my life is changing so I'm selling Suby after 13 yrs of ownership. :( But Looking forward to buying a set of micheling Xi3, dedicated winters, to be mounted on the stock rims. Should handle the snow just fine and be a lot of fun in the drift too!

Features & Specs

See all Used 2002 Lexus IS 300 features & specs


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    RolloverNot Rated
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 2002 Lexus IS 300

Used 2002 Lexus IS 300 Overview

The Used 2002 Lexus IS 300 is offered in the following submodels: IS 300 Sedan, IS 300 Wagon. Available styles include E-Shift 4dr Sedan (3.0L 6cyl 5A), 4dr Sedan (3.0L 6cyl 5M), and SportCross 4dr Wagon (3.0L 6cyl 5A).

What's a good price on a Used 2002 Lexus IS 300?

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Find a used Lexus IS 300 for sale - 4 great deals out of 18 listings starting at $21,606.

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Should I lease or buy a 2002 Lexus IS 300?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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