Lexus first released its first IS 300 model in 1998 in Japan and called it the Altezza, meaning “highness” in Italian. It was an entry-level sports car which fell in line under the brands ES in their lineup. In 1999, the IS 200 made its first appearance. It was released the following year in North American under the name the IS 300.
The first generation 1999-2005
The first generation of the Lexus IS 300 was offered in your choice of a sedan or a wagon. These cars were powered with an inline-6 engine which would remain standard until a second generation was introduced in 2005. These cars were assembled in Kanegasaki, Japan with exterior design performed by Tomoyasu Nishi, with a later refresh in 2003 by Hiroyuki Tada envisioned in 2002. A Sedan variant was a 4-door with a 5-door hatchback station wagon style offered. Both featured a front engine layout and rear wheel drive. This subcompact vehicle was equipped with an inline 6, 2.0-liter engine that was paired with either a 5-speed A650E in an automatic or a 6-speed J160 manual transmission
The interior of the IS 300 first generation received enhancements that no other model of the brand had featured at the time, such as an optional pop-up navigation screen, a metal ball shifter in chrome and an instrument panel in chronograph styling. There seemed to be a little confusion initially about the rating. It could have easily fit into the category of compact due to its total volume, but because of the rear seating, it also fits the criteria for subcompact as well. This generation was given the highest possible ratings for side driver and side rear passenger safety in 2001.
A Platinum edition sedan was released in 2003 and was produced for one year. This model featured a 4-door saloon and was equipped with a 2JZ-GE vvt-i engine that generated 208 bhp along with 212 lb-ft of torque and was paired with a 5-speed auto transmission. It was a rear wheel drive with a front engine layout.
The first facelift
In 2003 Hiroyuka Tada made alterations to the exterior with an addition of a new wheel design that featured 11-spokes along with smoky trim for its taillights and headlamps, and new fog lights. He made a few interior upgrades as well with a driver set function offering a 2-position memory and a maintenance indicator light.
A new storage compartment in the dash was added for the cars that didn’t have a nav system and a new locking system with automatic drive away features was also added for the 2004 model.
New concept model
In 2003 at Las Vegas’ SEMA Show, the IS 430 prototype made its appearance as the shell of an IS 300 powered with a 4.3-liter V8 engine that was taken from Lexus’ GS model. It was a supercharged IS, however, it didn’t make it to production, instead, it came out in the form of the 405 PS ECE sedan.
Second Generation Lexus IS 300
The next generation was launched in 2005 and came out as a 2006 model and had its production run through 2013. These cars were assembled at both the Tahara plant and Miyata plant in Japan under Kengo Matsumoto’s design. It was offered in a 2-door convertible style and a 4-door sedan with a front engine layout and a rear wheel drive, and a front engine four-wheel drive option. Engine options were a 2.2. liter; a 2.5-liter V5; a 3.0-L V6; a 3.5-L V6 and a 5.0-L 8. These were matched with either a 6-speed manual or automatic, or 8-speed automatic transmission.
The third generation
The third generation of the IS 300 (XE30) started production from 2013 and continues through the present, with 2014 marking the first release in the production. Mansasnari Sakae served as the designer from 2010 and Yuki Isogai in 2011. Generation three was offered in a 4-door sedan styling with a front engine layout and a rear wheel drive with a four-wheel drive available. The latest generation is fitted with engines in a 2.0 turbocharged, a 2.5-liter hybrid, a 2.5-liter V6 and a 3.5-liter V6 paired with a 6-speed manual or automatic or an 8-speed automatic transmission.