IS300 SportCross for daily driver? - Lexus IS Forum
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-02-2019, 09:40 PM Thread Starter
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IS300 SportCross for daily driver?

I just graduated college, and I'm looking to get a daily driver so I can start doing some major work on my C4 Corvette. I want something practical but fun, and I think a wagon checks those boxes best.

Furthermore, I really like the IS300 SportCross and feel it would be a good fit, although I have a few reservations. Primarily, I'm concerned cars within my budget might have hidden problems, given that I'm seeing many examples in the $10-15k range.

When I was initially looking for a DD, the Saab 92x (reskinned 05-06 WRX) and Legacy GT were at the top of my list because I wanted AWD and think boxers are cool. However, the IS300 went from an afterthought to my number one choice for a few reasons:
• I'm a little wary of headgasket/ring issues with a boxer engine.
• While I love the boxer rumble, I think I want something sounding a little more "refined" than my Corvette.
• I'd like to tinker with my DD eventually, and the 2JZ could support more power a lot more comfortably than the EJ205/EJ250. And it’s just so cool.
• I prefer the look to the 92x or Legacy.

Unfortunately, the posting I was looking at on Craigslist expired before I could contact the seller, and I am having a really hard time finding any others that appeal to me. I'm still hoping to find a SportCross to buy, but I A) want to be open to other options and B) want to make sure the SportCross will be a good fit before I get tunnel vision. Also, I need to make the purchase in the next two months, so I don't have forever to wait for the perfect car to show up.

Here's what I'm looking for in a car:

I'm budgeting $8k total, including any up-front repairs and maintenance (I’ll be driving it across the country at the end of the summer, so it must be able to withstand the trip). I'd like to keep the purchase under $6k to give a buffer in case something expensive breaks. The purpose of this car is to complement my Corvette, so a few characteristics are important:
• Fairly reliable
• Reasonable cost of ownership
• Able to comfortably seat 4 and haul a decent amount of cargo
• Relatively quiet highway ride
• I work on my own cars, so something easy to work on would be a plus.

I’m still looking for something sporty, though. I’d like to be able to reliably make ~400hp at the crank on my DD without spending a fortune on mods. (Probably looking at $4-5k max; I would do all the work myself except machining, welding, etc. I'm comfortable that I could reach this goal for $4k on the IS300 with a carefully-selected budget turbo build.)

I'm considering a few different models:
• 2002-2005 Lexus IS300 SportCross
• 2005-2006 Saab 92X Aero
• 2006-2011 Saab 9-3 Aero SportCombi
• 2004-2009 Saab 9-5 Aero SportCombi (maybe, it's pretty heavy and I'm not sure I want an I4)
• 2003-2009 Subaru Legacy GT

I know everyone here is going to be somewhat biased toward the IS300 (as I’m biased toward Corvettes), but I would love to hear your advice. It looks like most SportCrosses in my price range have about 200k miles; I know Lexuses have a reputation for reliability, but do you guys think I'll have issues with a high-mile car?

Obviously, I’m most interested in your thoughts on the IS300 SportCross, but I’m also curious to hear your opinions on the other models I listed or anything else you think would fit well.

Thanks in advance!

Edit: Also, I'm probably going to be coming back to CA in 5-6 years. There are no CA-legal turbo kits for the IS300, and I'd hate to have to sell it when I came back. Has anyone had any luck getting a GE-T to pass smog?

Last edited by DailyDrivin'; 06-02-2019 at 09:45 PM.
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-03-2019, 06:47 AM
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• I'd like to tinker with my DD eventually, and the 2JZ could support more power a lot more comfortably than the EJ205/EJ250. And it’s just so cool.
Unless you're going to spend 8-10K on the IS300, you're not going to get much more power out of the 2J.

I think you're going about this the wrong way. If you want the IS for DD duty's, you should buy it, spend 1000 on maintenance and parts replacement then just leave it stock. That's the whole point of a DD. I like Suby's too but they're not particularly reliable.

I have a project car, the IS. On the other hand my DD is a CRV or the Odyssey depending on my mood. Buy what you want of course but a DD should be reliable above all else so you can get to work on time. Of your list, the IS is probably most reliable. It's also the oldest.

You seem to be playing lip service to the IDEA of a DD, while really you're thinking about getting a second project car.
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-03-2019, 08:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Ek9B18 View Post

You seem to be playing lip service to the IDEA of a DD, while really you're thinking about getting a second project car.
I agree....and confess to being there right now.

I have ruled everything out of my list and have settled on buying a hybrid for DD. Howeverrr....you know....a legacy gt or spec b....its still reliable enough if I don't turn boost up too much....AAAAAAND it's 4wd right? For that one time every 10 years we get snowed here in Seattle? So I need to consider it. hahahahahaha

It's tough but I agree. Plus mpg's play a big part for me as well seeing we are paying $3.6x a gallon here. It's no secret fuel economy is just plain bad.

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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-03-2019, 10:57 AM
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Howeverrr....you know....a legacy gt or spec b....its still reliable enough if I don't turn boost up too much....AAAAAAND it's 4wd right?
I've been thinking Legacy GT too lately but it wouldn't be my primary car. Stock, they blow head gaskets just as often as the rumor suggests. The interiors aren't that nice. They don't have quite as good aftermarket support as the WRX.

Subaru turbo cars in general get poor fuel economy. Probably worse than the IS because low compression ratio + smallish displacement = stick your foot in it to get it moving. You'll find you're always in boost.

My CRV gets 30 mpg around town and still makes close to 200 hp. It's a bland appliance of a car but it's pretty nice to drive in traffic. I set the cruise to 65 and then the radar keeps me X distance away from the car in front of me till I get where I'm going. It'll even stop completely and go all by itself in traffic.
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-03-2019, 11:06 AM
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I've been thinking Legacy GT too lately but it wouldn't be my primary car. Stock, they blow head gaskets just as often as the rumor suggests. The interiors aren't that nice. They don't have quite as good aftermarket support as the WRX.
I'm not doing it and I would not be driving it hard. I'm just kinda reinforcing your point about wanting to buy a "DD" but focusing on sportiness rather than practicality. My brother in law has had a bug eye wrx his whole life and it does get poor gas mileage but not worse than my aristo/aristo ecu IS. I get to have fun and use it when I visit and not worry about maintenance.

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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-03-2019, 08:14 PM
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I just purchased a 200,000+ Sportcross myself. For me, I was looking for a rear wheel drive wagon and that limits it down to pretty much the Sportcross and BMW's. I've owned many BMW's over the years and decided to try out the IS to see if the ownership experience and reliability would be a little better.

With any high-mileage car, I'd leave some money in your budget to replace worn out bushings and ball joints. This can really make an old car feel new again. I just went through my car and found in the front suspension the upper ball joints were shot and the #1 and #2 bushings were torn.

In the past I've also owned a 2.5 RS. It made cool noises and was a good daily driver, but when pushed hard it had too much understeer for me.

Like other posters have said, if this will be your daily driver, I'd focus on making it reliable and spend money on making the Corvette fast. Good luck!
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-03-2019, 08:37 PM
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I'm selling my 2002 with 113K mi in NorCal. Just had the timing belt, water pump, and valve cover gaskets done. I also just swapped out OEM for the Bilsteins.
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-06-2019, 03:00 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Ek9B18 View Post
Unless you're going to spend 8-10K on the IS300, you're not going to get much more power out of the 2J.

I think you're going about this the wrong way. If you want the IS for DD duty's, you should buy it, spend 1000 on maintenance and parts replacement then just leave it stock. That's the whole point of a DD. I like Suby's too but they're not particularly reliable.

I have a project car, the IS. On the other hand my DD is a CRV or the Odyssey depending on my mood. Buy what you want of course but a DD should be reliable above all else so you can get to work on time. Of your list, the IS is probably most reliable. It's also the oldest.

You seem to be playing lip service to the IDEA of a DD, while really you're thinking about getting a second project car.
Haha, fair point. The plan is to keep it solely a daily driver until I (start and) finish the engine work on my Corvette, at which point the Corvette would be my DD and I would begin messing with the IS.

I'm really looking for a car that will be a reliable DD upfront but that I can eventually tinker with and have a fun project car.

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Originally Posted by 2002manualsportcross View Post
I just purchased a 200,000+ Sportcross myself. For me, I was looking for a rear wheel drive wagon and that limits it down to pretty much the Sportcross and BMW's. I've owned many BMW's over the years and decided to try out the IS to see if the ownership experience and reliability would be a little better.

With any high-mileage car, I'd leave some money in your budget to replace worn out bushings and ball joints. This can really make an old car feel new again. I just went through my car and found in the front suspension the upper ball joints were shot and the #1 and #2 bushings were torn.

In the past I've also owned a 2.5 RS. It made cool noises and was a good daily driver, but when pushed hard it had too much understeer for me.

Like other posters have said, if this will be your daily driver, I'd focus on making it reliable and spend money on making the Corvette fast. Good luck!
Thanks for the advice. I've absolutely budgeted for a full overhaul of anything sketchy before I take it across the country. I actually did the same (bushings, ball joints, wheel bearings, etc.) on my Corvette before I drove it across the country, and it really does make a difference.

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Originally Posted by Jwkuhry View Post
I'm selling my 2002 with 113K mi in NorCal. Just had the timing belt, water pump, and valve cover gaskets done. I also just swapped out OEM for the Bilsteins.
I'll shoot you a PM.
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 06-06-2019, 08:57 PM
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Wow, your list was almost identical to mine!

The IS300 is fine as a DD. I also think a Sportcross is less likely to have been abused than an IS300 sedan. The problem is they are somewhat rare and pricier than the sedans. I actually got mine for $4K, but it is in poor shape cosmetically and I have spent several grand getting it in good mechanical order. But I would drive it anywhere. I certainly feel it is, on average, far more reliable than any of the cars you mentioned (and I am a fan of all of those).

As a wagon, it doesn't hold a lot of stuff. The inline 6 has good power, but it doesn't seem particularly fast. Mileage is poor. But it is reliable if maintained. I think the 9-3 wagon is better looking and is probably easier to make cheap power from it. But I can't imagine it is anywhere near as reliable. Of the wagons you listed, I would think the lexus is the best daily driver as far as reliability. But I could just as easily be driving a 9-2x or a 9-3 sportcombi right now instead of the Lexus and would be just as happy. One caveat being I have never driven the 9-3 and wonder how I would feel about the fwd. There is an awd version of the 9-3, but they are rarer than hens teeth.

In my case, the Lexus just came up at the right time. If reliability is really the most important issue, then get the lexus. But if reliability isn't head and shoulders your most important criteria, get whatever one you can find in good shape at a good price. I know I wouldn't have lost sleep if I had bought any of the others on your list.
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