Here is why I think they are at least somewhat comparable
1) They are both about the same size
2) The both have sporting intentions
3) By MY02, they will both have available manual transmissions
Here are what I see as the differences:
3) Lexus customer care
4) Snob appeal (for better or worse)
For me, they are both logical choices. I currently own a Lexus (ES300) and it has been a great car. That alone pulls me towards the IS300. The WRX appeals to me in that it is cheaper and is all wheel drive.
I'm going to reserve judgement until I can drive both back to back. After getting used to Lexus refinement and reliablity, the WRX may not appeal to me after all. We'll see, I guess.
I personally find it interesting to hear people's insights as to the strengths and weaknesses of both of these cars (and others too). YMMV.
Wow, after watching that first video, I want one badly. Like that Top Gear chick too, great magazine. It must be an IS300 competitor, cause the two cars I'd consider trading my BMW for are the IS300 5 speed and the WRX.
I guess the two cars in question would be considered competitors, but they just seem to be too different for me to concede to that. I mean the WRX is a performer that hard core enthusiasts will probably lean towards more often. The IS is a well handling sedan with mediocre power, but the emphasis is definitely on the luxury side. I like them both for different reasons, and if I were going to make a purchase this year, I'd look seriously at these two cars, and make my decision based upon whether or not my priority is luxury or performance.