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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Been driving some cars and thought I'd post my impressions of the IS300 and ask a question or two.

I'll start with the questions to save everyone from reading my novel. Any IS owners *seriously* look at the 3-series before deciding on the IS? Why the IS over them? Also, any former BMW owners switch to an IS? Why? Last, can former BMW owners compare IS reliability with BMW reliability?

Ok... I'm coming out of a Ford Contour SE V-6 with a 5-speed. The quality is garbage, but performance is not horrendous with 170 hp and lb/ft and decent roll control handling-wise. But the thing falls on its face when pushed a bit. Which is why I'm looking for a car with better driving dynamics (has to be rear-drive) and better quality. At Ford, quality is Job None.

Looked at an RX8 (gutless and wife hated the claustrophic interior), the 03 3xxi BMWs and the 02 IS300. All were stick.

First time I drove the IS it was a auto, which is not what I'm interested in. So I was going to reserve judgement until I drove a stick... which was today. :)

I like the car MUCH better with a stick. Is the "thump" people refer to just the clutch pedal hitting its return stop? If so, not too big a deal. I heard it on like the first 3 shifts and then I just stopped noticing it. I don't know if it actually stopped or I just tuned it out being busy noticing other things.

I have to say it didn't feel overly fast, but my favorite "toy" in my garage is a 125cc shifter kart, which makes most stuff feel tame. My butt dyno says the IS300 more torquey by a fair amount over the 325i, as the 40 ft/lb difference would suggest. The motor just felt a lot more flexible. I never felt a big top-end rush, but that's not too big a deal. So even if the 325i and IS have 0-60 within a few tenths, the IS motor felt more "livable" on a daily basis, as C&D's street-start time (my favorite stat) is about a half-second in favor of the IS, and felt like it. There was a nice steady pull at 40 mph in 5th gear.

The 330i, however, is another story. That motor seemed a step above the IS in grunt, more than just the 10-hp difference would indicate. More on that later.

I liked the tranny. Felt a wee bit notchy... just the way I like it. :) I thought the throws were a tad long, but that's probably the Rx8's fault, as those were pretty short. But I thought the IS throws were shorter than the 3-series.

I thought the clutch/shift matching was a little fussy, but easy to adjust to. I actually thought ease of smooth shifts was a little in favor of the BMW, but not enough to be a concern. I did think the IS shift lever was too long... "is that thing just happy to see me?" :)

Ride and handling... I liked the IS handling almost as much as the 3-series, but the 3-series wins because the ride is also better. So the 3-series has a marginal handling edge coupled with a better ride, which is just right for me... must be getting OLD. :) That said, the IS was not too bad ride-wise and something I could live with. It's better than my Contour (not difficult... that thing seemed like such a steaming POS on the ride home :) )

Steering was quick and direct in the IS. The 03 BMW's wasn't bad either.

The one place I thought the 3-series had a very clear advantage over the IS was in the interior. I like the BMW dash, instruments and controls better, but just a little. The IS's looked like a Celica from about 6 years ago... not bad, but not to the same level as the BMW. The biggest thing I noticed about the interiors was the size difference. The BMW just seemed more roomy and airy. And there was a bit more rear-seat leg room in the BMW. So for my taste, the BMW has an interior I'd like more on a daily basis. Again, the IS isn't bad, but I like the marginally extra room of the 3-series. Oh, I'm about 6-2, 210 FWIW.

To sum it up, I need to have the little lady drive the IS 5-speed. Since I'm not single, a 30k+ purchase needs to be a "we" decision. The only complaint she had about the Lexus before was the auto trans shifted wierd... I didn't see it, but now she'll have to try the stick to see what the final product would be.

So if I had to choose today, my choices would be 1) 330i, 2a) IS300, 2b) 325i. The 330i's motor really is nice, and the ride handling/mix is just about perfect. The IS is very close, just a little less in ride quality, room and engine grunt. The 325i just felt like it lacked torque, which is does compared to the 330i and IS, but is otherwise nice.

So why not just get the 330? Well, price. Sticker on a comparably-equipped (the way I'd order it) 330 is about 40k. The IS is about 33k. And from what I've seen searching this board, <1000 over invoice is very possible on even an IS300 I'd have to order (04). That true? If so, that's a big nod in the IS favor.

Also, I had a Toyota Corolla FX16 that I beat mercilessly for 180k miles and it was pretty doggone reliable. So the Altezza, I mean IS, should be right there too.

BMW? I've heard they are a little fussy, and if that fussiness occurs outside of the 50k warranty, well, you might as well take out another loan. I don't want a long-term headache.

I plan on keeping this car for about 7-10 years, so the choice I make will be an important one.

So if anyone else has agonized over the same choices, let me know what you decided and why.

Thanks, and sorry for babbling on and on... :)
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