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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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Get the IS.
Well, what do you expect us to say? You asked the question on the IS300 board.

I test drove 328 BMW (Auto) back in May of 2000 and found it to be very lacking in power/handling for my taste.
IS300 had me sold after a 5 min ride.
I got another one 4 months ago. :D
This is the 4th Toyota vehicle I (this time we :wink: ) bought for myself (me).
 

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not to belittle your impressive post... (i did read the whole thing BTW), but everything you said comes down to price. A loaded IS sells for 30k, while a similiar equipped 330 sells for 40k.

Thats HUGE...

I think 90% of IS owners would have bought the 330 had the price not been so different.
 

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You summed it up well. If price were the SAME: 330i
...if you wanna bet on BMW's reliability, which Consumers Reports says is not up to snuff. They removed the 3 Series from their "recommended" list this year due to that issue.


Price and reliability...IS300.
 

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i'm an old time bmw fan - had a 2002 tii and my cousin/uncle were bmw nuts (turbo 630, 530, 2002 turbo, etc)...
but for the last 20 yrs, i've been a toyota fan (toy turbo trk, tercel, camry, 4runner, sienna)
can't beat it's reliability
and like others said - a few mods and it'll be right up there w/ 330

unfortunately, bmw's have had serious reliability issues recently (that's why they currently offer 4 yrs unlimited maintenance/warranty on everything including wear & tear items, too... my boss just pick up a x5 for his wife and told me everything is covered including brakes, tires, etc... but maintenance intervals were far and few in between - like 1st oil change at 15k :crazy: )

go w/ the is300... you won't be sorry
 

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HoustonLex said:
not to belittle your impressive post... (i did read the whole thing BTW), but everything you said comes down to price. A loaded IS sells for 30k, while a similiar equipped 330 sells for 40k.

Thats HUGE...

I think 90% of IS owners would have bought the 330 had the price not been so different.
Correct. I am one of those people who took a look at a BMW before buying an IS300. Reasons for buying an IS instead:

1) IS300 was relatively new in the market (Aug/2000)
2) Power potential of the 2JZ motor
3) BMW had snobby salesmen
4) BMW had a wait list of 3 months for the color that I wanted
5) BMW had a bigger sticker price

The BMW definitely has more space than the IS3, but I like a tight cockpit. It makes me feel snug and I'm not that big of a guy (5'9"). If the BMW was cheaper I would've gave it a deeper thought.

John
 

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I seriously considered a BMW when i got the IS. Here were my impressions (all cars being manual transmission):

1. COST!!!! 325i was not a consideration with me cause of its weak engine. The 330i with usual options lists for 42-43 and the dealer was only willing to budge around $500. Therefore I was looking at an IS costing 29.2k vs a 330i costing 42k. to me that is a HUGE difference.
2. I personally think the IS looks much better than the 3-series. In addition, the 3 series is just too common. It seems as though everyone and their mother has a BMW now. On my way to work I see at least 10-15 3series and at most 1 IS.
3. Handling between the 2 was near equal. The 3 series with the sport pkg did seem more firmly planted than the IS but the IS was no slouch at all.
4. 330i's 6speed felt more natural and was easier to drive for me. The IS was weird to get used to, but after 5k miles, I think i have the IS's tranny down.
5. The people at the 2 of the 3 BMW dealerships i visited were total pricks. I refuse to do business with pricks. Everyone I spoke to at Lexus was curteous [sp?] and knowledgable.

Overall, there is NO doubt that the 330i is a better car than the IS. I will be the first to admit that. However, I personally do not think the 330i is $12k better than the IS. The most i would pay for the 330i is a $5k-6k premium over the IS.
 

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I also had that problem once.

A Bimmer is a Bimmer,

While a Lexus is still a Toyota, with the extra trimmings.

Both cars performs equally well, if not, the Bimmer's a bit better.

But i would rather save myself the extra 10'g on my mods or better yet, my bank account.

I believe in the long run, the Is300 would be a better choice in cost saving, reliablity, and most of all "Fun".
 

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I looked at the 3 series and HoustonLex summed it up pretty well. I never really got to push either the 325 or 330 on test drives like I have gotten to push the IS in the year and a half that I've owned it.

A 325 would have cost as much as the IS to get it comparably equipped and the IS felt quicker and a little more nimble. It seems that the 3 series is more common than the ford taurus in the area I live in. The 330 felt quicker and a little more refined than the IS. The ride seemed very solid, but not harsh....kind of the perfect balance. The engine had a beautiful feel and sound too it, but when I was looking at an IS for less than 31 before TT&L and a 330 comparably equipped was going to be at least 7k more. I value my money and I felt the IS was a better value than a 330 or a 325.

Another concern of mine was reliability. My previous car was a 96 pointiac grand am which wasn't exactly a bastion of power, handling, luxury or reliability. I got tired of shelling out $500 to fix one thing and a month later something else went wrong. Where should I start....oil pump replaced, alternator replaced, brakes and rotors replaced, water pump and thermostat replaced, CV joints replaced, transmission shifter solenoid replaced, ignition wiring failed. All this happened between 35k and 75k and I figured the car wasn't getting any younger.

Lexus has a stellar reputation of having great reliability and I didn't want a car that was going to give me problems. I know that BMW's aren't known for their reliability and can be rather expensive to repair...especially as they age. The 3 series was ranked as below average reliability by consumer reports while the IS has excellent reliability. That's why I chose the IS over the 3 series.
 

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My mechanics would have both shot me if I showed up to their shop in a BMW. They hate the things. Their little saying is that BMW stands for "Bring Money With". When I came by in the new IS, they heartily approved. After 50+ years repairing cars between the two of them, they'll both readily admit that Toyota quality is #1, with Honda a distant 2nd. You'll love either car, but save the $10K. Or, treat yourself to the Navigation sytem and still save $8k.
 

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My thoughts pretty much echo a lot of what has already been said, but I'll post anyways since reinforcement is never a bad thing when making such a big decision:

I seriously considered the BMW 330i and IS a year ago and here is why I chose the IS:

1) As everyone said - price. When I got my IS about a year ago, it came fully loaded w/ Nav for $33000 out the door. That price is probably even lower now. A 330i comparably equipped would run into $40K range, as I recall. So the IS was a much better value.

2) You can compare all the numbers you want regarding performance, but when it comes down to it, it really just boils down to a subjective feel of how fun you think a car is to drive. The 330 and IS were about the same in that category for me, and if anything, the IS was more fun to drive as it feels more nimble. This is another reason why I didn't feel the extra cost of the BMW was worth it.

3) Reliability. You can't beat toyota/lexus reliability. My time is worth more than the few hundred dollars in maintentance fees that I may pay with the IS once in a while. So even though everything is free for a BMW, I have seen too many friends continually take their BMW's into the shop for repairs. I don't need the hassle, stress, and waste of time. And, if you plan on keeping your car more than 5 years, well that's when they screw you....
My thinking is that the only way I'll take the reliability risk with a BMW is if the car really kicks ass. So until I can justify spending the money for an M3 or M5, I'll keep away from Bimmers.

4) BMW 3's are everywhere.

5) I hate dealing with asshole BMW dealers. Besides my friend who is one, I haven't met another one that isn't a pompus jerk if you don't drive up in $50K+ car.

6) the IS simply looks better IMO. You won't ever catch anyone checking out a stock 330i, but I always catch people looking at my "almost stock" IS :D

The BMW may have a more elegant looking interior but I like the interior of the IS as it looks more fun. Your concerns about roominess are valid - I'm about your size and nobody over 5 ft tall can sit behind me. But I don't carry more than 1 other person very often, so this is not something I cared about. The seat is a bit narrow too, but I have had no problems sitting in it for long trips.

Hope this was useful and good luck with your decision!
 

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Ok, so here're my 2 cents:

I've spent good 4 months doing the research and my options were the following:

IS300 Lexus
325i BMW
240C Benz

Two months down the road the decision really came down to price and reliability factors. Car was for my wife and frankly performance wasn't the top priority (although as it turned out, imho, IS is the better handling car out of the three, and by far, compared to the Benz).

One thing that really annoyed me was how "greedy" BMW is - EVERYTHING is an option!!! I mean, when you enter the "luxury" realm, things like leather, power seats, moonroof, etc., MUST be included! Why the heck would I wan to fork off $30K and have cloth seats and plastic knobs for seat adjustment :roll: This thing with putting a premium price on every option was the biggest turn off about the Beemer. By the time I got done putting the perfect package together, the wimpy 325i was about $34K. 184hp/2.5L was a dog too. No thanks.

Benz was nice. Top pick in terms of luxurious feel and "prestige", if you will. But, the sticker looked way to high with all the goodies and after driving it I was immediately discouraged: this is an "old" people car, complete absence of the "fun-to-drive" factor. Plus, reliability record has slid quite a bit for this particular Benz.

No matter how hard I looked, I couldn’t find anything wrong with IS. Now that's usually a wrong way to approach a purchase, but still, the fact remains that this is a bullet-proof sedan that packs a punch and has all the goodies included in a very reasonably priced package. Other then the somewhat thirsty engine, there are no complaints. From anyone! All the long-term tests that big car mags have done reflect nothing but praise and satisfaction. And now there's the price - there's not a car for under $30K out-the-door that can compare. If you can still find a 2003 on a dealer's lot - GET IT :) And ask for $6K discount.

330i that you've mentioned is not a fair comparison. If you can afford to pay another $10K then it's a no-brainer :roll:
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thanks for all the good tips.

I really like the IS, and I like Toyota/Lexus reliability.

But it looks like in 04, I cannot get a car without a moonroof. It was a bit of a hassle in 03, but do-able. Now, it looks like leather and moonroof are tied together.

That sux because I don't fit (headroom) in the IS with moonroof.

And the odds of finding an existing 5-speed IS without moonroof is pretty darn slim.

That is the strength of the seemingly "everything is an option with BMW" in that I can separate the moonroof from the other options I want.

So unless I can find an existing IS300 5-speed with leather and no moonroof, I guess I'm BMW bound.

Thanks again for the tips... I like the IS a lot but my long torso does not like the moonroof.
 

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racerdave said:
Thanks for all the good tips.

I really like the IS, and I like Toyota/Lexus reliability.

But it looks like in 04, I cannot get a car without a moonroof. It was a bit of a hassle in 03, but do-able. Now, it looks like leather and moonroof are tied together.

That sux because I don't fit (headroom) in the IS with moonroof.

And the odds of finding an existing 5-speed IS without moonroof is pretty darn slim.

That is the strength of the seemingly "everything is an option with BMW" in that I can separate the moonroof from the other options I want.

So unless I can find an existing IS300 5-speed with leather and no moonroof, I guess I'm BMW bound.

Thanks again for the tips... I like the IS a lot but my long torso does not like the moonroof.
First of all, how tall are you? Secondly, it doesn't make too much sense to me because the moonroof does not eliminate much more than about 1" of headroom, if that.
 

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Is there really that much difference in room when the car is equipped with or without moonroof? Did you sit in one without? I only know of 2 people that have IS300s w/o moonroof. Both are 2001 models. Back in 2000, everything was an option.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Never sat in one without... because I can't find one. :(

The moonroof cars are too tight on headroom for me. I'm only 6-2, but the way I sit in the car (and my long-ish torso) mean that my head is constantly brushing the roof. Me no like that. My 6-6 friend has an easier time because he has gorilla arms and can tilt the seat back super far, which then also helps create headroom. But I can't sit like that.

Also, FWIW, there is 1.3 additional inches available for headroom in the non-moonroof cars. (39.1 vs 37.8, according to the specs on the Lexus website). That's significant for me and my comfort in the car.

Sounds trivial, I'll admit, but it makes a big difference in my daily comfort in the car.

If only I was 5-1 like my wife, I wouldn't have these problems. :roll: :)
 

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racerdave said:
Never sat in one without... because I can't find one. :(

The moonroof cars are too tight on headroom for me. I'm only 6-2, but the way I sit in the car (and my long-ish torso) mean that my head is constantly brushing the roof. Me no like that. My 6-6 friend has an easier time because he has gorilla arms and can tilt the seat back super far, which then also helps create headroom. But I can't sit like that.

Also, FWIW, there is 1.3 additional inches available for headroom in the non-moonroof cars. (39.1 vs 37.8, according to the specs on the Lexus website). That's significant for me and my comfort in the car.

Sounds trivial, I'll admit, but it makes a big difference in my daily comfort in the car.

If only I was 5-1 like my wife, I wouldn't have these problems. :roll: :)
Have you tried lowering the seat all the way yet? I'm 6'1" and I have much room to spare.
 
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