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The event was held at the Chicago Motor Speedway. It was staged by an automotive consulting group. I only spotted one Lexus rep there (supposedly none were in attendance). They had set a large tent up for registration, food and refreshments, displays for the engine, clothing accessories, tires (goodyears), driving simulators set up with a driving game similar to GT (looks like Dreamcast, of course driving an IS300/Atezza), and a silver IS300 on a raised podium, all with popular music videos dispalyed on flat panel screens placed throughout emulating from several speakers.

They started with a 30 minute "presentation" comparing the IS to the A4 and 328, with a few entertaining commercials scattered throughout the presentation. The speaker was totally biased which made the presentation feel more like an infomercial (where's the remote control when I need it) and had me looking for the simulators to pass the time until he stopped blabbering.

When he finally stopped we were escorted out to the track where they had set up two courses; a hot lap course where professional drivers would take helmeted passengers on the speedway (1 mile oval) portion of the track, and a comparison course on the infield designed to simulate every day driving conditions.

There were quite a bit of people there so I got in the shorter line, the hot laps. You know you're in for a wild ride when the ask you to put on helmets. The driver floors it out of the pits heading for the west end of the oval, hits the back straight where they had set up a high speed slalom and chicane, comes around to the front straight (flat out) across the start/finish, at the end of the straight he pounds on the brakes to demonstrate the braking ability. They are pushing the car at the limit so it's quite a rush. Wait to sit in the front, you get a better feeling for what the car is doing! You also realize they brake alot later than you imagine and carry alot of speed into the corners. Unfortunately (fortunately?) I was not in the car when one of the drivers spun the car at the end of the slalom heading into the east turn of the oval (gotta love the smell of burnt rubber).

The sim course was set in the infield for us to sample the IS versus the A4 quattro and 328 in everyday driving conditions. It had a low speed slalom, couple 40 mph lane change areas, a simulated falling rock emergency lane area (couple guys tossing foam boulders at you while you drive by), and a sandy 90 degree turn to test the ABS. There were posted "speed limits" (somewhat enforced). The course zig-zagged alot and there was always several cars on the course so you really couldn't drive the car at your own limit. But you could push it a little when it was clear (many people were not allowed to drive anymore after getting to enthusiastic on the course knocking over several cones)

The event lasted approximately 3 hours. In that span of time, I was able to take 3 hot laps and drove the IS twice, 328 once, and A4 once through the sim course(rest of the time was spend in line, save the 30 minute infomercial). All-in-all the event was OK. I enjoyed the format of the BMW ultimate drive much more (and that was what I was anticipating for the Lexus event). BMW had put us in small groups, set up a small road course (for each group), and timed us through it. At the end, they broke us up in two groups pitting us against each other by adding up our times through the course. Not once did they talk about the car (they let the car do it's own talking). They just let us do what any of us had always want to do, see how fast we could drive a car around a course. The BMW event really made want to go buy the 328. I didn't come out of the Lexus event as compelled. Don't get me wrong, the IS is not a bad car (see car review next paragraph), it's just the format of the events were so different, one was a LOT more fun than the other.

HOW WAS THE IS300, you ask? It is a wonderful car. It felt really light and nimble, you really didn't feel the weight. W
 

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Thanks much for the update.

Did you notice any hesitation from the e-throttle or any nose-heaviness (understeer) from the car?

I guess not since you didn't mention it.
 

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TEG,

I didn't notice any hesitation from the e-shift, but I wasn't going that fast. The shifts I did try, surprised me because I was expecting some kind of indication that the gears changed. The only indication was the number changing on the instrument panel. The transmission was very smooth. In retrospect, I should have asked one of the profession drivers to put it in e-shift mode through the hot lap (can somebody scheduled to attend at a later date make that request?).

The car was not nose heave at all. I didn't feel any push during the sim portion and hot lap.
 

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I also attended the event. Overall I was impressed with the car and the event. The race track experience was amazing. Those guys really were driving the car at the limit. Through the slalom on the back straight the car was basically drifting all four wheels between the cones. It was perfectly balanced at those speeds with a completely neutral drift. The most amazing thing about the car is its brakes. Virtually no dive or fade. They claim the lack of dive is due to an electronic proportioning valve and large rear brakes. Whatever it is it works. The race drivers run laps back to back for a couple hours straight on the track. The cars show no signs of fatigue, with no smoke, smell, or any other bad signs, including rotor warping. Truly impressive for a production car put to such abuse.

The road course they set up for us was too tight and did not allow enough speed to really get a feel for the car. In my run with the IS I switched off the traction control and was pleasantly surprised to find that full throttle application mid turn hangs the car sideways beautifully and controllably--no i did not hit any cones, although the event people were not happy with me anyway. The suspension is damn tight for a stock car which is also great. This is probably a more hard core sports sedan than a 3 series and with toyota reliability and precision manufacturing it is a hard car to beat. I only wish it had more power. Sure, it is competitive in its class but maybe there could be a special upper model (like M3) with the twin turbo powerplant from the supra. The only major shortcoming of the car is the lack of manual trans. Maybe they could get that 6 speed out of the supra too.


------------------
Ashok Babu
'91 TSi AWD
 

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Nice review. Just a few more ponies, a GPS and a stick and I promise I will shut up! It's stacking up to be a fine car in spite of my gripes.
 

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Was the 328 and A4 the sport package version, 17" wheels, stiffer shocks/springs, etc.?

I know the IS300 comes that way standard and was wondering which version of the competition they provided.
 

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I drove the autocross in Boston (4 times) all with the auto in 1st and 2nd. If you carry good speed into turns you don't need 1st too much. No nose dive at all, handles like a sports car, and the oversteer is easy to control, though I did spin out finally (in 2 inches of water) and got tossed, but it was the last lap anyway. Very different car if you turn off the traction control, puts my Integra to shame, balanced so well.


Originally posted by PXM:
TEG,

I didn't notice any hesitation from the e-shift, but I wasn't going that fast. The shifts I did try, surprised me because I was expecting some kind of indication that the gears changed. The only indication was the number changing on the instrument panel. The transmission was very smooth. In retrospect, I should have asked one of the profession drivers to put it in e-shift mode through the hot lap (can somebody scheduled to attend at a later date make that request?).

The car was not nose heave at all. I didn't feel any push during the sim portion and hot lap.
 

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I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO ATTENDING THE EVENT IN FLORIDA NEXT MONTH. HAS ANYONE HAD THE CHANCE TO COMPARE THE IS 300 TO THAT OF THE ACURA CL TYPE S ? OR HAS ANYONE HAD THE CHANCE TO ATTEND A SIMILAR EVENT THAT DISPLAYED THE CL TYPE S ?
 
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