I could not resist posting a reply (my first) because of all the similarities. I too have been "haunting" this forum for months to get all the latest info on the 2002 IS300. I'm first on the waiting list for a 2002 5-speed at one of the dealers here in Atlanta, and I currently drive a 1996 Saturn SL2. My Saturn has been a great workhorse (the only thing keeping me sane driving it is that it has a 5-sp tranny), but I call it my transportation appliance.
For a variety of reasons (mostly related to raising children who rightfully should warrant more spending than a car), I have not been able to sate my thirst for a real driver's car in almost 13 years. The last one I owned was a 1986 Toyota MR2. What a sweet machine! My experiences with that car are in large part the basis of my choosing the IS300 over the new-for-2002 Audi A4. I didn't seriously consider a BMW (too many of them, too pricey to service, too expensive to buy, and, I suspect requiring service too often). Nor did I seriously consider the Jaguar X-type (too expensive when equipped, too corporate, favors XJ over S-type too much, likely too unreliable). I can't wait to start driving my new IS.
Thanks everyone for posting so much great info. I just hope the dealer with whom I put down the dollars doesn't try to screw me on the purchase price because I'm first in line for the 5-speed.