Lexus IS 200



Produced as a direct competitor to the luxury sport sedans of the leading European luxury marques, the Altezza/IS was designed with a greater performance emphasis than typically seen on prior Japanese luxury vehicles.

The design received critical acclaim at its 1998 launch, and was awarded Japan’s “Car of the Year” award for 1998-1999. A year later, Lexus began marketing the IS equivalent models in Europe, and the IS debuted in the U.S. as a 2001 model.

The AS200 (Chassis code TA-SXE-10, sedan or TA-GXE-10 FR Gita wagon, TA-GXE-15, 4WD Gita wagon), powered by a 1G-FE inline-6 engine generating 160 PS JIS (118 kW) or 155 PS DIN (114 kW) and mated to a 6–speed manual transmission (4–speed automatic optional)
The RS200 (Chassis code GH-SXE-10, sedan) powered by a Yamaha tuned 3S-GE inline-4 engine generating 210 PS JIS (154 kW) and mated to a 6–speed transmission (5–speed automatic optional)
The AS300 (Chassis code TA-JCE-10 FR Gita Wagon, or TA-JCE-15, 4WD Gita wagon) powered by a 2JZ-GE inline-6 engine generating 220 PS JIS (162 kW) or 215 hp SAE (160 kW) and mated to only a 5–speed automatic for the FR Gita Wagon or a 4–speed automatic for the 4WD Gita Wagon.

Lexus IS vehicles sold in Europe and North America, as well as the Japanese hatchback/station wagon version called the Gita (called Lexus IS SportCross in the U.S. and Europe) were only available in the 3.0 liter 6-cylinder version (2JZ-GE). In the U.S. market, sales fell below expectations; after hitting a high of 22,486 units in 2001, IS sales dropped below the 10,000-unit mark in 2004. The IS 200 fared better in Europe and Asia, but still fell well short of the sales volume achieved by the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and other, mostly German-made competitors. This trend was indicative of Lexus’ smaller global status; while Lexus’ range of cars is very successful in North America, the marque’s sales still lag behind its German rivals in Europe and several other markets.

The IS 200/300 interior featured unique elements not typically found in other Lexus models. These included a chrome metal ball shifter, pop-up navigation screen, and chronograph-styled instrument panel (with mini gauges for temperature, mpg, and volts). The styling cues of the rear light clusters on the first generation Lexus IS were copied by a number of after-market accessory manufacturers for applications on other vehicles. This iconic style of one or more internal lamp units, covered with a clear (or tinted) perspex cover made popular by Lexus, became known in many circles as ‘Lexus-style’ or ‘Altezza’ lights.

The EPA listed the first generation IS as a subcompact car, despite being a compact on the inside.

The 2JZ-GE powered IS series are popular amongst tuners in the U.S. because of their 6-cylinder engines. The Altezza is mostly popular amongst tuners not only because of its possible engine swap for the previous generation Toyota Supra’s 2JZ-GTE motor, but as it is viewed as the successor to the renowned AE86. Modified versions of the 2JZ-GTE have been seen with over 1000 hp.
2001 Toyota Altezza
2001 Toyota Altezza

In Japan, the RS200 has a wide availability of tuning parts, the engine block is similar to the last of the SW20 MR2 and ST202 Celica but offers an upgraded Dual VVT-i. As a result, a number of tuning companies has modified the IS/Altezza over the years.

TTE converted an IS 200 first, and within a few years RMM in the US converted an IS 300. The MillenWorks-built Lexus IS 430 was unveiled at the 2003 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. The IS 430 prototype is an IS 300 fitted with a 4.3 L V8 from the Lexus GS. Lexus dubbed the IS 430 a one-off with no plans for production. In Europe, Toyota Team Europe (TTE) shoehorned a supercharged 4.3 L V8 into a IS 300 bodyshell, the result is a 405 PS ECE (298 kW) sedan capable of accelerating from 0-100 km/h in 4.5 seconds. TTE also produced an aftermarket supercharger kit for the IS 200, raising the power output to 204 ps ECE (150 kw).

At the mean time, a number of Japanese tuning firms, HKS, Blitz, Top Secret, Sard, Power Enterprise, including Toyota’s own TRD, started to develop plenty of performance parts, typically from super chargers, turbo chargers, and even individual throttle bodies, and sometimes complete car conversions.

The RS200 is also used by many racing teams, including TRD (Toyota Racing Development), to race in various touring car racing series across Asia. A Lexus IS 200, based on a heavily modified RS200, has also raced in the British Touring Car Championship with limited success.

Scribbled on March 28th 2007 in Lexus, Pictures
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