Fun Stuff

Find of the Week: 2002 Lexus IS 300 SportCross

The Find of the Week this week is a Lexus you might not remember, from back when the brand decided that it wanted to turn its sports sedan into a wagon – no wait, make that a Sport Cross. The car that pioneered the clear taillight fad, fitted with some more cargo space. A car with a sweet inline-six, but sadly no stick. This is the 2002 Lexus IS 300 Sport Cross.

Remember back when Lexus was aiming firmly at BMW? It debuted cars like the smooth-and-fast GS and the 3 Series (back when the 3 had four doors) fighter IS. The IS, known in Japan as the Altezza, launched in North America for the year 2000. It was a sweet little sedan with an inline-six that was totally just like the one from the Toyota Supra. Well, that's what you told your friends, at least.

It had gauges inspired by a fancy watch and clear taillights that actually defined the clear taillight trend. The reason they're called Altezza lights is because of the Japan-market version of this car. So thank it for every Civic you see with taillights of chrome and barely visible, not-quite red. But on the IS, they were cool. Probably because they were done well.

Later in 2000, Lexus introduced an inspired idea for the IS. See, back then the wagon was still dying, but they were selling better than they do now. The crossover hadn't yet taken over completely. So the company added some bodywork to the IS 300 sedan to create the IS 300 SportCross. That's right, a wagon. Which they clearly wanted you to see as a sporty crossover, hence the name.

Unlike a crossover, it was rear-drive only. Like a crossover, it had more cargo space and an automatic transmission, but we say that's an okay tradeoff. Lexus built the SportCross through 2005, and while we're not sure how many it sold, we know that this is far less common than the sedan.

Powering this one, like all IS 300s, is a Toyota-built 2JZ-GE 3.0L inline-six. Yes, it's related to the Toyota Supra's twin-turbo monster, but no, it's not the same engine. Still, 227 hp and 220 lb-ft of torque is nothing to ignore, especially for when this car was new. There was a manual gearbox offered briefly on the sedan but this, like all IS 300 wagons, is a five-speed automatic.

This one, for sale in Edmonton, has a fun story and a tale of woe. Not woe for the car, more that they're letting it go. "I don’t know what got into me but for some reason I went full stupid and bought a German car (2007 S4 Avant with the six-speed manual) which I’m sure I will regret come maintenance time," said the seller.

The seller looks to have paid a great deal of attention to this car, treating it well. While many of them have seen modifications of questionable taste, this one's stock, with the exception of stock-equivalent parts in some areas. It was, however, fitted from the factory with the available limited-slip rear differential that should help handling in summer and winter.

It does have a new audio system fitted, with navigation, something well-needed on most vehicles that are getting to be that age. After all, who doesn't want Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on their 2002?

If you're looking for a compact sportwagon, then there aren't many to choose from. Which means that this IS 300 SportCross could be exactly what you're looking for.