2000 - 2005
Garage Queens: $10-15k
High sale is a 72k mile ‘02 SportCross (wagon) for $15.5k on @bringatrailer in August of 2018
Lexus’s timing couldn’t have been more fortuitous with the first generation IS. The sport compact scene was in full swing when the first MY 2000 IS300s hit US shores, but the first wave of tuner kids were now tuner guys, maybe even working professionals with a family, and the IS300 was the perfect way to sell out without, well, selling out. Lexus took an all-or-nothing approach with the IS in the US: one engine option (the 2JZ-GE), one transmission option at launch (5-speed auto), and minimal options, the most notable of which was a limited-slip differential ($390 extra). All told, a fully loaded IS300 cost the equivalent of an entry-level BMW 328i. What you got in return was exactly what the IS300 looked like on paper: a razor sharp, responsive compact sedan that your wife would ride in and could carry a car seat.
Pundits at the time complained about the harsh ride and kitschy interior, but that’s exactly what Lexus’s target demographic was looking for. Even if the IS didn’t possess the intangibles that the 3-Series did, it had all of the specs on paper to win a benchracing argument. And at the end of the day, is there anything more emblematic of the early 2000s tuner (and wider car) scene than spending 10% of your time driving and working on your car and the other 90% benchracing on internet forums?
Fun fact? A HomeLink garage door opener was a $1,750 option. For a garage door opener. Seventeen hundred and fifty dollars. Unreal!