Other Vehicles

IS300FallI’m occasionally rolling around in this thing these days. When our family hauler GD Impreza bit the dust, it was something I stumbled upon for a good price, and despite understanding that it wasn’t quite the practical family vehicle that our Impreza had been, I assumed I could convince my wife to like the Lexus name, and the low number on the odometer. I guess she is smarter and more practical than I thought: our fleet now includes an AWD Matrix… The family is getting back to it’s roots. All Toyota. All the time.

The Subaru is gone. The Power Wagon is gone. With FHI stamped all over it, the FR-S is now the point of embarrassment.

The IS300 has intrigued me a fair bit. There have been times when I’ve thought that it might be better than the FR-S in all respects.

That sounds shocking, but it’s fairly easy to rationalize. The IS300 is about 400lbs heavier, but you get pretty good value for that weight: a usable back seat, a large trunk, power everything, overbuilt Toyota everything, suspension with two control arms on every corner… and the biggest baddest lump of iron ever to come out of Japan. Well… minus the snails that are supposed to go with it.

The 2JZGE, despite a lack of turbo’s and despite being heavier than any modern V8, and a helluva lot heavier than an FA20, still feels like a great engine to me. Talk of BEAMS swaps into this chassis seems like silliness, even if you view the swap as a convenient excuse to install a clutch pedal. Having driven the odd 2JZGTE car at the track, I never appreciated how smooth they sound and feel during every day use, especially compared to a strung out four cylinder. Yes a BEAMS or an FA20 might make almost the same power out of the box, but gobs more torque goes a long long ways. In many situations the 15 year old sedan feels faster than the brand new “sports car”.

And that’s stock versus stock! If you start thinking about doing work and making your car interesting, the IS300 starts looking really really really good in comparison. It’s a platform that could shed significant weight in any system. Proper suspension on all four corners. A variant of the greatest Japanese engine ever already installed under the hood…

It was obvious. And so the FRS sat alone, untouched, for the last two months. I made plans to spend beautiful time alone with the Lexus… until the Scion dealership called and asked me to bring the FR-S by for a Pro-Pack Inspection. Reluctantly I pulled the keys out of the back of my dresser and took the car that was supposed to be my actual dream car for one last drive before winter.

I came back feeling much less love for the IS300.

blackandgrey2I like to think that good cars are greater than the sum of their parts, but often forget that when I’m not behind the wheel of said cars every day. Hence why I was always in and out of AE86… often forgetting why I was so in love with them when they sat on jack stands, under the knife for months on end. Luckily I’m too financially committed to the FR-S to really waiver on it. The FRS is greater than the sum of its parts, and it’s all about feel and aesthetics. The way the hood line rises on either side still stirs me. The design of the interior which fit me as well as any other car ever has. The big fat rim of the handoru, and the line of sight from the drivers seat.

But the truth is that all of these things are easy enough to adjust… if you are so inclined. Some decent seats would go a long long ways in the Lexus. The selling point of the FRS is supposed to be its on track behaviour. I’m not so sold on it being the greatest thing ever, although its certainly pretty good in stock form. The Lexus might be horrendous on track as is, but again, this is why we have tool boxes and credit cards.

So the point, and answer to all car life problems is…

Love the one your with.

Or in this case… Love the ones you’re with.

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