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Scoop: Aussie IS300 exposed

Big brother: Subtle badging and different wheels are the only clues that distinguish the Lexus IS300 from its lesser IS200 sibling.

Lexus's imminent IS300 was spied undergoing testing in the Gembrook area of Victoria

10 Apr 2001

THE 3.0-litre Lexus IS300 may still be six months away from its Australian release, but Automotive NetWorks has already sprung the powerful new sports sedan undergoing secret validation testing fresh from Japan last week.

Powered by its GS300 sibling's 166kW straight-six and carrying subtle IS300 badging, the otherwise inconspicuous Lexus was caught during on and off-road evaluation in the Gembrook area of Victoria.

The IS300 has been on sale in the US for almost two years and will be offered in right-hand drive form Down Under from September.

It is believed at least two IS300s are undergoing suitability testing in Victoria, with attention focussing specifically on satellite navigation technology.

The IS300 spied in Gembrook featured a pop-up in-dash satnav monitor like the Volvo S60's, but with a control module located in the centre console behind the transmission shift gate.

Lexus also has a more advanced satnav system with an interactive touch-screen monitor, but it is believed the simpler, less costly satnav technology will be offered here.

Interior woodgrain trim, different leather seats, High Intensity Discharge headlights, headlight washers and chromed 17-inch alloys were also fitted to the IS300 in question, along with what appeared to be gear selection buttons on the leather-clad steering wheel.

The IS300 will be sold as an automatic-only model initially, though the US market will receive a manual transmission version for 2002.

Whether a manual IS300 makes it here or not, expect the remote gearshifting system to appear in both Australian IS300 and GS300 models.

At present the IS200 is sold in both six-speed manual and automatic guises, with a $6800 Sport Luxury Option including power/heated seats, leather trim, drilled alloy pedals, LSD, sports suspension, 17-inch alloys and a leather steering wheel and shift knob.

It is likely the IS300 will include all this equipment as standard and be sold at a price around $80,000.

Its closest rivals will be the Mercedes-Benz C320 ($99,900) and BMW's $89,380 330i sedan.

Lexus US claims 0-100km/h acceleration of 7.1 seconds, making it quicker than the GS300 by quite a margin.

In other Lexus news, the IS200 based SportCross wagon and US-only GS430 are unlikely to be sold in Australia due to limited demand.

Similarly, plans to offer a supercharged version of the IS200 have been shelved.

Rumours of a 150kW MR2 convertible have also been quashed despite confirmation of a more powerful roadster from a source within Toyota Australia.

"If such a car exists it won't be produced by Toyota Motor Corporation Australia," Toyota Australia media relations manager Mike Breen said.

"We have no plans to sell a more powerful MR2." A definite Lexus starter for Australia will be the cracking new SC430.

The hard-top convertible employs a retuned version of the LS430's quad-cam 4.3-litre V8 but, with a 200kg-lighter kerb weight, will easily be the Japanese maker's new performance leader.

Expect the SC430 to go on sale here in July and, if the American experience is anything to go by, its pricing structure should be line-ball with the $171,500 LS430.

Finally, Lexus's all-new ES300 will lob just a month later than the IS300, in October. Unlike the current model, the new ES300 will share no components with the Toyota Camry.

Pricing may increase slightly from its current ask of $75,000.

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