Lexus IS XE10, the best car you’ve never heard of, and probably haven’t seen, and likely won’t see.

We’re in 1998, nine years after the launch of Lexus (yes, Lexus was founded in 1989), and here comes the Lexus IS XE10. Of course, we had the Lexus LS, which was the first Lexus car, designed to kick S-Class and 7 Series in the nads, so it was only a matter of time before Lexus entered the arena of mid-size and compact sedans.

The Lexus IS XE10 was responsible for competing with the 3 Series, C-Class, and Audi A4. Well, less with the A4 because it was still living in obscurity like Theo Rose, and the C-Class needed a veteran’s permit from the 1848 revolution to be driven. Still, Lexus IS XE10 had to deal with the 3 Series, so it had to get to work.

It came with a 2.0-liter petrol engine with 155 horsepower and didn’t necessarily perform poorly in Europe. However, its real success was in the USA, where it benefited from the success of the Lexus LS. However, in Europe, it had limited success because they wanted a compact sports sedan, but they made two big mistakes. The first was that Lexus IS XE10 followed the American recipe for a fast car in a straight line but bad in corners, opting for a comfortable suspension because in the USA you don’t need to turn the wheel too much anyway.

They didn’t adapt the European model specifically for sportiness. Sure, it was more successful than the C-Class because the latter was too busy kicking itself in the nads and insisting on doing so. Still, Lexus IS XE10 didn’t manage to break the barrier of the 3 Series. They tried again in 2001 when they introduced a new 3.0-liter gasoline engine with 217 horsepower, but they made the mistake again by offering only an automatic transmission. Again, it makes sense in the USA, but not so much in Europe. I mean, a manual Lexus IS300 would certainly have stolen some sales from the 328i, but by offering only an automatic transmission, they drove away horsepower junkies.

It took this lesson for them to establish their identity and decide for the second generation to go into the comfort and luxury zone, even introducing a diesel engine. But the first Lexus IS? It was an experiment that caught on in the USA and funded the second generation, but in Europe, it remains a rare presence, and that shouldn’t surprise you.


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Lexus IS XE10 Engines


  • 2.0 MPI 3S-GE l-4  of 155 horsepower – A simple and successful engine, the 1G-FE engine has proven its reliability over time. Its weak points are the spark plugs (like any naturally aspirated petrol engine) and the water pump and timing belt tensioners, but it is recommended to replace them at the same time.
  • 2.0 Turbo 1G-FE l-6 of 185 horsepower – Initially offered in 2000 as an aftermarket kit by Lexus and later became an official option. The engine received a low-pressure compressor, 30 beautiful extra horsepower, and fuel consumption approximately the same as the naturally aspirated version. Unfortunately, it was retired by the IS300, so it’s a rarer engine than my moments of lucidity.
  • 3.0 MPI 2JZ-GE of 217 horsepower – Very popular among tuning enthusiasts because this engine was also installed in the famous Toyota Supra. It’s a shame they only installed a 5-speed automatic transmission. It’s like being paralyzed in paradise. It’s like winning a lifetime supply of Pepsi but suffering from ulcer.



Lexus IS XE10 Reliability  Issues

  • Lexus IS XE10 eats front tires like ElectroBoom eats electricity, thanks to the subpar-quality bushings.
  • The automatic transmission is like Joe Biden. It thinks normally but speaks more slowly. I would avoid it completely. The automatic transmission on the Lexus IS. Not Joe Biden.
  • Besides devouring tires as if rubber will be banned tomorrow , Lexus IS XE10 also has a tendency to eat clutches. However, the first IS is criticized for not being a sports car, or at least not as sporty as it presents itself.
  • Now comes the complementary moment when I will talk about the rust of Japanese cars from the 2000s.
  • The rear seats are nonexistent. They put them there so they wouldn’t say they’re not there.



Lexus IS XE10 Verdict 

In the USA, it was a formidable success, but in Europe, they went wrong because they didn’t establish its identity from the beginning. They gave it sporty engines but a comfort suspension and automatic transmissions. A car that goes fast in a straight line but is bad in corners, which is a classic American recipe. But in Europe, it will fail just like “Pimp my bedroom.” And you can see this on the streets, with Lexus IS XE10 being a rare presence today. However, if you want an incredibly reliable car with some sporty qualities, you should definitely try one.

Which engines do I recommend? The 2.0 MPI engine with 155 horsepower and a manual transmission should be all the IS you’ll ever need.