We are totally stoked to have a Lexus IS 300 in our stable of project vehicles. Long-time readers of Turbo know we have been ardent supporters of the Toyota Altezza, the home-market (Japan) version of the IS 300. A Trust-tuned Altezza graced the May '99 cover of Turbo, and we have published a couple of stories on other Japan-spec Altezzas. We've followed the development of the IS 300 in our "Turbo Updates" section ever since.
For those unfamiliar with the Altezza and the IS 300, the Altezza is a four-door sedan with sculpted body lines, short overhangs and narrow track. The Altezza is powered by a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder 3S-GTE engine and Japanese tuners have jumped all over the car. It was a big hit at the 1999 Tokyo Auto Salon. The car was conceptualized as a BMW 3-Series fighter and is offered in Europe with a 2.0-liter six in the engine bay.
Our TRD coil-overs flex four-position...
Our TRD coil-overs flex four-position adjustability for rebound only. The user can adjust the valving of the shock and tune the ride and handling of the units. They are delivered set at No. 2, which provides 463 lbs-ft of dampening in front and 178 lbs-ft in the back. Setting No. 1 is about 20-percent softer, while No. 3 is 20-percent stiffer.
The engine bay is where all the development for the U.S. model was centered. The rumor mill was spooled like a turbo at full song. Everyone wanted the Supra twin-turbo six. For a while, a Camry motor was the leading candidate (these were the scary dark days). Then the 245 hp VVT-i naturally aspirated six took the lead roll. The engine that made it was a 3.0-liter inline six with VVT-i that generated 215 hp at the flywheel.
The second most popular item in the rumor mill was the gearbox. Japanese version had a six speed and that's what we were pulling for. An automatic with the e-shift feature from the GS300/GS400 was the winner. A late bid by Toyota of America for a five-speed manual was approved, but there was not enough time to make the change for the 2001 model year. The car's sophomore run will have a manual transmission as standard fare. If you plan on battling BMW, you have to have a stick.
The TRD sway bars keep the...
The TRD sway bars keep the yellow theme going under the IS. The fronts are 30mm units, which according to TRD, provide a 49-percent improvement over stock. The rear bar is a 19mm proposition, which delivers a whopping 99-percent improvement in rigidity. Both TRD bars feature hollow construction.
The spring rates that accompany...
The spring rates that accompany the TRD units check in at 672 lbs-ft in the front and 560 lbs-ft in the rear. We have made the most out of this setting and have noted very little change in ride quality. We plan to test the other settings in the future, so stay tuned.
The new stance makes the Lexus...
The new stance makes the Lexus look even more aggressive. The threaded collar allows the user to dial in the tuck at will. Check out the chart for the specifics of the drop. We plan to play with this aspect of the suspension as well.
This three-point cross member...
This three-point cross member brace ties in the front underpinnings by replacing the existing bar. The construction of the unit is high quality.
The most recognizable part of the car has to be the taillight treatment, which we nailed as a future trend in our Tokyo Auto Salon coverage. Today, reproduction Altezza taillights have been constructed to fit a number of U.S. imports, from Toyotas to Hondas. The other cool part of the car is its gauge cluster, which is designed to mimic a chronograph watch.
The Lexus rolls on attractive 17x7 five-spoke aluminum wheels and 215/45ZR17 performance rubber and is surprisingly agile. With its stiffened sport suspension and low-profile rolling stock, the 3,270 lb. sedan provides exhilarating handling, while the highly responsive chassis delivers good ride quality. The first thing we did was further capitalize on the car's handling prowess, while also enhance its looks. The goal was to get the look with as little impact on ride quality as possible. We contacted Toyota Racing Development (TRD) and asked about its coil-over suspension kit. The package uses a civilized shock/strut with four-position adjustablity over rebound and is offered without pillow ball mounts, which should minimize ride harshness. The coil-over set-up also gave us a great deal of freedom in selecting the proper ride height. We took delivery of upgraded sway bars and some trick under-chassis cross member braces as well.
Installation was handled at TRD in Tustin, Calif. where TRD technician Jimmy Mullinax worked the air tools. With the car on a lift and the front tires removed, the first order of business was removing the daylight running lamps relay box on the passenger-side upper fender. Then the 12mm upper shock bolts were taken off. Moving inside the fenderwell, the ABS line was unbolted to ensure it would not be damaged when the suspension rebounded during the procedure. It should be noted that this line is electric (providing the pulse for the ABS system) and contains no fluid.
Next, the 14mm bolts that connect the front sway bar to the mounting link are removed on both sides. This allows the bar to be pivoted out of the way. The 17mm lower shock mount bolt is removed and the assembly is turned outward for better access. Then the shock body is "shaken, rattled and rolled" to remove it from the car. The upper body support from the OE unit is retained and put on the TRD coil-over. It is positioned within the fenderwell. An upper shock tower bolt is used to secure the unit in place, while the wheel assembly is turned back to pointing forward and the lower 17mm shock mount bolt is tightened to OE spec. The ABS line is re-secured and the upper tower bolts are installed to spec. It should be noted the relay box did not re-install as before, so we postioned the box's mounting plate under the shock tower bolts. The sway bar can be re-secured unless you are upgrading them as well. The procedure is the same for the driver's side, with the exception that an igniter is positioned where the relay box was on the other side.
The rear is a four-point cross...
The rear is a four-point cross member brace and it replaces body support arms that run from front to rear on each side of the vehicle. The brace ties all the rear suspension together and adds to the stiffness and responsiveness of the chassis.
This is one of the body support...
This is one of the body support arms that must be removed to make way for the TRD four-point rear cross member brace.
When it comes to installation,...
When it comes to installation, the daylight running lamp relay box must be removed to access the upper mounting bolts. On the driver's side, an igniter is situated in the same place on the tower. It should be noted that when the TRD units go on, these items should be installed underneath the upper mounting plate.
For the rear, the wheels are removed, as is the trunk carpet kit. The game remains the same, except that the rear dampers have two additional 12mm mounting bolts located at the mid-point of the shock body. Again, the sway bar is loosened for better access. When installing the rear coil-overs, the guys at Mullinax told us the key was to first tighten the lower bolt, the three upper bolts second and the middle bolts third. Not following this order can result in a gap at the top of the coil-over and an accompanying rattle.
On the road, there was an added feeling of connection with the car. It seemed more eager to respond to steering input and much more precise in the execution of its duties. This performance was at the shock setting as delivered (No. 2) and we expect a real party when we start twisting the dial. The Lexus is hunkered down and looking mean; we can't wait to add some 18s and play with the spring perch position. There is a slight change in ride feel as the IS transfers a little more of the milder suspension impacts, but the increase in steering feedback is exponentially greater that any impact in ride quality. You can't go wrong with this setup, as we have a softer setting and two stiffer settings to experiment with, but this coil-over package is only one of the suspension systems TRD has developed for the Lexus. If you are looking for added g-forces, give TRD a call. The accompanying gallery of photos details the TRD components and gives some visual insight to the installation procedures described in the text.
The front ABS line (arrow)...
The front ABS line (arrow) must be loosened before the suspension is manipulated to remove the stock setup. This line is electrical, providing the pulse for the ABS system, and contains no fluid.
|Front ||14 1/4-inch |
|Rear ||14 1/2-inch |
|TRD Modifed |
|Front ||13-inch |
|Rear ||13-inch |
|Total Drop |
|Front ||1 1/4-inch |
|Rear ||1 1/2-inch |
The chart illustrates the amount of suspension drop provided by the kit, as it was delivered straight from TRD. Our measurements were taken from the centerline of the wheel hub to the fender lip. In a future article, we will address manipulating the ride height of the coil-overs.
The upper body support from...
The upper body support from the OE unit is retained and put on the TRD coil-over before the TRD piece is positioned within the fenderwell.
Since it is shorter overall...
Since it is shorter overall (compared with stock), the TRD coil-over's short-tube design provides the desired amount of drop with the proper rod travel in order to handle the harshest of suspension impacts.
At the rear, the manner in...
At the rear, the manner in which the TRD units are installed will affect the smoothness of the install and the performance of the coil-overs. The rear dampers have two additional 12mm mounting bolts located at the mid-point of the shock body. Again, the sway bar is removed for better access. When installing the rear coil-overs, Mullinax told us that the key was to tighten the lower bolt first, the three upper bolts second and the middle bolts third. Not following this order can result in a gap at the top of the coil-over and an accompanying rattle.