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Weekly Craigslist Hidden Treasure: 2002 Lexus IS300 SportCross

Car Culture / 16 Comments

Only this one isn't officially a Lexus.

It could be argued that the Lexus IS hasn't been better since the original, which came to the US as a 2001 model – two years after it went on sale in Japan. But the original IS wasn't originally made for Lexus but rather for Toyota, which called it the Altezza in its home market. And in many ways it nailed the compact, rear-wheel-drive sport sedan on its first try. Lexus realized the Altezza would be a good fit for the US because it offered buyers a new entry-level model slotted below the popular ES.

But unlike the front-wheel-drive, Camry-based ES, the IS was its own car with a totally different attitude. It was fun to drive and it packed a solid engine under the hood, specifically the optional 3.0-liter inline-six with 217 hp and 218 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel-drive was also available.

Lexus wisely offered buyers a five-speed manual beginning for the 2002 model year, thus making the coveted sport sedan formula possible. Overseas buyers could also get a less powerful 2.0-liter six-cylinder. What we got in the US was the IS 300 SportCross. As you can see, it's simply a wagon version but like its sedan sibling, it (nearly) checked all of the right boxes. Its biggest caveat was that it lacked a manual option, remaining a five-speed slushbox only.

However, its Japanese market counterpart could be equipped with a six-speed manual, though only when powered by the base 2.0-liter. IS 300 SportCross owners still got all of the same hardware as the fun to drive sedan, making it a viable alternative to the likes of the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class wagons.

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In short, the IS300 and IS300 SportCross were not typical Lexus models for the time, but they certainly previewed a more performance-focused future. While it may not be too difficult to find a decent used IS 300 SportCross for sale, it's not every day you come across one imported from Japan. This 2002 Lexus IS300 SportCross we found for sale on Craigslist is actually a Toyota Altezza, right-hand drive and all. Even the pop-up screen is in Japanese, which could make things hard to understand for anyone who can't read Japanese, but hey, it looks cool. The seller claims the wagon is in overall excellent condition with a grand total of only 37,300 miles.

Under the hood is the 3.0-liter inline-six paired to the aforementioned five-speed auto, and power is directed to the rear wheels. No details as to when the car was brought to the US, but given its low mileage and generally solid condition, we don't think it was too long ago. You'll also notice that it's called the Altezza Gita, 'Gita' signifying its wagon body style.

The car is currently located in the Florida Keys and the price is listed at $16,500. You're probably not alone in thinking that's too much. It is. It's a wicked cool sport wagon and all, but just because it was imported and is in good condition doesn't necessarily justify that price. Plus, it'll take a certain type of buyer. Whoever that turns out to be will need to have lots of patience as everyone, and we mean nearly everyone, will point out to them the steering wheel is on the wrong side.