Lexus’ Forgotten 2JZ Wagon: The IS300 SportCross

The Lexus IS300 is quickly garnering coveted status. It is rare and relatively hard to find in stock form. Modified examples are more common but a hit or miss, with some being well maintained and others thrashed on by previous owners.

Even more rare than the IS300, however, is the IS300 SportCross. Toyota built a wagon version of the IS300, and they only made around 4,000 units for the US market. Why is there a wagon version and why is it special, though?

That’s what we’ll cover in this guide. Read along as we discuss the history and tech specs of the IS300 SportCross wagon, along with some tips on what to look out for when buying one used.

Lexus’ 2JZ-Powered IS300 Wagon

Lexus IS300 SportCross engine bay

Lexus is Toyota’s luxury division, primarily targeted toward competing with German sedans of the same segment. Toyota released the IS300, known in Japan as the Toyota Altezza, in European and North American markets.

The IS300’s positioning was spot on, with the high-quality interior, premium material selection, and features. Not to mention the strategic decision to equip it with one of the best inline-6 motors to compete with the best.

All of this got even better as they managed to enter a wider market segment with the SportCross Wagon in 2002. It was meant to be a more practical version of the IS300 — a role it fulfilled beautifully.

It can haul gear, groceries, whatever fits in with ease, and doubles up as a fun and engaging performance car.

Needless to say, it was designed to meet the needs of families who needed something larger than a sedan but did not want to give up sedan-like handling and the feeling of driving something special.

IS300 SportCross wagon boot space with collapsed passenger seats

Of course, you do not need to have a family or a bunch of stuff to haul to justify driving an IS300 SportCross wagon. Some of us are simply wagon enthusiasts, who prefer the hatch style over everything else.

It is definitely a bonus that the SportCross is so rare; you are highly unlikely to come across another at your local cars and coffee.

IS300 SportCross Specs

One gripe many IS300 fans (us included) have with the SportCross is the lack of manual transmission. Lexus could’ve very well included it as an option, but instead, we get a 5-speed automatic which can also be operated with the rather clunky button shifters on the steering wheel.

Lexus SportCross interior

The SportCross version of the IS300 obviously has much more cargo space than its sedan version. But it is also a bit heavier by 125 pounds, yet literally less than half an inch longer than the sedan.

This is partly why the SportCross is so special; despite being a larger wagon, it manages to keep the weight down and the length nearly identical to the sedan to maximize the sporty handling and overall performance of the vehicle.

Here are some of its technical specifications that you should know:

  • Engine Code: 2JZ-GE
  • Layout: Inline six with DOHC
  • Cylinder Block Material: Cast iron and aluminum
  • Fuel System: Port Fuel injection
  • Displacement: 2,997 cc
  • Power: 215 hp 
  • Torque: 218 lb-ft
  • Transmission: 5-speed automatic
  • Drivetrain: Rear-wheel drive
  • Production Years: 2002 to 2005
  • Curb Weight: 3,536 lbs

Finding an IS300 SportCross

As we already stated, the IS300 SportCross is very rare. So finding one might be a challenge, but it’s definitely not impossible. You will want to check forums and online marketplaces, like Facebook and Craigslist, to narrow down your search.

A super-clean IS300 wagon

You can also look at other used car sites; it is possible to find one listed by a dealership. You might have more luck looking at private listings, but with any hard-to-find car, you might as well search far and wide.

Do not limit yourself to a 150-mile radius from where you live. You might find a SportCross for sale that’s halfway across the country.

If driving or flying is not an option for a faraway vehicle, you can always ship it. There are reputable companies that will pick up and deliver your vehicle for you.

However, as with any used car purchase, we highly recommend getting a pre-purchase inspection prior to buying one off a lot. Even if you are 1,000 miles away, you can have a professional inspect the car.

Many shops and dealerships are becoming more familiar with long-distance buyers, as well, so the process is becoming easier overall. If, on the other hand, you can go see the car in person and do a test drive, there are several things you need to be looking for.

What to Look For

First, you want to attend to the general items you should examine when looking at any car, regardless of make and model.

Never neglect to look over the basic things, because they can reveal a lot about the car’s condition and how it has been treated over the years.

Slammed IS300 SportCross wagon
These are the perfect sleeper cars.

General things to check:

  • Rust: IS300 SportCrosses are getting up there in age. You should inspect each body panel for rust, as well as the underbody and engine bay.

    If you do find rust, expect that more is hiding from your sight. The fact that there is some surface rust, however, does not make the car a no-go, but it does serve as a bargaining chip on your part for the final price.
  • Fluids: Pop the hood and inspect the fluids, including the oil, coolant, and brake fluids. If any of the fluids are discolored or have grime/debris built up, it’s a sign of poor maintenance. It could simply be due for an oil change, but be weary if the oil is especially dirty or has sludge.
  • Dashboard: Check the dashboard for any warning lights in addition to the check engine light, such as low tire pressure, brake issues, etc. Also, be sure all the lights on the dash work.

    Some sellers have been known to disable the check engine light so you do not know there is one. The check engine light should flash on with the other lights when you initially start the vehicle.
  • Body: Stand a few feet away from the car and look at it. Do the body lines match up? Does it look uneven? If so, this is a sign it has been in an accident.

    Also, check that the paint matches across body panels; if it does not, it might be due to replaced or repainted panels, and you will want to find out why they were repaired or replaced.
  • Test drive; Drive the car. Does it shift okay? The IS300 SportCross is available only in automatic, but you can still shift manually using the steering-wheel-mounted push-button shifters.

    Pay close attention to the handling, and check if the suspension feels okay. Ideally, you should drive both at slower speeds and highway speeds to get a full feel for how the car performs.
Black SportCross wagon

Specific parts that need inspection:

  • Radiator: IS300s are known to crack around the radiator necks. If this happens, coolant will spill out, and the engine will very likely overheat. You can replace the radiator with an aftermarket, and more durable, option. Be sure to check on this or ask about it prior to purchase.
  • Air Trapped: If you hear what is often described as a gurgling noise, this might indicate that there is air stuck in the coolant lines. Unfortunately, the only way to fix this is to flush the coolant altogether and bleed the system.

    Take note that this will need to be done if you hear it during a test drive. If you are confident this is the sound you are hearing, of course, it is by no means a reason to walk away from the car as it is easily fixable.
  • Throttle: If you hit the gas and the car hesitates before finally pulling away, the car might have the acceleration problem many IS300s had in their automatics.

    Some owners have fixed this by adjusting the throttle cable itself. This issue seems to be prevalent at low speeds, so once the car gets going, the hesitation goes away as well.
  • AC Servo: If you hear a clicking sound from the dashboard followed by your air conditioning system failing, it is most likely the AC servo. Check that the air conditioning works on a SportCross during the test drive.

Final Notes

If you intend on purchasing a SportCross with the intention of slamming and modifying it, there’s good news for you.

Several parts between the IS300 sedan and wagon are interchangeable, including the suspension and exhaust.

You can use IS300 coilovers on the SportCross, with spring rates being the only concern. Many manufacturers offer custom spring rate options, so that’s one way to remedy it.

Fitting IS300 headers to the SportCross is a possibility that might require minor fabrication work.

What do you think about wagons? Would you choose them over a sedan? We know we would! Let us know by leaving a comment below!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.