Lexus IS200

Rear wheel drive, an in-line six, six-speed trans, compact but stylish shape, Lexus build quality. Throw in the Limited Edition all-enveloping yellow paint, aggressive seventeens wearing hi-po Potenza REO40 215/45's (treadwear rating - just 140!), yellow leather-and-carbon-fibre steering wheel, drilled pedals and dark window tint and you gotta say that it looks a sweet, sweet package. You know - snick, snick, snick through the gears as you fling the car through a series of S-bends, high-revving six spitting them backwards as you balance the car on the throttle... ecstasy in action.

But let's change the scene. Totally.

You're at an Australian Japanese-importing wrecker; greasy engines on a greasy floor. You wander past the Toyota sixes of the last few years - the Soarer's 1JZ-GTE twin turbo six, the awesome Supra's 2JZ-GTE, even the Lexus GS300's naturally aspirated 2JZ-GE's lovely 3-litre. These engines are - rightly - being given pride of place. Out the back, uncleaned even under the dust and dirt, are the unloved old Japanese market Toyota sixes - the 1G series. Iron-blocked and lacking in grunt and revs, they were available in twin turbo (1G-GTE) and even supercharged (1G-GZE) forms. But neither produced much power, and so they've never been seen as anything special in terms of Toyota performance - not like those 1JZ and 2JZ engines, which are simply world class. In fact, last thing I heard, you could pick up a used 1G engine - any 1G engine - for about $150.

Now let's draw these two themes together. The superbly glossy Lexus IS200 gracing the spotlit, inner-city, new car showroom floor; and the daggy old, unloved and unwanted 1G Toyota sixes pushed to one side at the outer suburban wreckers. Take a deep breath folks - the Lexus IS200 runs a 1G-FE engine, all iron block and uninspiring 114kW at just 6200 rpm. Yes, you read that right - a Toyota six that fundamentally dates back what - fifteen, maybe even twenty years? Oh s-u-r-e, the 1G under the IS200's bonnet does have intake cam variable valve timing and a variable length intake manifold, but putting a few jewels on an old bag doesn't make for a scintillating beauty, does it?

So no, this ain't your high-stepping, responsive mill, turbine-smooth and grunty throughout the rev range. Instead, this is the engine that gives this $54,766 beauty a straightline performance that we saw pasted by a standard Datsun 180B, so little grunt that keeping up with a Rodeo V6 ute in the normal flow of traffic required rowing the six-speed dementedly. This is a car for those who like the eye-catching looks, the excellent handling and probable high retained value. People for whom 0-100 times matter little; where cutting a slow but stylish dash is more important than winning traffic light grands prix. And talking about 0-100 sprints, Lexus claim 9.5 seconds for the 1348kg car but - at least in our low-kay example - we'd put the time as 2 seconds slower than that.

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