Heresy one might say. Another vehicle from the land of the rising sun has landed in the Chromefin garage… and a WAGON no less. Actually, a 2002 Altezza Gita, better know as the Lexus IS 300 Sport Cross in this continent. What drew me to such an unusual beast? This was Lexus’ attempt to go head-to-head with the BMW 3-Series. Let’s just say I missed the boat on one of these about ten years ago. Just seemed too impractical at the time and I wound up with an ES 300. Fine car… borrrring. But make no mistake, I have had my share of other Toyota’s over the years, MR2’s, Celica GT’s and mostly loved the performance, handling and bulletproof nature.
This past fall, I kept noticing a silver Sport Cross parked in front of the local Trek store. One day I stopped to give it a closer look. I liked it. Went inside to find the owner. “Not for sale” he said. Told me he loved the car so much he was trying to find another for his dad. Rarer than hen’s teeth around these parts it turns out. The following month, I spotted another Sport Cross in traffic and gave chase. Flagged this woman down at the stoplight and handed her my card. Same response, “not for sale”. With that, the hook had been set. Lot’s of reading and research over the Christmas holidays and more intrigue. Low production numbers (only 3,078 reached our shores from 2002–2005), 3.0 liter inline-6 lifted from the larger GS300 sedan, rear wheel drive, double wishbone suspension all around, Check. Buttery smooth acceleration and Lexus quality, What’s not to like?
The first one that came up on my radar for sale was in Cleveland, about a 10 hour drive. The price was right and the Carfax looked great, but having grown up in the rust belt that is the Northeast, and having been spoiled these last ten years living in the deep south where most vehicles have never seen salt, I took a pass. The one pictured above I found a little closer to home in Charlotte, NC. Clean Carfax, just over 100k on the clock, optional limited slip differential and it had spent all of it’s life in the south. Yeah, a stick would have been nice.. and, well, it’s RED, and it’s a WAGON. Buyer’s remorse? None whatsoever. Everything’s pretty tight and rattle free for a twelve year old vehicle. The wheel mounted e-shift system actually works pretty well. The trick is to keep the traction control OFF and the ECT Power button ON (more aggressive shift points).