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2002 Lexus IS 300 Photo
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Pikes Peak International Raceway-- In the lowest-key race track ride-and-drive that most could remember, journalists like yours truly recently had the chance to pilot three production models of a sporting rear-drive sedan: a wagon, a tuner variant and flat-out race car version of the same car around PPIR’s 1.3-mile road course.

Oh, did I forget to mention that we’re speaking of Lexus?

Excuse me, you might ask — a Lexus event at a race track? And multiple versions of the same model, including a tuner edition? Obviously, Robert, the mile-high air induced some hallucinations.

Not so, for even the bright orange Team Lexus IS 300 race car was real. So were the new-for ’02 SportCross (don’t call it a station wagon, Lexus pleads) and the five-speed-manual sedan. The SportCross comes only with the five-speed automatic found on the  original IS 300 that debuted last summer.

2002 Lexus IS300

2002 Lexus IS300

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“Although we promised a manual transmission for the 2002 model year, every IS story I read last year had the wishful caveat ‘…if only the IS 300 came with a manual transmission,’ ” said Lexus Group VP and General Manager Denny Clements. “While we expect the five-speed to be only 20 percent of our IS model mix, or 4800 units annually, Lexus clearly understands the importance of offering customers a stick shift.” Not to mention the journalists who’d have been mighty unhappy if denied the pleasure of exercising “more control over the 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine’s broad power band,” to quote the press kit.
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