I previously owned a 2011 IS250 saloon and placed an order for a new IS200T for March 2016 delivery. I got a good offer on the IS250, so thought this 2003 IS200 would be a good stop gap car. After collection, I noticed a noisy front wheel bearing, so I changed this - not particularly cheap, but needed to be done. The original cambelt had never been changed - upon inspection it was frayed as expected after 106,000 miles and 13 years - I also had to change that.
The drives extremely well, it's amazing silent and had a lovely gearbox. The box reminds me slightly of the Honda S2000, short throw and like a rifle bolt in its pleasingly precise action. The clutch does judder in the morning, but not for long.
In some ways, I prefer this car to the one I just sold. For instance the engine is much quieter on tick over - it lacks that annoying VVTi ticking sound that my IS250 made. The whole engine note of the 200 is velvety smooth and has a nice meaty growl when worked - again something the 250 lacked. I also like the way it warms up so quickly - within 5 minutes the gauge is at its normal operating temperature, whereas the 250 took so much longer - an extra 10 minutes at least. Performance being the manual version is also strong above 3500 RPM; below this and off the mark it's a little lacklustre.
Great sound system, although the CD changer doesn't work. Attractive dash layout with the watch style dials. Great climate control, fantastic spec for the money: sunroof, heated electric half leather seats, privacy glass, side curtain pillar airbags - amazing on a 2003 car!
It handles tidily and is very easy and enjoyable to drive, with a very quiet smooth and soft ride, I really love it. No rattles or funny noises on a 13 year old car with over 100,000 miles - simply amazing. Like most Lexuses, it is the kind of car you could drive for miles with confidence and enjoyment.
Downsides are it is a bit thirsty and the fuel tank is huge, meaning expensive fill ups. The dashboard plastics are solid but quite hard.
Overall, build quality, reliability, engine and spec make it one of the very best cars for around £1500 that one can buy.