Over the course of the past few years, wagons have enjoyed somewhat of a resurgence. There was a time, particularly in the late 1990s, when it appeared as though wagons were on their way to becoming footnotes in automotive history, their long run as the preferred form of family transportation ended by the encroachment of sport-utility vehicles and crossovers. With so many new vehicles offering not only increased cargo capacity but also all-wheel drive and a high seating position the provided a commanding view of the road, automakers quietly stopped producing wagons and shifted their attentions elsewhere.
After the turn of the century, wagons were increasingly only found as secondary offerings from premium European manufacturers such as Audi, Volvo and BMW. Across the Atlantic, these vehicles had never been in danger of being brushed aside by swaggering SUV's due to the fact that most urban roads were far too narrow and congested for trucks to be at all practical. It wasn't long before Lexus noticed that no other Japanese luxury company was offering a wagon version of any of their vehicles, and they decided to test the waters with a compact vehicle based on the IS 300 sedan.
Dubbed the IS 300 SportCross, the automobile was a definite surprise to most industry observers. Toyota had been one of the first companies to stop selling wagons in the United States, but here they were, jumping back on the bandwagon. The SportCross did more than just simply graft a square cargo area onto the back of the IS 300 sedan - it actually significantly changed the character of the vehicle altogether, transforming the rear quarters of the sport sedan into a protruding angular bulge that had a greater resemblance to a Saab than to anything else sold by Lexus.
The IS 300 SportCross, introduced in 2002 seemed to herald a new era of wagon design, with both Dodge and Chevrolet coming out with full and mid-size wagons over the course of the next few years. Lexus would essentially have the entire Japanese sport wagon market to themselves until they withdrew the SportCross model from the lineup in 2006 when the entire IS platform was re-designed. This article examines this best used wagon from Lexus and takes a look at whether the increased functionality offered by the SportCross is worth the extra effort required to locate one of these rare beasts on the secondhand market.
2002 - 2005 Lexus IS 300 SportCross
The Lexus IS 300 is presented as a sport sedan, and the wagon equivalent borrows the same image in order to appeal to the same demographic of boy racers and young professionals on the cusp of family life looking for a more capable vehicle but not interested in driving a minivan. While the 2002 - 2005 Lexus IS 300 SportCross makes use of the same 215 horsepower, 3.0-liter straight six-cylinder engine as the sedan, it forgoes the 5-speed manual transmission that helps to make that vehicle so much fun. This places it at a disadvantage compared to the German competition who put no such limitations on their sport wagons. The SportCross also cannot be ordered with the sport suspension found in the sedan, adding another strike against the vehicle in the minds of performance-conscious buyers.
The 2002 - 2005 Lexus IS 300 SportCross more than doubles the trunk space of the sedan, coming in at almost 22 cubic feet of usable storage. With the rear seats folded down this number balloons up to 40 cubic feet, impressive and on par with some compact SUV's. Rear seating is still a bit tight, as it is in the sedan, which is perfect for kids but will cause taller adults to complain. The rest of the interior is of course up to the high standards drivers have come to expect from Lexus, with tasteful leather seats and a very attractive dash and center console housing easy to use switchgear. Wagon buyers can opt for DVD navigation, a moonroof and heated hides for the front seats to keep themselves toasty during the winter months.
Is the 2002 - 2006 Lexus IS 300 SportCross as appealing as the sedan in terms of fun? Without a manual transmission, the answer would seem to be no. However, taking into consideration the excellent build quality and comfort of a Lexus, and the inexpensive purchase price of the vehicle itself, the SportCross is easy to recommend as a used wagon for growing families.