Lexus IS200

This was my follow-up to the Alfa Romeo. The Alfa had broken down at least once a month, so I was determined to get something reliable.

I’d always liked the idea of the Toyota Altezza / Lexus IS200 since I first saw it in the Japanese car series Best Motoring. I liked the idea of the straight-six engine and rear wheel drive (which I hoped would make it handle similarly to our old E30 BMW 320i) so I took the plunge and bought a 40K mile example from my local Lexus main dealer.

Even on the test drive I could tell it was less powerful than the Alfa, despite an identically sized engine, but at this point I was more interested in reliability than outright performance.

I enjoyed the smoothness and comfort of the IS200: the heated seats were wonderful, the six-disc CD changer sounded amazing and even at motorway speeds it felt like I was cruising along in a comfy armchair.

But weirdly, it never became fun. The straight six engine was smooth, but not particularly free revving. The gearbox was slick, but first gear was so short that the car made far more noise than progress off the line. And the steering, while comfortable was uninvolving — at the first sign of g-forces, the car would slip into boring, predictable understeer. Thanks to the massive wheels and tyres it was almost impossible to provoke oversteer, despite its credentials on paper.

Fortunately, I was saved from another five years of comfortable but dull driving thanks to the arrival of our first child. The Lexus made way for a people carrier, and I switched over into Tara’s Toyota Yaris SR — a much more exciting wee car.