Swap Insanity: Turbo LQ4 Powered Lexus IS300

That exhaust thump sure doesn't sound like any Lexus we've ever heard...

The Lexus IS has always been a highly-regarded car in the import community since its launch in America back in 2000. The small rear wheel drive sedan had incredible handling and nimbleness in factory form, however the as-delivered performance failed to impress us. Even though Lexus has quelled this with the recent IS-F, the early models leave a lot to be desired today.

Thanks to the easy and inexpensive availability of the LS series of engines, enthusiasts are now swapping the Gen-III and -IV mills into them without hesitation, and the latest example we have for you today is this 2001 IS300 that is now motivated by a 6.0L LQ4 truck motor. So it’s sort of ironic that Lexus is heralded as a high-quality luxury car with refined engines, but this owner has elected to replace the 3.0L I-6 with that of a Chevy truck motor.

But a simple engine swap wouldn’t do for Anthony Gray, as he injected the LQ4 with boost…a lot of boost. Starting with a solid foundation that is the iron block LQ4, Anthony fortified the Gen.-III with Clevite rod bearings, Total Seal rings, PRC 199-650 valve springs and titanium retainers, and an IPS timing set. A Brute Speed blower camshaft is responsible for that lumpy idle.

A Bosch 044 fuel pump, 80 lb. injectors, an Aeromotive regulator, and a pair of FAST fuel rails are called upon to quench the 364’s thirst. Inhaling the necessary oxygen is an OEM LS1 intake a a 90 mm throttle body. Anthony used the factory LQ4 exhaust manifolds (mounted backwards, of course) to act as the turbo headers as a budget-friendly but effective solution. The turbocharger is an On3 Performance unit, and specs out at 76mm while the intake charge is left to a secondhand intercooler sourced from a friend. All of these performance mods operating at 6psi add up to a highly respectable 588 RWHP.

Here's Anthony's mill before and after the turbo install. Likes right at home in the Lexus engine bay, doesn't it?

Anthony’s Lexus relies on a Sonnax-built 4L60E gearbox, and he claims it’s capable of handling well over 800 hp. A Precision Industries 3500 stall converter helps launch the Lexus in the necessary rpm range.

The Lexus after all of the mechanicals had been installed. We probably would have drove it around like this, the impatient builders that we are...

The factory 16-inch wheels have been ditched in favor of a set of XXR 17’s. With the rear wheels wrapped in Mickey Thompson drag radials measuring 8.5-inches wide, and the fronts spec’ing in at only seven inches, it’s clear that Anthony is looking to the drag strip for his “go-fast” needs.

Even if high-end Toyotas aren’t your thing, you’ve got to be impressed by how many import guys are making the switch from their Japanese 4- and 6-cylinder engines to our favorite V8.  But what does this mean for traditional musclecar fans? Do cars like Anthony’s Lexus blur the lines between American muscle and import tuner, or does this just help us solidify the relevance of what LS aficionados have been saying all along?

Anthony would like to thank Jon Moore at MooreSpeed Performance and Chad over art On3 Performance in Columbus, Ohio for their contributions. If you want to follow along with Anthony’s build, then check it out on the Lexus LS forums here.

Now all we wana see this thing tear down the 1320. How about you?

 

About the author

Rick Seitz

Being into cars at a very early age, Rick has always preferred GM performance cars, and today's LS series engines just sealed the deal. When he's not busy running errands around town in his CTS-V, you can find him in the garage wrenching on his WS6 Trans Am, or at the local cruise spots in his Grand National.
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