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Hidden Power: 2JZ NA-T Powered Lexus IS300



Out of all the build styles that exist, the sleeper variety is the most intriguing. It is common in the world of high horsepower builds to also flash some extroverted aesthetic as a signal to enthusiasts that an impressive dyno sheet backs the large bumper opening and track-spec wing, but a sleeper acts as a wolf in sheep's clothing, ready to pounce without warning. For Toyota cars, many are potentially seen as underpowered or lacking any real oomph until you reach the venerable Supra, the 4th generation JZA80 being the most famous for exhibiting style and speed, the 2JZGTE acting as the proverbial gun in a knife fight for many tuners. The 2JZ as we know is available in more than just Toyota's old halo car, it was equipped in a plethora of vehicles in both naturally aspirated and turbo form, with or without VVTi, which is why Alexsy chose his 2002 Lexus IS300 as the foundation to build a fast street vehicle.



For the past few years, I've known Alexsy from the local Tampa car scene, he's a humble and friendly transplant from Curaçao who's proud of his roots, and crazy about Toyotas. Aside from the IS300, we're going to talk about, he also owns an EP82 back home in Curaçao and has a 2nd generation Toyota Tacoma 2-door that's modified in that classic minitruck style, it's the reliability and untapped potential of these platforms that drive so many to own and then modify them. The Lexus IS300 started as the sensible choice, it's automatic and comes with a VVTi 2JZGE, having four doors means it can hold more passengers for daily duty, and for Alexsy it reminded him of the Altezzas back home that he always admired. For the first four or so years it remained relatively stock, it was lowered on Megan Coilovers and a set of no-name 18 x 8-inch wheels were coupled to Michelin Pilot Sport 4S rubber, this follows the ethos of spending where it counts, performance was a goal that came before building clout.



While thoroughly enjoying his IS300, Alexsy worked with Trilogy Performance to come up with a game plan to bring some serious power to this particular JCE10, in a matter of months things started coming together that would help double the stock horsepower rating. First, the elephant in the room had to be addressed, and that was the 2JZGE, and not just any ol' 2JZ missing that very important "T", but it was the VVTi variant. Most VVTi engines come with higher compression but thinner rods which are prone to cracking when boost is added to the equation, this meant using non-VVTi 2JZGE rods and pistons, ARP hardware, ACL bearings, a 2JZGTE oil pump, and an OEM 2JZGTE head gasket. The time and effort that went into doing this refresh meant that this particular NA-T 2JZ would be able to withstand the extra cylinder pressure that was about to be introduced from the Rev9 6062 .68AR turbo. The turbo chosen by Alexsy and crew was mated to a CX Racing turbo manifold, downpipe, and mid-pipe. On the intake side, a 2JZGTE upper intake manifold was paired with RAD Industries billet adapter, a Mishimoto intercooler handles charge temperatures, and cooling is also handled by Mishimoto with an upgraded radiator and fan combo.



Being in Florida means that when you build a vehicle you're able to bypass emissions and also purchase a variety of fuel options like 93 octane and E-85. With an upgraded engine, a turbo, and other odds and ends that make it far from stock, the OEM IS300 ECU had to be retired and replaced with an ECU Master EMU Black standalone. Rewiring an old car with a new standalone is a great way to tap into extra power and efficiency, and for this particular build, it allows the addition of a Flex Fuel sensor to run E85 which can prevent detonation when adding boost and timing advancement. To get the extra E85 pumping, a Walbro 525 fuel pump was used to send corn juice to the massive 2200 cc Bosch fuel injectors that were kept in check by a PQY fuel pressure regulator.



To run boost through the drivetrain of a 22-year-old car can be particularly sketchy, even more so when it's backed by an automatic. The A650E is a fairly stout, 5-speed automatic transmission that was used on many Toyota and Lexus products, supporting the 2JZ, 1UZ, and 3UZ, and with some help it supports this build. To hold more power and shift faster, the valve body was shimmed and oil pressure was increased, this should extend the life of this torque converter automatic while making it more engaging to drive. Of course, as a rear-wheel drive car, the differential had to be tended to as well, a big upgrade came in the form of a Scion FRS-sourced Y38 rear differential with a 4.1 final drive and LSD. The addition of an LSD with shorter gears means that once sorted, this IS300 should be able to hook up well underload and handle exponentially better through the corners, for Alexsy it also means he'll be able to perform massive smoky burnouts.



It took a short while to finally get everything together, but once that happened the team at Troy from Trilogy Performance was able to get the IS300 on the dyno. For Alexsy, this build was about having some of that Toyota Supra power but with a smaller budget, and in a more useable car, but he also wasn't seeking outright horsepower figures but instead, acceleration drenched in unflinching reliability. When on the dyno, the NA-T 2JZ was able to pump out an even 415 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque to the floor. In 2024 these aren't massive numbers, but it almost doubles the flywheel horsepower this car came with from the factory. Behind the wheel, it is night and day, the smaller dimensions of the IS300 mean that with great power comes great responsibility, but it also puts a smile on Alexsy's face when he's able to get into boost at just 3,200 RPM and let it rip to speeds we will not admit to in this article. This doesn't feel like a tuned car when driving around at low speeds, and it punches well above its weight when the turbo kicks in as the torque pairs up with the final drive gear ratio to perform like a car with an extra 200whp, it's seriously underrated.



Car builds are like your favorite Netflix show, you get to the end of a really good season and have to wait for more action, drama, and in some cases romance. For Alexsy, this is just season 2, and season 3 intends to get closer to his goal of making a 10-second quarter-mile pass, and to get there he's aiming for 600 wheel horsepower. Some of the ingredients on his grocery list include a Precision Gen 2 PT6466 turbo, a fully built automatic transmission from ATF rated for 800+ WHP, and upgraded camshafts. He also would like to upgrade suspension components like Figs Engineering toe arms, front and rear end links, Hotchkis swaybars, and eventually a set of coilovers, although his current Megan Racing setup has yet to give him any issues. The interior will also get some love eventually, in its current state it is just stock, no sticky dash like many IS300s suffer from, but after having the car rewired he's working on getting everything mounted and looking pretty again. In the meantime as the IS300 continues to be upgraded while also acting as a stealth fighter on the streets and track, headway is being made in getting his Alexsy's beloved EP82 over to the United States, a turbo 4AGE swap awaits that little nugget that is sure to continue on the habit of building unassuming powerhouses.



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