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The MK4 Supra has earned legendary status amongst enthusiasts. And whether you believe the hype or not, the 2JZ engine under the hood is a big part of the reason why. The Supra’s iconic nature has driven prices through the roof, but it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, you can get most of that MK4 Supra experience for less than $15k with the alternative Lexus IS 300.

Differences between the Lexus IS 300 and MK4 Toyota Supra

Front right corner view of a red Mk4 Supra
Toyota Supra | Toyota

Of course, the Lexus IS 300 and MK4 Toyota Supra aren’t exactly the same car. The Lexus is a four-door sedan compared to the Supra’s two-door coupe layout, for starters. In addition, the IS 300 offered just 215 horsepower and 218 pound-feet of torque from its non-turbo 2JZ engine. The Supra used that same setup to offer 225 ponies and 220 pound-feet. But that’s nothing that some engine tuning and bolt-on modifications can’t remedy.

In addition, the Lexus IS 300 comes with a five-speed manual transmission versus a six-speed in the Supra. That is perhaps the biggest hindrance when it comes to performance. The closer-ratio six-speed offers enhanced acceleration over the five-speed Lexus, which puts it a touch ahead.

A shared engine means the same performance potential

Lexus IS 300 in blue, a good Toyota Supra alternative
2001 Lexus IS 300 | Lexus

In both the MK4 Toyota Supra and Lexus IS 300, the non-turbo 2JZ engine is the heart of the discussion. Sure, from the factory, the two offer slightly different outputs. But the aftermarket has done a lot of heavy lifting in the ensuing 20-plus years.

Between engine tuning, bolt-on parts, and even internal changes, there is a build for every style of Lexus IS 300. The engine itself is so legendary that if you can think about it, it’s likely that a fellow enthusiast has already tackled the project. It’s this community of tuners and mechanics that makes 2JZ ownership so rewarding, and it’s why even the lesser Lexus model is an easy way into this high-performance landscape.

Because the engine is capable of delivering much more performance than stock, you can even add turbos to a non-turbo 2JZ without a complete swap of internals. New pistons, a new head, oil sprayers, and a tune will get your IS300 to Supra Turbo performance, and you can keep building from there.

Comparing the Lexus IS 300 market with MK4 Supra pricing

Of course, the real issue in trying to put a 2JZ engine in the driveway is the price. With the Late 90’s Supra models going for upwards of $50,000 on Bring-a-Trailer these days, it’s no longer the performance car bargain it used to be. Just since 2018 the average has jumped from $35,000 to over $55,000, and values just keep climbing.

The Lexus IS 300, meanwhile, clocks in at a much more accessible price point. Pricing today lands below $15,000 for most models, and even low-mileage examples check in at around $20,000. That price gap means you can grab a 2JZ-powered sports car for less than a new Toyota Corolla and still have plenty of cash left for all your modifications.

Is a Lexus IS 300 a worthy Toyota Supra alternative?

Given the engine platform, rear-wheel drive layout, and manual transmission, the Lexus IS 300 is absolutely worth your time if you want a MK4 Toyota Supra alternative. The modification potential is nearly identical, plus you’ll get two extra doors for those more practical driving needs.

Related I Watched This JDM Toyota Supra Mk4 Sell for $102,300 at Mecum Chicago

I Watched This JDM Toyota Supra Mk4 Sell for $102,300 at Mecum Chicago