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I’ve Removed Some Luxury From My Luxury Car

I recently posited that the original Lexus IS300 is the perfect car. So great, in fact, that I went out and bought one I found here on Autotrader! Even better, I found a rare manual transmission IS in excellent condition. Now, you may or may not agree with the notion that it’s automotive perfection (if you disagree, you’re wrong). But regardless, if you’re an enthusiast like myself, you’ll agree that cars like this are too quiet from the factory. Wayyyy too quiet. So I had to liven things up a bit.

There are quite a few ways to make your car sound more aggressive — and some will actually give you real power gains. For cost and simplicity’s sake, I started with an axleback system. If you aren’t familiar, it’s like it sounds — basically a bolt-on piece of kit that replaces the final 3 to 4 feet of the exhaust, from the axle back, complete with new muffler. It’s a relatively simple upgrade that will give your car a throatier and deeper sound. it is especially simple if you have a mechanic friend with a lift and a shop full of tools.

With this normally aspirated inline-6, performance gains are likely non-existent, or at least not substantial. Once I start messing with the rest of the exhaust — including the headers, midpipe, etc. — that may change. But for now, I just wanted to make it a bit shoutier.

Enter HKS. A giant in the tuner industry, HKS was founded in 1973 by Hiroyuki Hasegawa and his partner Goichi Kitagawa. They ended up with some money from a company called Sigma Automotive. So it’s likely that as “Hasegawa, Kitagawa & Sigma” were getting started, they realized they needed something snappier and easier to say, and HKS was born. Like many greats, they started in a shed (dairy in this case) but eventually began producing some of the first aftermarket turbocharger kits available. Fast-forward to 2017 and HKS has expanded to sell lots of go-fast parts — including, you guessed it, exhausts.


I spent way too much time watching YouTube videos of various exhaust systems installed on the IS300. For various reasons, including cost, I was particularly sold on the the HKS Drager II axleback exhaust. HKS uses a slim-line muffler, designed for added clearance, which is pretty critical when using on a lowered car, which this is not. For now. It also has a bazooka of an exhaust tip, measuring a robust 120 millimeters, that even has room for an optional silencer insert to be used for additional exhaust noise suppression.

Why you would do that, I’m not sure.

We sourced ours from TH Motorsports for a very reasonable $355.46 shipped. But you’re wondering: How does it sound? Being a 6, it’s not tinny or buzzy, it has a nice deep baritone and if anything is a bit quiet. In particular, it really sings between 2500 and 4000 rotations per minute. But I’m spoiling all the good video content.

So, let’s get to it shall we? Take a look at the installation video and initial review. This is the first of many mods to come on project IS300, so keep an eye on Oversteer for more. Oh, and post your suggestions for future mods in the comments below. Find a used Lexus IS 300 for sale

Lexus IS modifications

Lexus IS modifications

Lexus IS modifications

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    • Thanks!  It’s been a fun car, good luck with the search.  There are plenty out there, keep an eye on cars from the Northern US, definitely some rust issues.  And as I mentioned in an earlier article, look for the “timing belt changed on” sticker which should be easy to find under the hood.  It’s a pricey service visit, I have a buddy who did it himself but it was a challenge. 

  1. I had this problem on my old R230 SL550. The car was very quiet and when you did put your foot down, it sounded great, but was very faint. I went to a shop who fabricated a custom X-pipe and did a resonator delete, and for 250 dollars, that was the best thing I could’ve done to that car. It was still silent when you were cruising, but when you put your foot down it had a mean sound. It was not too loud inside the car due to the sound deadening, but it was noticeable when you wanted it to be, and quiet when below 2500 RPM. It was a bit loud when you were outside the car, though. I sold the car for an R231 SL550 and I really miss that sound that the old 5.5 NA V8 had, the new 4.7 TT V8 sounds awful. 

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