Lexus IS Tuning

"Tuning the stunning Lexus IS"

The Lexus IS is a great project car if you want a track day car, providing you are willing to put in the workshop hours to achieve this.

As many of our site visitors have asked about the IS and tips on how to modify one, so we've created a guide to cover the primary areas which make for improvement and tuning success on this engine.

The IS is a brilliant car tuning project to take up your weekends. If you do your planning then you can create an awesome IS but don't be fooled there are lots of performance mods out there that will simply not suit it read our unbiased guides first.

As they are rear wheel drive they also make great drift cars. Our members have some interesting IS projects under way in our forums including engine swaps and the usual array of tuning modifications.

The IS has been aimed at the executive market and is very comfortable to drive with lots of gadgets installed. However the chassis is superb and is just crying out for a few simple mods.

Handling/Suspension upgrades

Many IS owners uprate the handling of their cars with fast road suspension kits as a priority, this will certainly increase your enjoyment of the car.


Good suspension tweaks that dramatically enhance handling for the IS include a couple of degrees negative camber and 1-1.5 degrees of toe (set out to improve cornering or in for better stability) on the front wheels.

We suggest that you fit modified suspension and lower the car by 26mm - 43 mm. Larger drops require arch work - especially on models already equipped with motorsport suspension.

Following our guidance for modding your IS you will make a practical but hot car that will potentially beat bigger cars.

For sharper improved stopping you should get better quality pads and mate this with meatier brake discs.

Please note that motorsport friction pads can be noisier and will need a lot of heat before they bit.

On your regular commute to work the brakes are occasionally used, therefore won't stop you as well so specify friction pads which work well in daily use.

Power mods.

Typically these uprated upgrades are usually fitted by our members, decide how far you wish to go in your tuning project before you get started.

Getting the right motorsport upgrade kits for your planned usage of the car is a time and money saver. Stage 3 motor sport parts just don't work well on the road difficult in stop start traffic.

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Best Engine Mods for your car

  1. Mapping - remapping provides the most advantage in terms of cost savings,  aftermarket ECUs, and piggyback ECUs are all alternatives.
  2. Fast road cams are one of the most significant mechanical changes, but they must be installed by someone who knows what they're doing and they are not always easy to source but you might find a local firm to regrind a stock camshaft.
  3. Intake and Exhaust - Note that on their own these mods will NOT ADD POWER in most cases, but they can help enhance power after other mods by removing the restriction.
  4. Upgrades to turbochargers and superchargers - forced induction is the most efficient approach to increase air supply, allowing you to burn more fuel and make more power. It is one of the most costly upgrades but provides the best gains.
  5. Head work - The goals of porting and flowing the head are to get air flowing into the engine while removing flow restrictions and turbulence.

Typical stage 1 mods often include: Sports exhaust, Remap, Lighter flywheel, Suspension upgrade (drop 26mm - 43 mm.), Alloy wheels, Panel air filter.

Typical stage 2 mods often include: Power/Sport clutch, Fast road cam, fuel pump upgrades, high flow fuel injector, Ported and polished head.

Typical stage 3 mods often include: Sports gearbox, Internal engine upgrades (pistons/head/valves), Competition cam, Engine balancing, Adding or upgrading forced induction (turbo/supercharger).

Peak power is good on competition cars but for a daily driven car you need a wide torque band and perhaps extending the rev range.

In this article we shall give a little insight into the world to the best modifications for your car, but we'd encourage you to spend some time on the site looking into the details of each type of performance mod.A fast road camshaft proves to be one of the best NASP power mods you can do mechanically to your engine.

The best power gains come from larger engine sizes. The more you start with the bigger the return on investment so engine swaps are good value mods for small engined cars.

We shall now turn our focus to the IS engine. If you want to get a little more power out of the top end we need to choose our mods carefully.

It doesn't take a lot of money to make big changes to the performance and handling of your IS providing you do the right mods.

Smaller engines do not usually provide much of a return in terms of power but thankfully Lexus chose to install a range of good engines across the range.

We would suggest you go for the more powerful 3.0 if you want a tuning project and a manual transmission, but the inline 6 has been proven on the track. You could always do an engine swap if you have a small engine to start with but this can be quite fiddley. One impressive engine swap we have seen is to the Toyota Supra Twin turbo engine, it took a lot of ingenuity to accomplish but created one of the fastest IS's around.

Lexus IS Tuning modifications.

Peak power is all well and good but if you want a truly driveable car it will need a wide power band and lots of low down torque.

Don't get misled by performance part manufacturers claims of big peak power gains, they don't tell the whole story, it is the torque or power band you need to focus your attention on.

Fast road cams are generally one of the best power mods you can do to your engine. But you need to select the right profile, for advice see cam selection in our tuning articles for more information. You will need to ensure that the engine is not starved of fuel so will need to uprate the fuelling. To help address the need for more fuel a set of uprated injectors will really help and this will probably need an uprated fuel pump as well.

Lexus IS intake and exhaust modifications.

Don't overlook the intake and exhaust. when it comes to car tuning as it is essential to get the cars breathing right.Derestricting the airflow into the engine is the primary part of tuning so get a better flowing air filter. Induction kits sound great with the induction roar they create but due to the warm air in the engine bay they will not add noticeable power and actually rob you of power. Fitting a high flow sports exhausts will certainly help air flow through the engine but do not go too large or you will reduce the flow rate.

Stick to 2.0 to 2.5 inches for best results. See our article on performance exhausts for details of the issue around large bore exhausts and how to choose the right size for your engine.

Getting the head ported and polished will further help more air into each cylinder. This is definitely a job for a professional with a flow bench.

Your clutch can sap a lot of your power if it starts to slip and the standard clutches are only ever good for power gains of up to 40 or 50%. Fit a performance clutch to avoid power losses through the transmission.

Adding forced induction will see big power gains but this is usually too expensive to be cost effective.

It is easier to bolt on a supercharger than it is to get a turbo working on the IS. With a turbo the boost curve is related exponentially to the engine speed making it hard to map.

The nice steady boost to rpm characteristics of the supercharger make them easier to map. Adding forced induction will usually require a lower compression ratio or water injection.

The ECU in the Lexus is at the time of writing this near impossible to remap so you would be looking at an after market ECU solution.

Lexus IS Wheel modifications.

The benefits of alloy wheels include a lower unsprung weight and more efficient brake cooling.

Large wheels tend to be heavy and the last thing you want is to increase the unsprung mass in your car, instead choose performance tyres and light weight wheels of a similar size to the OEM settings on your car.

Although some people have gone larger we would stick to a 18 inch rim size as the maximum preferably sticking with a 17 for optimum handling and performance.

If you would like to know more, or just get some friendly advice on Tuning your car please join us in our friendly forum where you can discuss IS options in more detail with our IS owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased Lexus tuning articles to get a full grasp of the benefits and drawbacks of each modification.

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One Response to “Lexus IS Tuning”

  1. imran ahmed says:

    I have a Lexus is200 automatic, but I want more power I was thinking of going for an is300 automatic as I only have an automatic license lol, anyway could I bolt on a pair of turbos onto the 2jz engine as I would only want about 450bhp max but I still want it to remain an automatic, would I have to change the gearbox

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