Lexus has long competed in the luxury car market, but traditionally it didn't have much to offer consumers who wanted a vehicle with exceptionally high performance. That's all changed, however, with the recent introduction of the Lexus IS-F. Based on the regular IS luxury sport sedan, the IS-F comes with a V8 engine, a track-tuned suspension, stronger brakes and special interior and exterior styling details. While it has some faults, the IS-F does indeed offer a serious, no-compromises driving experience for hard-core enthusiasts.
Current Lexus IS-F
A compact high-performance luxury sport sedan, the Lexus IS-F has a few styling cues that definitely separate it from its IS siblings. These include a unique — but aesthetically questionable — faux quad exhaust design, which appears as two staggered, vertically stacked ovals on the car's lower rear fascia. The IS-F also features aerodynamic enhancements on the hood and front bumper, wider front fenders and a rear spoiler, all of which give the car a more aggressive, though somewhat aftermarket, look.
Under the IS-F's hood is a 5.0-liter V8 engine tuned to produce a mighty respectable 416 horsepower and 371 pound-feet of torque. The transmission is an eight-speed automatic, controlled by paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Other high-performance features include engine oil and transmission fluid coolers, a mechanical limited-slip differential and an oil pump designed for high-speed cornering. The IS-F also features a performance-oriented version of Lexus' electronic stability control system.
Major standard features on the Lexus IS-F include 19-inch BBS forged alloy wheels, bi-xenon headlights, leather upholstery, power/heated front sport seats, Bluetooth and a rear-seat trunk pass-through opening. The standard 13-speaker audio system comes with a six-CD in-dash changer and an iPod interface. Options include an upgraded Mark Levinson surround-sound system, as well as a navigation system with touchscreen, voice activation, a back-up camera and real-time traffic.
In reviews, we found that the Lexus IS-F's strengths include acceleration, handling and braking abilities. The automatic transmission also works surprisingly well as long as it's placed in manual mode; when left in automatic mode its shifts are not as predictable as we would like. We timed the IS-F at just 4.8 seconds for the 0-60 dash, impressively quick by anybody's standards. There are some drawbacks, however. While practicality is far from being the most important aspect in this class, the IS-F does have less backseat space than its super sedan competitors. We've also found the suspension tuning to be pretty stiff, even though this year's car has been softened up compared to earlier models.
Used Lexus IS-F Models
Having debuted for the 2008 model year, the Lexus IS-F is still in its first generation. These earlier cars are pretty much the same as the current model, though there have been a few changes along the way. There were minor revisions to the instruments and cabin trim for 2009, and then upgraded electronics (hard-drive navigation, updated Bluetooth and an iPod interface) for 2010. One other thing to note was that 2008-'10 IS-Fs had a pretty harsh ride quality, something Lexus has addressed with the current model.