By: Mike Ginsca
Lexus vehicles are world renowned for being luxurious, reliable, and let’s be honest, a bit boring. So to add some excitement to the Lexus lineup, as though the LFA wasn’t enough, the engineers took a common IS-model and stuffed it with a massive V8 engine and then set their sights on the BMW M3, Audi RS4, and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG.
Performance – With the well established competition from the Germans, the Lexus engineers had their work cut out for them. They had to make a sedan that could not only out-perform its rivals but also maintain the same level of luxury and reliability that the Japanese automaker is known for. To do that, they took the 5.0L V8 engine that was in the LS600h and was then tuned by Yamaha to produces 416hp and 371 lb-ft of torque. The power is almost identical to that of the BMW M3 and Audi RS4 of the same year but still short of the C63 AMG’s 451hp number. The IS-F engine feels just like any other Lexus engine when driving on a day-to-day basis. It is smooth, quiet, and you almost forget that you have an engine under the hood that can propel you from rest to 100km/h in 4.2 seconds. It’s only when the rpms go past 3000 that you start to hear and notice the rumble that turns into a roar as the engine gets into its strides. It’s when the engine is at the 7000rpm redline that it feels most comfortable and like as though it wants to stay there, constantly revving and producing the 416 horsepowers.
To tame the power and deliver it to the asphalt, the Lexus engineers also took the 8-speed automatic transmission from the LS600h, albeit with a few tweaks, and stuffed it in the IS-F. When driving like a gentleman around a city, the transmission is like any other automatic. It’s when you’re driving like an 18 year old trying to show off to a girl that the 8-speed automatic behaves more like a racecar transmission. From second gear to eighth, the torque converter locks to make a direct link similar to that of a manual clutch. The automatic can also change gears in as little as 100 milliseconds which Lexus says is as fast as the gearbox that is in the Ferrari 599 GTB. The only complaint of this transmission is that during spirited driving, it is constantly hunting for the optimal gear and it feels as though the computer can’t decide which gear is best. And unfortunately because this is a Lexus, there will never be an option for a manual transmission.
To tackle the business of cornering, the Lexus IS-F is fitted with stiffer springs and shocks. The new suspension components make the IS-F sit 0.5” lower and limit the amount of body-roll through corners when compared with the standard IS 250/350. But of course, the new suspension makes the IS-F less bearable during daily driving if you’re the statistically traditional Lexus buyer (which means very old). The Lexus engineers have also fitted the IS-F with a very quick responding all-electric steering rack that allows the 1700kg body to dart from corner to corner with precision. Stopping is another area where the IS-F excels in due to the large 14.2” front and 13.6” rear Brembo brakes.
Comfort – With the stiffer suspension, there’s only so many bumps and potholes in the roads that can be absorbed and those shocks will find their way to your back inside the cabin. The ride of the IS-F is similar to that of a sports car rather than a luxury sedan. But there is some relief from the special F-sport seats. Apart from featuring large side bolsters to keep you from moving around too much, they still provide good support and comfort on longer journeys. It should be noted that unlike the IS250/350, the IS-F only seats four people rather than five and the rear seats are just as cramped as those on the standard IS models. The design of the interior is not that different than the IS250/350. The small differences being aluminum trim on the center console and blue ambient lighting. But the design is starting to show its age because the interior of the new 2014+ IS models is much better looking and after 6 years in production, it’s time for an update.
Odds and Ends – The exterior design of the IS-F is subtle to say the least. Apart from the fake stacked exhaust tips, the side vents, and the F-Sport badges, it is very hard to tell this model apart from a standard IS model. Normally when a special edition performance version of a model is made, it tends to look different and stand out as a special model. But it feels as though the designers barely tried to make the IS-F look different than the IS250/350 because even the biggest gearheads can confuse it for any other Lexus.
Overall, the Lexus engineers came out swinging hard out of the gates with the IS-F. It can hold its own against the established sports sedans from the German manufacturers and it still has a feeling of Lexus build quality and reliability.
Thank you to Autoform Performance Inc. for providing the car and please go to their website to view this car and others that are available for purchase or lease. www.Autoformco.ca
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.