I won’t joke, dear reader. Being a car journalist is one of the greatest jobs one could ever hope to have, and I am extremely fortunate to have been an editor at The Garage for the past five years. That position became even sweeter when my Lexus press fleet manager told me he had an IS-F available if I wanted it. Needless to say, it did not take me long to make up my mind. Granted, when you think of Lexus, what comes to mind? Well, it’s the preferred car of real estate agents here in coastal Connecticut. Lexus has built a strong reputation for bullet proof reliability, class, and luxury, and deservedly so. But performance? Excitement? Not so much. Lexus is looking to change that, and anything with a Lexus badge with an ‘F’ attached to it is meant to arouse the enthusiast’s soul as much as seeing AMG or M attached to a Mercedes-Benz or BMW. Did Lexus pull it off? Read on to find out.
As a premium Japanese company, Lexus took a very American approach to the IS-F. They simply took their most basic four door sedan, the IS-series, and shoe-horned a huge honking V-8 under the hood. The IS is a smart looking car on its own, but the transformation to muscle car was less than elegant. That giant V-8 needs engine room, and the end result is a bulbous hood that does the IS no favors. The fake brake ducts aft of the front wheels did not impress. Oh, and the double stacked exhaust pipes out back? Yeah, fake. The IS-F redeems itself with drop dead gorgeous 19″ BBS alloys showing Brembo brake calipers, but Lexus, come on. No fake body add-ons. You’re better than that.
The interior of the IS-F is bona-fide Lexus grade, meaning superior fit and finish, and quality materials. Lexus has one of the best infotainment systems in the business, so using the IS-F’s vast technological abilities is as easy as pie. Seats are supportive and very comfortable, but sitting inside the cabin offers little in terms of feeling like you are in a very special car. As for living with the IS-F, as Lexus’ smaller sedan, rear seat room and trunk space are on the small side. But you don’t buy an IS-F for trunk space.
You buy an IS-F for what is under the hood. In this case, it is a 5.0L V-8 cranking out a healthy 416hp, driven to the rear wheels, as God intended. That power is managed through an 8-speed automatic-sorry purists, Lexus will not sell you a stick shift IS-F. Which is OK, but the IS-F’s tranny is slick and ready to cooperate. 0-60mph comes in a scant 4.7 seconds. Power is available all the time, the IS-F has such a fat torque band you are never left wanting for power and the tranny is almost as good as Mercedes-Benz at reading your mind to grab the right gear. The IS-F is sprung damn tight, so handling is spot on, but shod with summer tires the ride was stiff and unforgiving in late winter Connecticut.
If the IS-F is Lexus’ answer to a muscle car, it does so wrapped in true luxury. Standard features include a push button start, leather sport seats, power moonroof, auto dual zone climate control, premium audio system, GPS navigation, Bluetooth, and power tilt/telescoping steering wheel. All in, our IS-F rang in at $67,510, including delivery charges.
I wanted to love the IS-F. The car is perfect. It is mad as hell. It is ferocious. It is stupid fast, and does everything you ask of it. But for as awesome its capabilities, the Lexus left me cold. I once drove a BMW E46 M3, and it was the best car I ever drove, hands down. Better than my own Porsche 911. I was so smitten I was ready to rob banks just to have than damn M3. And that’s my problem with the IS-F. For as capable as it was, it never left me wanting to take the long way home.
Perhaps I can summarize the Lexus IS-F on my last trip before the car was to be picked up. I was listening to Lithium on XMSirius radio. The band? Vertical Horizon, the song, ‘Everything You Want’. The lyrics? See below.
I am everything you want.
I am everything you need.
I am everything inside of you that you wish you could be.
I say all the right things at exactly the right time.
But I mean nothing to you, and I don’t know why.