When the IS-F was launched, it was the only serious performance Lexus available on the market. You have to bear in mind that this was before the launch of the LF-A, and even so the LF-A belongs in an entirely different class of performance. While BMW has their M division and Audi has their RS cars, Lexus was severely lacking in terms of a performance outlet, focusing more on their luxury aspects. Where the IS-F stands amongst its peers is hard to say- as are all Japanese luxury performance cars, but at the very least it has all the right ingredients.
The “F” in particular stands for Fuji Speedway, where the IS-F was primarily tested and developed. Of course, like most performance cars the IS-F was still run through the Nurburgring circuit to further test its handling capabilities. And if that wasn’t enough, the chief designer of the IS-F had also worked on the Toyota Supra, so you can see some of the race-y tendencies emerging in this sports sedan.
Not to be confused with Lexus’ F-Sport line of performance parts, the IS-F was purpose built from the ground up to be a sports sedan. In the front sits a 5.0 litre V8 engine that puts down a massive 417 hp to the rear wheels via an 8-speed automatic gearbox. There is no manual option available, although I’m sure purists would prefer to have three pedals and 6-gears over 8. The engine is a G (racing) variant of the 2UR-FSE engine found in the LS600h, Lexus’ largest sedan model, and is naturally aspirated, which is something that is soon going to become a rarity amongst performance cars with stricter emission regulations coming into play.
A lacking limited slip differential means you can’t do full out power slides or put your power down effectively in the wet, but on a hot, dry day the IS-F is capable of sprinting to 100 km/h in a mere (quoted) 4.2 seconds. That is easily BMW M3 territory, and is even more impressive when you consider that the IS-F has a torque converter instead of a solid clutch link. In order to bring you to a stop, the IS-F also packs 6-pot brake calipers in the front, matched to 360 mm drilled and slotted discs. And of course, you get the full complement of safety aids like ABS, EBD and traction control to stop you from killing yourself when you begin to push the IS-F to its limits.
Inside, the space isn’t as fantastic as you’d make it out to be from the overall length. It’s mildly disappointing that the IS-F doesn’t come in 2-door form, as that would suit it a little better than its 4 door guise, but ultimately the extra doors mean you can squeeze a few passengers in the back, even if they are crammed like sardines.
From the brief test drive I had, there are a few points to note about the IS-F. The first is that is that the ride is noticeably more comfortable than its German counterparts, with far less ambient noise and tyre noise. This is an inherent Lexus quality, although what this also means is a compromise in the handling department. This may be true to a point, as the IS-F is far less tail-happy (one might even say prone to understeer) than you’d expect of a rear wheel drive car, but at the same time it feels far more planted than the stock IS-250.
Other noticeable changes from the standard IS are larger rims, a more aggressive front bumper, a boot-lid lip spoiler and a sunroof. The rear bumper also features four exhaust tips, lending a more aggressive look to the rear. From the driving perspective, the instrument cluster has also undergone some changes, featuring blue needles on a black background.
For now, this is the only Lexus F model available, although there has been some talk of a GS-F variant, with the launch of the new GS coming up soon. The IS-F comes standard with a push-to-start system, paddle shifters and cruise control.
If you’re a die-hard Japanese car fan and want a little bit of luxury (and the bonus of going toe-to-toe with M3s and S5s), then you can check out the IS-F at Vision Motorsports in Kampung Sungai Kayu Ara, Damansara.