2014 Lexus IS F - A $67,000 Compromise


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2014 Lexus IS F


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By Dan Poler
Senior Editor
Rocky Mountain Bureau
The Auto Channel

415 horsepower, a power-to-weight ratio of 9 pounds per HP, in a small sedan that can actually seat four. Looks great on paper. We couldn’t wait to get our hands on the 2014 Lexus IS F. But once we did we discovered that, as with many things, the devil is in the details, and for the IS F, some of those details aren’t quite as perfect as they should be.

Although the rest of Lexus’ IS line has been significantly updated for 2014, sporting a new body and various enhancements inside and out, the IS F continues to be based upon the prior platform, used for the rest of the IS line from 2006 to 2014. Perhaps owing to the commonness of the Lexus IS, the sheetmetal does look a touch dated, although the IS F sports its own unique enhancements including two stacked exhaust pipes on either side of the back end, and a carbon fiber spoiler atop the deck lid.

Inside the cabin, we find materials typical of Lexus’ quality. There is something of a mishmash in different materials, however, with carbon fiber inlays, semi-aniline panels in the doors, leather seats, plastics of varying firmness, and so forth. Seats are comfortable and supportive, with excellent side bolstering for cornering, although they lack an adjustable thigh support - something typically offered in sport sedans and coupes. Perhaps most notable of the cabin is its quiet and solitude. Road noise is masterfully muted, letting just enough sound and vibration from the engine and exhaust through to pleasantly engage the driver. Two rear passengers can be accommodated, although they may feel a bit cramped.

Given the platform on which the 2014 IS F is built debuted for the 2006 model year, interior controls feel rather dated by now. The touchscreen navigation and entertainment unit - and its included LCD digital clock - in particular feel rather clunky. Physical controls are reasonably well laid out and intuitive.

Driving the IS F is a difficult-to-characterize experience. There are definite high points - the steering, in particular, is simply delightful, with an excellent, weighted feel that doesn’t fight the driver to spring back to center, and just enough of a center dead spot to make highway cruising comfortable. Suspension as well is nicely muted, still transmitting enough of the road to be at home in a sport sedan.

Unleashing the 416 ponies, however, is where things get interesting. The IS F truly feels to be a luxury car more than a sport sedan - a Lexus first and a high-performance vehicle second. The IS F feels almost reluctant to leverage the enormous horsepower available to it.

Put another way: In similar offerings from others - particularly the Germans - the vehicle often feels like a monster which must be carefully coaxed to be contained.

The Lexus feels more like a kitten which must be coaxed to be a monster. In daily driving, the driver may never never notice the horsepower available to him or her. The vehicle feels … Sedate. Easygoing. Unhurried. Not adjectives which typically describe a vehicle of this nature.

But switch to manual mode and push the pedal to the floor and you’ll note the difference. Even initial acceleration can be lacking, but when the secondary intake opens above 3,600 RPM, suddenly the horsepower becomes evident, and the vehicle takes off with a roar. Shifts, however, are rather harsh, owing to the single-clutch automatic transmission.

Herein lies the challenge, however - it’s hard to want to pay the IS F’s premium, for a sedate, easygoing, and unhurried sedan, and it’s hard as a daily driver to keep above 3,600 RPM to realize the full benefit of its 416 HP. Hence, the nature of the compromise - the IS F seems to fall short of its performance potential in favor of holding onto its Lexus comfort and status, and in doing so feels somewhat split-brained, not certain if it’s designed to be luxury or performance.

If you’re considering a luxury sport sedan, the IS F is worth a drive, but we have to wonder whether the IS F stacks up to be an attractive offering, particularly in light of new offerings expected soon from Lexus.

Specifications
2014 Lexus IS F
Base Price: $63,650.00
Price as Tested: $67,250.00
Engine Type: DOHC 32 valve V8, direct and port injection, VVT-iE (intake), VVT-i (exhaust)
Engine Size: 5.0 liter
Horsepower: 416
Torque (ft-lbs): 371
Transmission: 8-speed sport direct-shift transmission with steering wheel mounted “F” spec paddle shifters
Wheelbase / Length (in): 107.5 / 183.5
Curb Weight: 3,780 lb
Pounds per HP: 9.08
Fuel Capacity (gal): 16.0
Fuel Requirement: Premium Unleaded
Tires: Michelin Pilot Sport PS2; Front 225/40R19, Rear 255/35R19
Brakes: Brembo-sourced ventilated disc
Suspension, front/rear: Double Wishbone / Multi-Link
Ground clearance (in): 4.7
Drivetrain: Rear wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - MPG city / highway / observed: 16 / 23 / 21
Base Trim Price: $63,350.00
Options and Charges
Navigation: $2,490.00 (Hard-disk drive navigation system with backup camera, Lexus Enform with Destination Assist, eDestination, and app suite: Bing,
Pandora, Yelp, OpenTable, Facebook Places, Movietickets.com, iHeartRadio, SiriusXM satellite radio, SiriusXM NavWeather, NavTraffic, Sports, Stocks, and Fuel Prices)
Semi-Aniline - Black leather seats: (n/c)
Intuitive Park Assist with front & rear sensors: $500.00
Delivery: $910.00
Price as tested: $67,250.00

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