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2008 Lexus IS-F Review

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Model: Lexus IS-F
Engine: 5.0-liter DOHC V8
Horsepower/Torque: 416 hp @ 6,600 rpm/371 lb.-ft. @ 5,200 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic with manual mode and paddle shift
Wheelbase: 107.5 in.
Length x Width x Height: 183.5 x 71.5 x 55.7 in.
Tires: 225/40R19 (F)/255/35R19 (R)
Cargo volume: 13.3 cu. ft.
Economy: 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway/mpg test
Fuel capacity: 16.9 gal.
Price: $$61,355 (includes $765 delivery, processing and handling fee and $4,590 in options

The Bottom Line Except for the stacked quad exhausts and fantastic sound, the Lexus IS-F looks like a normal IS. But with a 416 hp V8 under the hood and an eight speed transmission, Brembo ventilated disc brakes and F-spec double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension, you know there’s something special about this car. If you’re looking for true performance in a “normal” looking car, this could be the car for you (if you can afford it).

In Lexus lore, there’s a special set of vehicles called F-Spec. these are similar to Cadillac’s V-Spec or Mercedes-Benz’s AMG division, BMW’s M Class, etc. These are special performance cars, generally produced in low quantity, designed to highlight the manufacturers’ ability to create something other than the more sedate vehicles that fill their showroom floors.

The first F-Spec Lexus to hit these shore sis the IS-F, and it makes us pine for more. Visually, the IS-F isn’t that different from other IS models, unless you put the two cars next to each other. You then not that the IS-F has a significant bulge in the hood to accommodate the 5.0-liter V8 lurking underneath.

In the rear are stacked quad chrome exhaust pipes that are also unlike the IS250. Inside, there are deep bucket seats with comfortable side support for hard cornering. All over the vehicle – on the seats, on the starring wheel, on the side panels – are subtle “F” badges to let you know this is something special.

The V8 is rated at 416 horsepower and 371 lb-ft of torque, impressive numbers for a sporty car, and out-of-the-world numbers for the IS, which, while sporty, is considered more of a premium compact car. It might have been interesting to see the F-Spec added to the SC sporty car line, making it a true sports car.

Whatever. Power reaches the rear wheels through an eight-speed (that’s right EIGHT-speed) automatic transmission. There’s a readout at the top of the instrument panel that indicates which gear you’re in. In my blissful ignorance, I was chugging along at a decent rate and noticed I was in sixth gear. But the indicator showed that there was still more left. Sure enough, I hit the Interstate and I found myself in eighth gear.

If you choose not to use the automatic, there are paddle shifters behind the steering wheel so that you can shift in a manual mode. However, there is so much torque available that it wasn’t really necessary to use the shifters (you can also shift by moving the lever forward and backward) unless we were really trying hard on some tight-cornered road.

Bring that engine to life and you get a very un-Lexus sound. Lexus built its reputation on nearly silent motorcars that had an eeriness about them in their silence. The IS-F, however, lets you know it’s there. You can tool along relatively silently until you want to pass or have a need to accelerate. Then floor the pedal and you get this nasty growl from under the hood and from out the exhausts. Almost before you know it, the car has leapt forward and you’re in illegal speed territory.

Even when it’s idling, there’s a little rumble that is very un-Lexus-like.

Top speed of the IS-F is an electronically regulated 170 mph, and it feels as if it could go that fast easily, if not legally. According to Lexus, the 0-60 mph time is 4.6 seconds and it will cover the quarter mile in 13.0 seconds.

To go with all the power is an F-Spec double wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear suspension that allows the IS-F to handle almost any corner with ease without jarring the fillings out of your teeth. On decent roads the IS-F rides as well as almost any Lexus. On less-than-perfect surfaces there is some harshness, but the suspension is generally quite compliant.

The IS-F stops. Oh, does it stop. There are Brembo 14.2-inch drilled rotors up front with six-piston opposed calipers. In the rear are 13.8-inch drilled rotors with two-piston opposed aluminum calipers. With high-friction pads you almost have to only think of stopping and it will stop.

Putting the rubber to the road are 19-inch BBS forged alloy wheels in a smoke black finish that are unique to the vehicle. Rear wheels are bigger than the fronts, and I’ll refer you to the spec chart to find out how much bigger.

There’s decent rear legroom for two normal adults. We tried to pry our favorite 6-6 volleyball player back there but he wouldn’t fit. There’s a decent trunk that will hold a couple of golf bags.

True performance sports sedans are hard to come by. There are a couple of pretenders, but to gain true performance from a sedan without tricking the bodywork out of proportion and overloading the suspension with home-built ideas of how a car should look, you have to look far and wide. Might I suggest you look at your local Lexus dealer to get and idea of how to do it right. Sure, the IS-F is pricey, but this one may just be worth it.

2008 The Auto Page Syndicate