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By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

The Lexus IS line up dishes up the perfect size of luxury and high-tech in a smaller-sized sedan, with performance distinguished by engine size – and the newer four-passenger IS-F Sport is the fastest and sleekest of them all.

I drove a 2014 Lexus IS-F with the 418-horsepower 5-liter V8 engine paired to an eight-speed Direct-Shift automatic transmission with steering wheel mounted paddle shifter. Both the 250 and 350 can opt for a performance FSPORT package (but not the bigger engine). My IS-F test drive came with the following standard features: ten-way power driver’s seat; perforated NuLuxe leather upholstery with “F” spec sport seats with embossed headrests; heated front seats with memory settings; leather-trimmed steering wheel with mounted controls; leather shift knob; dual-zone climate control; premium 13-speaker audio system; Lexus Display Audio screen; “F” spec gauges; moonroof; Bluetooth; XM Radio; Brembo brakes; TORSEN limited slip differential; “F” spec double-wishbone multi-link rear suspension; nineteen-inch alloy wheels; carbon fiber rear spoiler; Bi-Xenon headlights; fog lights; and push-button start. Price as described comes to $63,350.

The Lexus IS-F competes with the BMW M3 models and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, as well as the Cadillac CTS-V with its monstrous 556-horspower V8 engine. I have driven both the Lexus IS 250 and 350 models, with a main competitor being the Acura RLX, which I was also able to test drive.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: More conservative than flashy in design, the cabin deserves praise for its ability to push the technology envelope: navigation system with backup camera; Entune infotainment system; a high-resolution display with Destination Assist; an app suite with iHeartRadio and Bing; and phonebook synchronization. Much of this cost extra in optional packages, however – try $2,490 to be exact. The upgraded “F” spec sport seats offer both a secure and comfort feel.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Lexus IS 250 and 350 ratings of “Good” in moderate overlap and side impacts, but has not rated the IS-F. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not yet rated the IS-F either; yet the 250 and 350 earned 5-Stars. Standard safety equipment includes: ten airbags, Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management system; Anti-Lock Brakes, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Traction Control and Vehicle Stability Control.

Cost Issues: The Lexus IS-F starts at $63,600; the IS 250 with no packages starts at $35,950; the IS 350 FSPORT with all-wheel drive at $45,230 (any Luxury and Premium Package, along with technology upgrades, will easily add another $4k to the 250 or 350 models).

Activity & Performance Ability: While the IS 250 and 350 serve a well-balanced offering of qualities, it’s the IS-F that delivers the kind of performance that puts you on the edge of your seat. Acceleration is commanding, steering is precise and handling is on par with some of the sportiest rides in the market. The Lexus IS 350 with the 306-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine is also a spirited and connected drive in its own right, and does offer the eight-speed Sport Direct-Shift automatic transmission with paddle shifters and rear-wheel drive – this smart shifting transmission and excellent steering wheel feel really are the key attributes with all IS models.

The Green Concern: You’ll have to accept a fuel economy rating of 16-city and 23-highway for a combined 18 miles-per-gallon with the 5-liter V8. The Lexus IS 350 with rear-wheel drive gets 19-city/28-highway for a combined 22 miles-per-gallon.

The 2014 Lexus IS-F takes a straightforward entry-level luxury sedan and packs it with competitive performance components for ride on par with a BMW or Mercedes-Benz – a thrill will be found at every rev and turn.

2014 Katrina Ramser