I swung by my weekly lunch spot to visit some friends. Lucky for me, they had a newly acquired Lexus IS-F. It was a blue one, same as you’ve probably see so much of in the press. I still don’t know if I like the tacked on looking body parts (mainly that duct behind the front wheels), but it looks much more subdued on a black IS-F.
I had my doubts that Lexus could produce a car that would be viewed as a competitor to the BMW M3, Mercedes’ AMG series (in this case the C63) or even the Audi RS4. Well, all those doubts were laid to rest today when I got a taste of the Lexus IS-F.
Disclaimer: Now, I’m not an automotive journalist. I’m not even that great at writing reviews, much less writing in general. So just take this for what its worth.
Unfortunately, I don’t remember much about the interior. The dash was kind of cool. There was like a digital voltmeter next to something else. The gauges look good, but probably not that much different, if at all, from the regular Lexus IS. The seats felt good and provided good support.
Driving out of the parking lot, I noticed the suspension felt pretty good, if not a little on the soft side. Now, this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t handle well. I’m merely comparing it to my G35 Sport suspension, which is deemed by many to be too stiff. In fact, when I put in my KW Variant III coilovers, I thought my ride got better (and 1.5” lower too). Pulling out onto the street, I don’t think I’ll ever forget the sweet sound of the Lexus V8 when the intake butterflies open. I’ve long loved the Honda VTEC when it switches over to the big cam lobes, from mild to wild in a matter of seconds. The IS-F was just like this, but so much sweeter. When the butterflies are closed or you’re at part throttle, the engine and car are very mild, very Lexus-like. But mash the throttle, hold onto the wheel, and wait for the intake to open up (which seemed like milliseconds anyway). It immediately brought back memories of Mike’s 69 Camaro with a 327 small block that revved to 8k RPM (not reliably, but hey, it did it). Its not as “rough” sounding, but its very meaty in tone. I’m sure the M3 will offer the same experience, but I wont know until I drive one 😀 .
The engine pulls strongly, almost effortlessly, up to redline (I’m not really sure where that is and I don’t care to look it up.. but Lexus took a page from Mazda’s playbook by putting in that redline buzzer so you know when its time to shift). The 8 speed trannie shifts are strong, firm, and fast. I’m pretty sure with traction control off and some cheap or worn rubber, you’d be scrubbing into 2nd or even 3rd gear. Whats equally pleasing are the downshifts. The rev matching is damn near perfect. Downshifts are fast and produce euphoric intake and engine noises. I thought having to shift UP 8 times was a pain. But the joy of lighting quick and rev matched downshifts makes it all worth it.
We blasted down a wide and sparsely populated street. I have no idea what gear we made it up to. I just know stuff was flying past by view out the window really quickly. How were the brakes? I have no freakin’ idea. I’ve read that they’re great. But with the hypnotic sounds associated with the downshifts, I wasn’t paying attention to much.
Having only had the car for 4 days with constant mashed pedal situations and an inordinate amount of downshifting, the trip computer still showed 14.9 MPG on the display. My car gets about 18-19 MPG. I feel cheated.
Would I buy it for $60k? I’m not so sure I would. I think my decision would come down to Lexus IS-F or BMW M3 Sedan. Of course, if I wanted a coupe, my one and only choice, for now, is still the Nissan Skyline GTR (maybe even the Spec V or Evo whenever they arrive and/or when I hit the lottery).
Good job, Lexus.