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Week at the wheel: Lexus IS F. Image by Lexus.

Week at the wheel: Lexus IS F
Lexus makes a family of cars for buyers seeking refinement and dignified looks, but every family has a black sheep...

 



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| Week at the Wheel | Lexus IS F |

Inside & Out: star star star star star

The IS F delivers a visual punch that's more like a Manga comic interpretation of a Lexus than anything you'd actually believe you could walk into a showroom and buy. The F stands for Fuji - as in the Japanese raceway - but could just as easily be for fast, furious or the expletive you'll inevitably yelp when you first hear the 5.0-litre exhausts playing their fine tune at high revs.

Speaking of the exhausts, those twin stacked pipes look daft in our eyes, but someone at Ferrari must have been impressed as there's a similar set up on the back of the California. Still, the IS F is all about being outrageous: the bulging bonnet, swollen wheelarches and those exhausts all ensure that you know this isn't merely a business spec IS and something more likely to take on the BMW M3 and Mercedes C 63 AMG. Inside, there's a smattering of 'F' badges, a chunky steering wheel with paddle shifters attached and some deep, leather-covered sports seats. Standard super-saloon fare inside, then.

Engine & Transmission: star star star star star

The number eight plays a big part in the Lexus IS F. Like the competition it's packing eight cylinders under its bonnet, the pistons having 5.0-litres of capacity to produce their 417bhp and 372lb.ft from. Of as much significance are the eight cogs that Lexus offers the IS F driver to play with, Lexus's mad machine boasting more gears than really necessary. Choose them with the paddles and you're never short of something to do - and if you're hoping to get any economy from the drivetrain it's the only way to drive. Left in manual it only downshifts to prevent stalling, allowing you to get decent - relatively speaking of course - economy while on the motorway in eighth gear. Leave it in auto and the slightest brush of the accelerator has it hunting down its extensive range for a suitable cog.

It doesn't need to though, as the IS F's big V8 has plenty of urgency at the bottom of its rev band. Not that you'll ever want to drive it like that, as the noise it creates when reaching the top of the rev range is quite incredible. Deep, purposeful and with a maniacal metallic shriek that's akin to the best Italian exotics, as an accompaniment the IS F sounds like no Lexus ever has before. For a company more usually associated with staggering noise suppression it's as if all the sound engineers' pent-up desire to create noise has been given its head in this car. It's gloriously intoxicating, and more than a little bit naughty, the IS F worth buying alone for the noise it makes. That the soundtrack is backed up by a 0-62 time of 4.8 seconds and an electronically limited 168mph top speed is something of a bonus then...

Ride & Handling: star star star star star

With 19-inch alloy wheels, lowered, stiffened suspension and tyres with sidewalls no more than a few centimetres deep the ride was never going to be anything less than compromised. Even with Adaptive Variable Suspension those looking for Lexus's traditional levels of comfort will be sorely disappointed - literally. It rides pretty awfully at town speeds, though once it's moving a bit quicker the suspension does a better job of taking the edge off our shoddily tarmac-ed roads. The steering is weighty without being overly loaded with feel, though there's precision at the wheel - just not quite the same incisive response of BMW's M3.

Grip levels are high, though with all that power it's quite easy to upset the rear wheels. It's all enjoyable though, the IS F surprisingly benign when you push it above its grip threshold, it just as able to play the hooligan as its AMG and M-badged contemporaries - this all from a Lexus, which makes it even more surreal. The brand has pulled this high performance machine from nowhere and has done a rather good job.

Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: star star star star star

Sure, it's massively quick and capable of keeping up with AMGs and M cars, but good as the Lexus badge is it's still not quite got the cachet to cut it at the 53,376 price point this IS F commands. To compensate Lexus has absolutely loaded it with kit, there being every extra imaginable as standard and some you'd never dream up if you tried. Even so it still struggles to justify its price against the cheaper BMW M3 saloon or Mercedes-Benz C 63 AMG - both of which cost around 3,000 less.

Overall: star star star star star

The Lexus IS F is a car that's brilliant and frustrating in equal measure. Riding hard, charging hard and having a soundtrack to die for, there's lots to like, but you can't help but think Lexus is being a touch ambitious placing it against the established hierarchy at a loftier price point. If it undercut its German rivals by as much as it commands over them it'd be an interesting aside to them, but as it currently stands it's too easy to overlook.

Kyle Fortune - 4 Aug 2009









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2009 Lexus IS F specifications:
Technical specifications for 2009 Lexus IS F

2009 Lexus IS F. Image by Lexus.2009 Lexus IS F. Image by Lexus.2009 Lexus IS F. Image by Lexus.2009 Lexus IS F. Image by Lexus.2009 Lexus IS F. Image by Lexus.

2009 Lexus IS F. Image by Lexus.2009 Lexus IS F. Image by Lexus.2009 Lexus IS F. Image by Lexus.2009 Lexus IS F. Image by Lexus.2009 Lexus IS F. Image by Lexus.



2009 Lexus IS F. Image by Lexus.
 

2009 Lexus IS F. Image by Lexus.
 

2009 Lexus IS F. Image by Lexus.
 

2009 Lexus IS F. Image by Lexus.
 

2009 Lexus IS F. Image by Lexus.
 

2009 Lexus IS F. Image by Lexus.
 

2009 Lexus IS F. Image by Lexus.
 

2009 Lexus IS F. Image by Lexus.
 






 

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