The brawny V8-powered Lexus IS-F will blow away all your prejudices about this car-maker’s traditionally conservative image, writes The Wheel Deal.
Mention the word Lexus and I’ll bet that most peoples’ minds will almost immediately conjure up images of middle-aged men, lambswool pullovers (maroon) and opulent sedans endowed with about as much excitement as a no-fat, no-fun latte. Indeed, coming across as the sort of automotive equivalent of Queenspark, Toyota’s luxury division may make supremely comfortable and well built cars but their complete lack of balls has seen them inhabit that mushy safe zone that true petrolheads will forever smirk at. Well, until now that is. You see, obviously tired of the sensible family man image that’s plagued them for millennia, Lexus has taken a pair of scissors to their traditional identity and astounded its critics by reforming a machine that wears the clothes of a proper street fighter. The IS-F.
Yes it may be based upon the regular IS250 saloon that kept-wives so enjoy stealing from hubby for their book club nights but that’s about where the similarity ends. Up front, for example, this monster of a machine scores two head-sized brake cooling ducts, a power-domed bonnet and a pair of swollen front wheel arches that come complete with heat-sucking gills that actually work. Complementing all this visual muscle is a unique set of BBS alloy wheels that come shod with specially engineered Bridgestone Potenza rubber and a rear wing that’s said to help adhere the Lexus to the asphalt at higher speeds. The effect of all this go-faster tinsel works a treat as – and for probably the first time in history – looking at something with a chromed “L” badge stuck on its grille actually does something to influence your heart rate.
What a pity then that the designers felt the need to sink those four faux outlet pipes into the rear bumper. I wouldn’t have minded if they actually formed part of the exhaust system but being purely cosmetic, well, they’re just zeff. Whatever. Despite this little bit of Boksburg, the badass IS-F packs the sort of visual cohunes it needs to take on its enemies from BMW and Merc.
Jean-tightening to look at, this lunatic Lexus also impresses in the way in carries itself along the black stuff. To be honest I was expecting it to be all soft and wallowy like a slice of gooey apple pie. And it is until you click the VDIM into Sport mode, kill the traction control and allow that Yamaha-tweaked V8 engine to clear its throat and make those rear wheels squeal in protest. Then, spurred on by the infectious growl caused by a second air-intake opening at 3600rpm, this car comes into its own and makes you feel as if you’re actually strapped to the fins of a wayward heat-seeking missile.
Benefiting from both more power and torque than an M3, the IS-F is properly quick right through the rev range and, whether accelerating from a standstill or at speed, it has more than enough grunt to keep up with most of the hot metal currently rolling across our roads. Granted, it might not come mated to one of those advanced dual-clutch gearboxes that many of its rivals can lay claim to but that Sport Direct-Shift automatic transmission still does a great job at transferring every last kilowatt down to the ground. However having said this I still think that fitting it with eight forward ratios was a tad unnecessary. Because not only does it cause a fair amount of “hunting” in full automatic mode but it can also make driving in full manual mode a confusing affair. Especially when it comes to rapid bouts of downshifting.
A horizon muncher of note the IS-F knows how to handle when you get off the straights and twirl that steering wheel in anger. Granted, it’s not quite as sharp as a M3, particularly when you show it a racetrack, but for a first time effort it manages to come impressively close. The non-adjustable suspension system, though complaint over most bumps, keeps body-roll in check and encourages you to attack corners with as much gusto as you can muster. Backed up by a chassis that’s crisp and communicative the IS-F is also partial to driving on the throttle and with a well-timed prod of the go-pedal, you can easily influence your line while blasting through a corner. Best of all it’s deliciously controlled and no matter how wide you get that tail to arc out, getting it back in line requires little effort. All in all, being forgiving and predictable, this über- Lexus is very much the driver’s car that never fails to get you whooping when unleashing your inner Stig.
And that, it must be said, is the reason why the IS-F is a serious performance saloon contender. It’s perhaps not be the most advanced machine in its class but the way it goes, turns and sounds proves that you don’t need a PHD in German engineering to dish out some serious driving entertainment. Factor in all the standard equipment it comes loaded with – a cache of goodies demanding a R100k premium in certain competitors – plus brilliant levels of aftersales service, and the IS-F becomes an even more attractive buying proposition. I never thought I’d say this but there might just be space in your fantasy garage for a Lexus after all.
Lexus IS-F Fast Facts:
Engine: 4969cc, V-8 petrol
Power: 311kW at 6600rpm
Torque: 505Nm at 5200rpm
0-100km/h: 4.8 seconds (claimed)
Top Speed: 270km/h (limited)
Fuel Consumption: 11.4l/100km (claimed combined)
Price: From R776 900
great article… I was lookin for new the lexus model and saw this is-f. parts specifications has a lot of enhancements…