By on January 21, 2008

08_lexus_is_f_050.jpgHammering the IS-F through the sleepy desert two-lanes of Rosamond, California, I tried to remind myself: “I’m driving a Lexus.” But the 416-horsepower sedan leaves little time for inner monologues. Caned hard, the IS-F reels in straight-aways like King Triton's spey rod. Corners arrive before your consciousness can catch up. Quick! Turn in, dip the throttle, unwind the hefty steering and feel the skittering rear wheels rotate you through the apex. Then look down at the silver “L” pointing at your chest. Cognitive dissonance much?

Yes, well, that’s exactly what Lexus has in mind. No longer content to be characterized as a purveyor of exceedingly well-built Buicks, Lexus is now vying for the youth vote. The IS-F’s ambitious charge: lure well-heeled hormonal enthusiasts away from Euro thoroughbreds like the M3, revitalize the brand’s image and pour young blood into its late middle-age demographic pool.

08_lexus_is_f_093.jpgIt’s a sensible strategy. But “sensible” is a four-letter word in this particular marketing exercise. Lexus wants buyers to think of this and future F variants as something a lot more Xtreme than its ice cool luxobarges. Thus, the IS-F’s press materials couch it as a controversial anomaly, the rogue brainchild of “a covert team of engineers” working deep within the Japanese giant. Suffice it to say, it makes for some eye-rolling reading.

Never mind. The IS-F’s vitals speak for themselves: a 5.0-liter V8 churning out the aforementioned 416 ponies (and 371 ft.-lbs. of torque), rear-wheel-drive, 14.2-inch drilled and vented front discs, 19” BBS rims wrapped in staggered-width rubber and defeatable traction and stability control. Yes, in a Lexus.

08_lexus_is_f_051.jpgUnfortunately, to partake of this hard-ass hardware you have to look at the thing. The IS-F looks like a basking shark losing a fight with a steamroller. In fairness, the IS-F’s blobby, bulbous nose and filter-feeder fenders are largely a necessity of function; its monster motor wouldn’t have cleared anything sleeker. But otherwise, the IS-F ain’t got no alibi. Surveying its overwrought skirts, flares, and stacked quad tailpipes (which don’t actually connect to the exhausts), one wonders just how “youthful” an audience Lexus’ stylists had in mind.

Still interested? Step inside, rub your aching eyes, and be thankful that the cabin’s only juvenile touches are de rigeur plasti-alloy trim plates and aluminum pedals. Elsewhere, the scenery is standard IS, which means a high cowl, modest window slits, and snug proximics at the helm. It’s a fairly dark and buried place to work, and the acres of dark-gray dash polymers do little to lift the mood.

Clearly, the F’s not going to eat an M’s lunch on aesthetics alone. So let’s drive…

08_lexus_is_f_074.jpgPunch the starter button to get the V8 humming, release the foot-operated parking brake, and slide the stubby shifter into “D.” Oh, did I mention that the IS-F is automatic only? The eight-speed slushbox tries hard to involve the driver– blipping its downshifts and allowing manual control through snappy aluminum finger paddles– but when your right arm and left foot are barred from the action, a forlorn sense of distance is inevitable. It’s a fatal flaw, considering F’s “hardcore” design brief.

Nosing onto a crowded road raises more questions about this Lexus’ M-beating mission. First impressions are of the cabin’s eerie hush, the soft-feel pedals and the weighty yet plush steering, which veils your fingertips from imperfections in the asphalt. Crusty low-speed ride aside, the IS-F feels every bit the cool, coddling Lexus.

Given a long, empty ribbon of road, the IS-F again reveals a sharply split personality. Flexing your right foot rips away the layers of Lexus fluff. At WOT, acceleration is torrential and torque-soaked. Lexus claims 0-60 in “under 4.9 seconds.” Any attempt to prove them right/wrong and the V8’s murmur turns to a frenzied howl, courtesy of a secondary air intake that opens at 3,600 rpm. You might as well be pulling its head out from underwater, so dramatic is the shift in its voice.

08_lexus_is_f_059.jpgThere’s a predictable downside to the F’s binary nature: Mr. Hyde only comes out to play above safe, legal velocities. The chassis boasts tasty balance at the limit, and the steering enlivens somewhat under load. But given the tires’ immense grip, you’d be nuts to sample either trait on your morning commute. So you back off, the engine fades to Muzak and Toyota’s patented anesthetic drips back into the primary controls. Yawn. Why does this cost $56k again?

And that’s the problem with the IS-F. To sprinkle the magic dust of desirability onto Lexus’ fledgling performance sub-brand, this car needed to match its Euro rivals for driver appeal, beat them on price and let enthusiasts fill in the “cachet” gap. The IS-F misses the marque; it’s a sort of designer-label STI, or an Evo’s dandy city cousin. Get kaizening on this one, Lexus. Otherwise that “F” may come to stand for… nothing much.

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68 Comments on “2008 Lexus IS-F Review...”


  • avatar
    seldomawake

    Incredible review! Shame they don’t offer it in a standard. I wonder how marketing justified that…

  • avatar
    frontline

    I feel that car has absolutely no sex appeal and and to add even more insults, it is awkward.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    no sex appeal for sure – then again there are few sexy cars any more. Cars like this need to be driven fast -very fast – so u better enjoy yourself quicky while you still have your license. I am definitley in the small engine, sharp handeling camp – so I can have fun at 40 mph.

    sigh, pity few of them either.

  • avatar
    TreyV

    Definitely a conflicted car, but a good start for Toyota. Thankfully they’re trying to do something, anything, exciting after having systematically removed all traces of it over the past several years. While the tailpipes are plain silly, the back 3/4′s styling is quite good (and a shameless M copy). The front however looks like a LS pretending to be a RX-8. It’s a battle of aggression and ‘…must…be…sleek…and bland!’

  • avatar

    Owning an IS350, I have to say I disagree with some of the points, at least from MY perspective. I bought the 350 because I wanted a luxury car that did double duty. Hard edged cars with noisy exhaust get tiresome as a DD. As a luxury car in this segment, the 350 has no equal, it is substantially ahead of the BMW. I’ve yet to see a navigation unit on par with Lexus’ nav. On the weekend, it’s a completely different car. A little heavy for small autocross courses (that’s what I have an MR2 for), it’s most at home on the track where it really flies. Given the monster power the 350 has available, I can’t wait to try the V8.

    It’s like having two cars for the price of one.

    If I wanted a sporty DD car and didn’t care about luxury, I certainly wouldn’t be looking at a BMW or Lexus or any of those brands. I’d just drive an Exige to work.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    So, does the trans stay in gear under WOT in manual mode, or does it pull the annoying automatic downshift? How overboosted is the steering compared to the regular IS?

  • avatar

    Also, after a year and a half with track events and a few autocrosses in the IS, I could care less about having a traditional manual option. The advantages of being clutchless helping left foot braking is the future.

    Having a black-on-black interior is always bland in my experience, there’s better color choices available. My 350 is black on tan and looks rather nice, in my opinion. And I can actually use all my dash buttons with thick gloves on, a nice ergonomic touch.

  • avatar
    danms6

    Although I wouldn’t spend $65k on this, I think Lexus is moving in the right direction. Exterior styling is a bit crude but it would beat my Speed6 in a beauty contest. The lack of a manual should be a total deal breaker in this segment as well, unless they’re aiming for the BMW poseur crowd. Also, this engine cover trend really sucks. You would expect more than a tangled mess of wires hidden by a piece of plastic in a luxury car for this price.

  • avatar
    bfg9k

    I like the quad stacked tailpipes, but WTF is up with not connecting all of them to the actual exhaust?!

  • avatar
    monteclat

    Three stars? Oh well why should i be surprised that a Lexus doesn’t drive like a BMW?

  • avatar
    CarnotCycle

    Interesting review on an interesting car. It is kind of funny to see how a by-the-numbers appliance maker does a sports-sedan. You can tell the engineers/marketing people insured that the IS would beat the M3 in every important metric – and then never drove them side-by-side to understand the M3′s appeal. Sounds like GM back in their heyday when they could execute better in response to competition (like the Camaro).

    What’s funny is I have never seen Lexus as an old-man brand. but these contrived attempts at building “enthusiast” cars actually make me think of Lexus as an old-man’s brand. You don’t need to flaunt it if you have it, otherwise you’re trying to make up for something.

    Lexus used to make a sharp sporty luxo-bomber with the SC300/400 series automobiles. Those were good-looking cars and even sixteen years after they showed up on the scene they don’t look dated today. I wonder if the IS’s V8 can be stuffed in an old SC400? That would be hella fast car (even better than the Supra Turbo engined-Soarer SC300 sold only in Japan) and far sportier looking and feeling than anything Lexus makes today.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    This car’s looks may tend toward homely but compared to the Bimers of late, it’s a beauty queen.

  • avatar
    26theone

    I think the current gen IS cars are great looking cars. While the IS-F is beyond what I “need” I’m glad Lexus is further developing their performance side. They have the luxury side covered.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    “Cognitive dissonance much?’

    Cognitive dissonance. Much.

    Brand identity issues. Much. But we’ve had this discussion already.

  • avatar
    gakoenig

    As a luxury car in this segment, the 350 has no equal, it is substantially ahead of the BMW.

    And here is where your post loses all credibility.

    I’m a complete BMW fanboy, but I have no problem admitting nearly all the vehicles in this class are pretty damn close when it comes to overall quality. There are subtle differences between them that will make one person prefer one over the others and whip out the checkbook, but you simply cannot claim that any one of these vehicles (the Audi A4 series, BMW 3, Mercedes C, Lexus IS or the Infinity G37) is “head and shoulders” above the others. It simply isn’t true.

    Tick the right boxes on any of the cars above, and you’ve got a “double duty” sport-luxobarge. Besides, the levels of performance these vehicles all offer are so high that it isn’t like anyone on this board (unless there are pro racing drivers slumming it) is going to be finding the limits of what any of these cars can do.

  • avatar
    carguy

    While Lexus does luxury very well, I have yet to meet a Lexus that makes for an involving drive. While I’ve never driven the IS-F, the IS350 proved a similar experience – it looked great on paper but, compared to the BMW 335, didn’t deliver when driven.

    That’s not to say the IS series are bad cars – they make for a very pleasant commute or comfortable road trip but they just aren’t as sporty or involving as their marketing would lead you to believe.

    However, this may not be a problems for the Lexus IS-F as average chassis dynamics and lack of driver involvement never stopped Mercedes from the selling a bunch of AMG variants of the C class.

  • avatar
    red60r

    Stacked quad exhausts belong on a Murcielago, not a Japanese luxo-anything.

  • avatar
    knute

    Less than 100hp/liter in a Japanese performance car? I don’t think they’re even trying.

  • avatar
    IronEagle

    $65k? Wow who is buying these again?

  • avatar
    Johnster

    From a distance it does have an unfortunate resemblance to a previous-generation Honda Civic, or a Mazda 3, or maybe even a Mitsubishi Lancer. I guess you would call it “stealthy.”

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    I wanted Toyota to succeed with this one… I love how fun the brand was in the past, and I had a couple of their cars from that era. But the 2nd gen IS reviews were disappointing from the start, and it was telling that they boasted about having a former rallyist in charge of design, and went on to talk about all the attention he was giving to the door damping.

    So now this comes along, and I think it looks good. The fenders and front fascia do work for me. But it does sound like a by-the-numbers car. The whole IS range sounds like it was designed that way. And it’s sad, because I know Toyota used to be able to make cars that drove better.

    Oh and knute, there’s nothing Japanese about 100hp/L engines. Honda’s the only one of them who’s ever had that approach… Nissan’s known for torquier engines, but Toyota’s never been engine-centric.

  • avatar
    knute

    @carlisimo: But this is an engine-centric car, and Japanese engines are known for being efficient. The last-gen Supra had >100hp/liter. To me, a Japanese car shouldn’t have a stonking V8 without a matching stonking output. Low 400hp from an engine that size isn’t impressive.

    The M3, for instance, is over 100hp/liter.

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    The last Supra was turbocharged, which throws any hp/L calculation out the window

    Actually, all hp/L calculations should be thrown out regardless, because they tell you absolutely nothing useful about the car OR the engine. hp/lb of engine weight or hp/mpg is a much better measure of ‘efficiency’

  • avatar

    371 ft.lbs. of torque and rear wheel drive and
    you give it 3 of 5? Mr. Farago would have given
    it another point for hoonability.

    I thought I was picky about styling, but really,
    I gotta hand it to you other readers.

  • avatar
    danms6

    416 hp from a NA 5.0L V8 is bad? It also puts out 76 more ft-lbs of torque over the M3 (371 vs 295). I’m not saying which one is better, but I’d hardly call these numbers weak. Also, +1 to the uselessness of hp/L calculations.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    Actually this car is not bad at all.
    I wonder why Lexus installed 4 Chrome muffler tips but only 2 are working?

    Try to appeal with the younger Generation? They don’t have to, because We already like the IS especially with my Black Friends.

    I like the options when you can choose 3 traction control. It reminded me of the Evos and the Subies and please never compare the IS to a Mazda. They’re totally different cars and the performance at least in the Lexus you can drift in the Mazda you adrift.

    By the way more HP doesn’t mean your fast and I thought Lexus was built to match the Mercedez not the BMW.

  • avatar

    How different does the automatic feel than a normal automatic? I believe that the torque converter stays locked up nearly all the time, which should provide a snappier, more direct feel.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Like many Toyota products, I’m sure this will find plenty of people willing to pay the premium.

    A shame they didn’t tune it more aggressively to compete with Infiniti and BMW. It sounds like a really fast small car with a big engine. Not bad, but a bit pricey for what it is.

  • avatar
    red5

    What kills me is how the mainstream press has been giving car companies a fee pass for offering cars with no manual option. Just a few years back, the auto rags would have toasted Lexus for not providing a “proper” gearbox, and now the 8 speed auto is hailed as a technological breakthrough.

  • avatar
    willbodine

    At the LA Auto Show, Lexus was demo-ing the F on a dyno rack, letting show goers play dragracer (there was quite a line) driving them flat out over and over again. That was pretty impressive. I bought an IS 250 last year and I must say I get way more positive compliments on this car’s looks than any 3 or 5 Series I have had.

  • avatar
    Stephan Wilkinson

    The automatic-versus-manual argument has become pointless unless you’re one of those people who still prefer starter cranks and running boards. Any Porsche factory demo driver can show you how the current Tiptronic is quicker than a 911′s 1930s manual, and any DSG gearbox is infinitely superior to a manual no matter what the car.

    Having said that, yeah, I enjoy a manual, particularly the cranky POS in my ’83 Porsche track car. And after 50 years of car ownership, our 2005 Volvo V50 is the first car we’ve ever owned with an automatic, and our daughter was the only person in her high-school class who could operate a manual. (My wife learned to drive on a bust-developer ’65 Chevy 4WD three-speed pickup and never looked back. Big tits, too.) But to say manuals are better is truly retrograde.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    Incredible review! Shame they don’t offer it in a standard. I wonder how marketing justified that…

    I was going to say the same thing. I’d like to think Lexus benchmarked a BMW M3 when they designed this car, but I think they only went as far as to get it better than one on paper.

    The automatic-versus-manual argument has become pointless unless you’re one of those people who still prefer starter cranks and running boards.

    It’s not a question of superiority, it’s one of driver involvement. Simply put, there isn’t that much involvement when you’re just flipping a paddle rather than rowing through gears and working on your heel-toe footwork. But I’m sure if there’s enough demand for a manual, Lexus will come to their senses and provide one. BMW finally did with the M5 and M6.

    Any Porsche factory demo driver can show you how the current Tiptronic is quicker than a 911’s 1930s manual, and any DSG gearbox is infinitely superior to a manual no matter what the car.

    I often wonder if the Sir Jackie Stewart would find more enjoyment paddle-shifting today’s F1 cars than he would rowing through the gears of the F1 cars in his past.

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    knute, BMW and Honda are the only sub-Porsche brands that repeatedly bother getting 100hp/L out of naturally aspirated engines. It’s who they are… young companies with motorcycle and motorsports backgrounds with an emphasis on engineering. They’re the only two I expect to come up with engines like that.

    The Supra engine is the best known Toyota engine, and that’s only because it was tough enough to take a ton of boost. Which I sort of consider cheating.

    Compare it to the C63 AMG, because Mercedes Benz are Lexus’s real target, and one they have a real chance at beating.

  • avatar

    I’m with those who protest lack of a manual. I don’t give a damn if the car can accelerate slightly faster with paddles. I doubt that I’d notice the difference, and I want to drive the car myself.

    And give me a smaller engine and a lighter car.

  • avatar

    I’m with those who protest lack of a manual. I don’t give a damn if the car can accelerate slightly faster with paddles. I doubt that I’d notice the difference, and I want to drive the car myself.

    And give me a smaller engine and a lighter car.

  • avatar
    Kman

    Holdup, holdup, holdup, holdup.

    The stacked quad tailpipes “…don’t actually connect to the exhausts” ?

    Say what?

    Nothing turns me off more in what is supposed to be a serious performance machine, than fake-o stupid, non-functioning design elements. I thought this was the exclusive domain of the Ford Mustang and its myriad variations — which consist of fake side-scoops, fake hood-scoops, etc…

    Again, you’re really saying the tailpipes don’t connect to the exhaust?

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @Stephan Wilkinson
    “Any Porsche factory demo driver can show you how the current Tiptronic is quicker than a 911’s 1930s manual”
    Quicker in a straight line in the 911 turbo. Must have to do with the infinite torque of that engine.
    Slower around the track and awkward and rubbery according to a comparison review in “Sport Auto” (the only really interesting german auto magazine)

    It doesn’t help that the “Porsche Tiptronic” in the Boxster and 911 is in fact Mercedes’ old 5-speed.
    A solid, comfortable mid-90s slushbox with lots of slush, for people who would like their Porsche without the “sport”.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Any Porsche factory demo driver can show you how the current Tiptronic is quicker than a 911’s 1930s manual, and any DSG gearbox is infinitely superior to a manual no matter what the car.

    BOR-ING! You see, grasshopper, sometimes true enthusiasts like to be a little more involved in their relationship to the car. Speed is only one aspect of “driving”.

  • avatar
    Brock_Landers

    My favourite review is maybe done by UK’s Evo Magazine, which is the best english language sports car oriented magazine. The most unbiased and professional on the market.

    http://www.evo.co.uk/carreviews/evocarreviews/211992/lexus_isf.html

    IS-F cylinder heads are Yamaha racing, wheels are BBS, brakes are 6-pot Brembo.

    Detailed specs of the gearbox:

    http://www.autospies.com/news/In-Detail-The-Lexus-IS-F-8-Speed-Sport-Direct-Shift-Transmission-22472/

    If you have 8-speed box then you don’t need 8000rpm+ and ultra high hp/per liter engine. The gearing and the torque take care of that issue. 7000rpm is high enough :)

  • avatar
    speedbrakes

    The automatic-versus-manual argument has become pointless unless you’re one of those people who still prefer starter cranks and running boards.

    I couldnt disagree more. It’s all about operator communication and interaction with the machine being piloted.

    The aircraft equivalent of tiptronic or DSG transmissions is fly by wire flight controls which are very effective but mask what an airframe is actually doing as it moves through the air.

    I have and will always be a “stick and rudder” kind of guy as it’s just a far more rewarding experience. I don’t care if HAL can beat me to zero to sixty, I just want to be in total control of my vehicle.

    Sorry Lexus. Your fake quad tailpipes are comical. You just don’t get it.

  • avatar
    Brock_Landers

    And its not exactly open diff like Evo says.

    Edmunds has the correct info on this detail:

    When you briefly lift off the throttle pedal midcorner, then whack it wide open, the tail of the car is easily coaxed into a slide. The faux, brake-induced simulation of a limited-slip differential initially fights the slide, but it eventually relinquishes its hold on the tires and two plumes of magnificent white tire smoke finally emerge.

    This is really a hardcore car, lot of special details: high capacity engine oil and transmission fluid coolers and a cylinder head scavenging oil pump, all designed to deal with the higher temperatures and high g forces generated by high-performance driving.

    Intake valves are titanium. Suspension is special design/components, VDIM stability control system (Normal, Sport, OFF(!!!)) and power steering have been totally reworked.

  • avatar
    jurisb

    they will crank out more serious output per capita on upcoming LExus coupe and Supra successor. Gimme a break, let them go through baby illnesses, and give them a poetry pass for being rookies in forced factory engine manufacturing field. Give them kudos for challenging Nordschleife. Actually no matter how you criticize is-f abilities, Nurburgring lap times tell the opposite story. Enjoy the obsession with gap tolerances, nuanced styling and eternal Toyota reliability .

  • avatar
    BlisterInTheSun

    RE: gakoenig

    “Besides, the levels of performance these vehicles all offer are so high that it isn’t like anyone on this board (unless there are pro racing drivers slumming it) is going to be finding the limits of what any of these cars can do.”

    I would dispute that statement.

    I have over 1,000 hours of track time in a variety of different vehicles (including Formula Fords) and I’ve had my share of extremely qualified students who can cane a car within 9/10s after just a few hours of deliberate instruction.

    Like shooting, some of my best students were females.

    There are loads of people who have the requisite dexterity and presence of mind/body to push a car close to its limits, and if they use good judgement and stay current with their skills (practice, practice, practice) then they can certainly extract everything these cars have to offer.

    Unfortunately I am not one of them – that’s why I am now an accountant and only tread onto the track to flog my buddies’ cars during friday night family events when 8/10s makes me look very impressive to the ladies. Oh yes….

  • avatar

    I hope we can give Toyota credit for the positive aspects of the car. The original IS300 was a step, the latest (IS250/350) version another step and neither are bad cars. BMW has had 40 years to get their mojo working, and it shows in nearly every car they build. Yet there is no question that the new Toyota will be more problem free than the new BMW.

    “Mr. Hyde only comes out to play above safe, legal velocities. The chassis boasts tasty balance at the limit, and the steering enlivens somewhat under load. But given the tires’ immense grip, you’d be nuts to sample either trait on your morning commute.”

    This is not a statement about the Lexus alone; virtually every new performance car is good enough you can only test them at the track. Cane even a Miata to its limits and you are far beyond safe and legal velocities…

  • avatar
    P.J. McCombs

    doctorv8,

    The transmission doesn’t upshift automatically in manual mode; there’s just a chime to remind you to do it from 6000-6800 rpm (Lexus couldn’t resist). The ‘box does downshift automatically under braking, though. The steering isn’t overboosted so much as overdamped; effort is hefty enough.

    Michael,

    The paddles crack off very quick, crisp shifts. It’s certainly the best conventional auto I’ve sampled in this regard.

    Kman,

    Yep, the dual exhausts exit behind the rear bumper, the stacked quad “tips” are part of the bumper fascia, a few inches aft.

    edgett,

    Perhaps I didn’t phrase that well. My beef isn’t that the IS-F’s limits are too high, but that it’s only truly entertaining to drive near its limits. What makes the Miata special (my daily driver is a ’99) is that it reveals all its secrets at 25 mph; the car feels characterful, feelsome and “alive” even in routine pottering. More relevant, an M3 lets you feel wired-in to the machinery even though it’s half-asleep on public roads. The IS-F seems intentionally designed to go into sensory-deprivation mode when driven legally (not helped by the mandatory auto).

    The reason I’m disinclined to cut Lexus/Toyota much slack is that they’re not “learning” to create exciting cars; they’ve already done so with the Supra, MR2 Spyder, and Celica GT-S, among others. The IS-F still feels like a car at war with its parent culture, its huge capability at odds with its insular user interface.

  • avatar

    PJ

    I understand what you are saying about low-speed character; my S2000 is very Miata-like in that regard. I have to believe, unfortunately, that we represent the tiny minority of the car buying public; how is it that the most popular vehicles sold in the U.S. now are totally numb trucks? Or look at the top 10 car sales; there’s not even one vehicle on the list which drives like it has teeth.

    Sadly I think the niche shows everytime someone comes out with a highly functional driver’s car. The M3 is a sales hit not because it is an amazing tool, but in large part because the BMW cachet is attached to a small and exclusive car which is not understood by most of its owners.

    And, as good as the Supra was, or the 2nd Gen MR2, neither would be mistaken as a BMW.

    And even BMW has lost some of their ‘edge’ in search of a wider market. One could make an interesting column on the general homogenization of the car business; overall, the outlook is pretty grim for those of us who enjoy the art of driving…

  • avatar
    P.J. McCombs

    …agreed (wholeheartedly).

    I also don’t doubt that a great many M3 owners buy them for the associated status.

    Indeed, Lexus’ desire to get a slice of those status-seekers seems to be the point of the F exercise, given its “numbers” approach to M3 rivalry. But to snare those casual buyers, it needs cachet (which usually trickles down from enthusiast accolades), or at least killer style.

    For now, I wonder about this sub-brand’s viability because a) the IS-F looks “challenging,” and b) I don’t foresee glowing comparison-test results on the horizon, nor the associated prestige. Since the IS-F is priced right on top of the base-model M3, I’m not sure who’s going to jump ship to a lesser-known, less-respected status symbol… especially when those who resonate with its nationality and styling aesthetic can get an Evo or STI for nearly $25K less.

    I’d love to see the “F” brand succeed, but for now–IMHO–I think Lexus needs to be called out for not executing its “more for less” formula as well as usual.

  • avatar
    whatdoiknow1

    Wow, can we say “group think” or what here! Maybe I am the odd-ball here but when it comes to Lexus I just happen to “get it”.

    When you compare Lexus to BMW and MB today you find that Lexus still manages to design and market cars using a bit of common-sense. Exactly how many of us actually care about a tenth of a second advantage in the 1/4 mile or being able to pull 1.0gs and opposed to .99gs. Maybe the 1% of costumers that will actually race their car on a track. Honestly the majority of these things will be sold as wonderful adult “toys” and at best they will be used like good ole muscle cars by the owners, a burnout here and there, a high-speed run on an open road every once and a while. A car to make you and your friends giggle every now and than. The rest of the time the IS-F will be used like a regular transportation appliance.

    Today Lexus (and the others) have eaten such a large bite of BMWs and MBs lunch that these companies are resorting to “fantasy” to market their products. Cars like the AMG “65″ series are just downright SILLY today and in reality do nothing to improve the brand. The folks that these over the top monstrosities appeal to are seen as the embodiment of “more money than brains”.

    The way so many folks here worship at the BMW altar just amazes me. As if the 3 series and M3 do not have any shortcomings. Yeah the M3 is great and will out-perform the IS-F but so what!
    The truth of the matter is LExus will sell quite a few of these IS-F to folks that will cross-shop it with a M3 yet choose the Lexus when it is time to write the check.
    Looked at in a different light the new M3 is a manual gearbox equiped v8 powered car that still needs to have the shit revved out of it to get to the the meat of its powerband, not what most folks expect from a v8 now is it? The M3 is still saddled with the horrible I-drive (if you want some options). Needless to say if the Lexus stays true to its roots it will outlast the BMW and provide a much more hassle free ownership experience.

    If I am buying the cars to actually use as a car these are some REAL advantages that cant be overlooked.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    If you don’t like the Lexus IS-F you might like this one.

    http://www.autoblog.com/photos/lexus-lf-a-convertible/578753/

  • avatar
    NetGenHoon

    whatdoiknow1:

    The way so many folks here worship at the BMW altar just amazes me. As if the 3 series and M3 do not have any shortcomings. Yeah the M3 is great and will out-perform the IS-F but so what!

    The worship for BMW and to a lesser extant Mercades AMG. Is because they build the car they want to build and drive, and if you buy into their vision you’ll buy the car. That’s what the manual only M3 (and RS4 ^_~) say. The rest of the brand caters to the market, but they still sell the car that embodies the brand. This ‘halo car’ or flagship resonates in a part of the market and will always have cachet value. The IS-F boasts similar stats and style but without the same brand promise.

    The worship is more for the promise and the priorites, not the product. Driving experience, than reliability as a company attitude is being supported, not vice versa. You’re right, only 1% of people care. However, it’s our lunch, not BMW, Mercedes, or Audis that is being eaten. Every IS-F that sells is viewed as taking away from the development of a car we would want to drive. It’s inevitable that practicality when, but passion has to resist.

  • avatar
    wsn

    You can talk all day about transmission or whatever, but that is not about performance. That’s only your subjective perception and may not apply to other people.

    What is the real performance of this car?

    Straight line 0-60 in 4.4s. Faster than the Porsche Cayman S. Who needs a manual transmission again?

    In terms of carving curves, this car can manage a 700-ft slalom at 71.2mph. Faster than a Porsche Cayman S, again.

    All data from Road&Track:
    http://www.roadandtrack.com/article.asp?article_id=6177

    But of course, for some, even a breaking down Bimmer can win a Lexus in a comparison road test.

  • avatar
    P.J. McCombs

    Reviews without subjective perceptions tend to be a mite dull ;-)

    Anyway, to me, enthusiast cars are all about subjective sensations–unless it’s a race car that lives or dies by its lap time, the ultimate standard is how much fun it is to drive. But yes, that’s just my opinion.

  • avatar
    wsn

    I am an engineer and I believe that driving fun is not as elusive as quantum physics. It’s simple enough to be quantified by basic Newton-Physics tests such as 0-60mph straight line or 700-ft slalom scores. Of course, the two tests may not be conclusive. There are other good tests, such as 0-100-0 or skid pad or lap time on a certain course.

    But anything beyond that is pure religion.

  • avatar

    I find it peculiar that people are so quick to shun the IS-F because of the ‘fake’ exhaust. There are MANY cars with tips that are for aesthetic purposes only; such as the Lamborghini Diablo, Bugatti Veyron, Audi R8, and of course the aforementioned IS-F. Fact of the matter is, this is a great start for Lexus, and this car IS faster than the M3. You BMW ‘enthusiasts’ (cough) (fanboys) always elude to driving experience and being ‘connected’ to the car when BMW is faced with a better preforming competitor. Same thing when the G35 absolutely stomped all over the 330 in just about EVERY single aspect. Unreal!

  • avatar
    Qusus

    wsn, good point man. Too many enthusiasts buy into that marketing mumbo-jumbo about that elusive, innate, “something.”

    Driving fun CAN be quantified, it’s not just 0-60 times or HP (there are subjective measurements of course) but those objective measurements are a big part of it.

    I think when people talk about that elusive innate trait that makes some cars just “more fun” or whatever, they’re really just talking about the badge on the front.

    That being said, I did find that the IS250 and 350 were lacking a certain fun-to-drive factor that belied their objective measurements.

  • avatar

    @gakoenig: I hardly think I lose credibility for my opinion of the Lexus as a luxury car. From the leather to the features to the navigation unit every piece felt better and had a more consistent feel. Also, a luxury car is not just the car, you’re buying the dealer experience as well. From the sale to service I was treated significantly better than I ever did with BMW. That adds up. Maybe this varies from city to city, but I’ll never step foot in our BMW dealer again (which is also a Honda and VW dealer, and used to sell Olds.) The Acura dealer here doubles as a Pontiac dealer, and you get treated like you’re buying a Pontiac. The Infiniti dealer is also a Hyundai, Nissan, GMC, and Buick dealer. The Lexus dealer is Lexus only and you get the full treatment.

  • avatar

    Btw, if I want to be beat to crap on the way to work, I drive my MK2 MR2 with the koni’s set to full stiff. Otherwise, coddle me, baby.

  • avatar

    Btw, if I want to be beat to crap on the way to work, I drive my MK2 MR2 with the koni’s set to full stiff. Otherwise, coddle me, baby.

    Given a large garage, and a larger cash allocation, this is a worthwhile alternative. I bought the 335i because I wanted a daily driver that would double as a track-day car 3 or 4 times a year. If the IS350, or IS-F had a usable back seat, I would choose it hands down over the 335 simply based on value and reliability if I had a separate track-day ride. The Lexus interior is much more nicely appointed than the BMW and there seems to be little argument that as a long term investment the Lexus will be more trouble free than the BMW.

  • avatar

    edgett, I appreciate the honest response from a 335i owner. If the 335i was out when I got my is350 I certainly would have had a harder choice…. the luxury/reliable bent of the Lexus, or the balls out driving fun of the 335i.

    Having a track second car is the way to go, getting cone marks or worrying about tangling up with another driver with a $45K car starts to weigh on your nerves (and wife) after a while.

  • avatar

    MTeator – I didn’t mean to say that the IS350 was not a worthy track car – I drove one at one of those Lexus events and it wasn’t the dog that the bimmerphiles would have you believe. Not as sharp as the 335, but it’s no Camry either. The autobox is off-putting, as I enjoy the three-pedal layout more… (but that’s just a matter of taste). The one thing I hate when ppl get into the G35/IS350/335 comparison is the idea that any of these is a loser; they are all excellent cars each with a slightly different mission. Hell, if I compare the turn-in of my wife’s S2000, the 335 seems boaty (and is, given another 700 pounds to carry around), but the S2000 gives me the willies on the track because it has no roll bar.

    I think what everyone forgets is what an incredible range of machinery is available today.

  • avatar
    laeditor

    Yeah, I never liked the looks of this IS. I’ve always felt like it looked like a Mazda 6 (not that there’s anything wrong with a Mazda 6, but the IS is in a different class).

    The first generation’s angular look did much more for me, and was even more exciting because of its rear wheel drive and V6 performance (and manual transmission availability).

    I don’t really believe in spending more than 30K for a new (or used) car, but even if I did, this car’s looks would prevent me from seriously considering it, regardless of its performance.

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @laeditor
    The first generation’s angular look did much more for me, and was even more exciting because of its rear wheel drive and V6 performance

    Wasn’t the first generation I6, rather than V6?
    I like the looks of the frst gen… that chrono dash, the shifter knob, the lines of the hatchback version.

  • avatar
    laeditor

    @Mirko:

    You’re right. It was in I6. I should have just said “6 cylinder performance”, as that’s what I meant.

    I definitely agree with you about the chrono dash and shifter knob.

    I also thought the muscular lines of the car were appealing and unique. I knew that it was an IS as soon as I saw it. My mother-in-law has one, and I still enjoy the looks of it (as well as the way it drives).

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @laeditor
    The old one was unique and fresh, while the new one looks generic on the outside, like the Sharp stereo I had as a kid on the inside… just so wrong.
    I’m currently in the market for a sporty, RWD wagon. Too bad they didn’t evolve the old IS properly.
    Their diesel sucks too, compared to BMW’s.

  • avatar
    laeditor

    @Mirko:

    Affordable RWD cars in general are hard to come by these days, ESPECIALLY wagons.

    Good luck with your search!

  • avatar
    Mirko Reinhardt

    @laeditor
    I’ll just buy a nice, used E46 BMW 320d. Here in Germany, the used market is full of nice, loaded examples. Should do, until somebody comes out with something better.
    E91s are just too ugly for me to consider.

  • avatar

    The current gen IS is much more aesthetically pleasing to me, albeit a bit ‘safe’in the styling department.

  • avatar
    huy

    its sad, toyota has the means to make great sports cars, they just stopped for so long and now they don’t have the means to do so… let me play in their parts bin and i can make sports cars worthy of much praise. lets start with a Toyota MR2 Spyder powered by the 2zz engine and 6-speed w/ LSD. Can we say Lotus Elise fighter for $24k? and where’s the damn Supra??? Nissan 350Z is raking up all the sales, where Toyota is worried about perfecting their LF-A Supercar that looks completely bland by now. For this you need a little more work, as the base would be the isolated and numb driving experience of the IS… but get rid of the useless weight and electronic nannies, then add a manual option to the V6, and send it to the nurburgring for some testing and tweaking. What returns should be a world class sports car.


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