CPO To Go: 2014 Lexus IS F

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang
cpo to go 2014 lexus is f

I usually have more fun with $5,000 cars than with $55,000 cars.

It’s not because I’m cheap. Well, let me rephrase that. I love investing in a quality vehicle, but in the world that is wholesale auctions, I rarely get to see them. You can find nearly anything at the auctions that has been traded-in, repossessed or not picked up at the end of it’s lease. What you can’t find are the keepers.

Toyota imported only a bit over 5,000 of these IS F sports sedans from 2008 thru 2014. The number brought to auction so far in 2015? 35. Annualized, that’s less than a 1.5% turnover rate in a business where anywhere from 20% to 60% of late model vehicles will revisit ‘wholesale heaven’ before getting shucked back into a retail dealership.

After a week and change behind the wheel of this 2014 Lexus IS F, I finally figured out why you see so few of these vehicles at the auctions. It’s the one missing ingredient that nearly every enthusiast publication glosses over when they review any high-end sports car.

The real world ownership experience.

Not the arduous race tracks specifically designed to distinguish the better from the best in mere tenths of a second. Not those drop-dead gorgeous long and winding roads that make you contemplate the existence of God and the beauty of all creation.

I was able to find joy with the IS F in the everyday banality of middle-aged life. Impromptu burger runs, long stop lights, even in the worst of rush hours. There was always either a burbling exhaust note or a 13-speaker stereo system that made the IS F experience rare, valuable, and difficult to imitate.

Then again, this attitude towards the IS F really has an awful lot to do with where I live. I spend most of my driving time in the outskirts of a major metropolitan area. The ex-urbs. The test tracks that highlight the 0 to 60 4.2 second time for this 416 horsepower screamer regularly slammed straight into the brutal brick walls of reality that are artificially low speed limits, frequent stops, and excessive police enforcement.

In my real world of traveling from auction to auction, I need an exterior that blends in so that I can get what amounts to a short-term thrill between stop lights, stop signs and traffic that just seems to stop without any rhyme or reason.

Except for the wheels, which has a bit of a dulled out boy-racer vibe to them, the exterior of the Lexus IS F is a rolling representation of Clark Kent. It is the Captain Anonymous of four-wheeled superheroes in a sports car universe where the loud and proud high rollers have become all too easily recognized.

Other than the wheels, which I would replace with a more Q-ship styled quartet, there is nothing else that stands out aesthetically with this super-fast sports sedan compared with other less powerful, and less expensive alternatives.

Enthusiasts may be able to pick out the small chorus of ‘F’ badges along with a few unique exterior touches from the wider fenders to the imperceptibly larger rear spoiler. Yet, in the end, the IS F chooses a conservative route that makes it less popular for the flashy and attention seeking owner, and far more useful for stealth seekers like me who are trying to avoid the revenuing schemes and speed traps of local police departments.

YouTube chronicles this unfortunate neverending battle between an enthusiast’s love, and the desire of the legalized theft cartels to revenue out the nicest rides whenever possible.

Corvettes? Dead! In the world of speed enforcement, these cars should come with a “Kick me!” sign.

Black M3? Halt! (Credit to the nice cop.)

Mercedes C63? Damn those 1%’ers! Speed trap cities and towns consider a Mercedes to be their proverbial ten pound fish in the easy money barrel.

A little compact Lexus? In ultra-white? (yes, that is the color description!)

Just feel free to hide your 5.0-liter 416 horsepower V8 and blend in with the sea of traffic until the sharks swim away for better prey. In the real world of driving, the IS F – less those wheels – can be driven as the ultimate Q-Ship.

The inside of this Lexus tells a very different story.

The contrast between the suit and tie exterior and this loud and proud interior is probably the biggest dichotomy in high end sports sedans. For those not wanting to relive the trombone case red hues of yesteryear, Lexus also offers a dark suit gray and a bright white leather seating package that is closer to mainstream tastes.

See all those controls on the steering wheel? I wish every competitor would just copy this layout and call it a day. The current IS, with nearly twice as many buttons and fidgits falls far below the real-world ease that is this simple five-by-five design.

As a circa 2008 car with minimal updates the IS F, suffers from two incurable era specific maladies from that time period. The excessive use of interior design cues that originated 10 years ago, and this scratch happy material called aluminized composite accents. Enthusiasts know it as fake carbon fiber while middle-aged men like me who are still stuck in the 1990s scratch their heads and say, “What’s wrong with using some nice thick wood instead?”

Ahhh, that’s much better. No gimmicky crap. No little icons or infotainment driven cartoon style graphics. Just a simple layout. Everything neat and quick to read. Truth be told, that prominent tachometer combined with the digital speedo is a great combination. Still, the IS F instrument cluster offers as much useful information about the powertrain’s activities as a 25-year-old Toyota Celica All-Trac. If you are looking for a video game style display with trivial feedback about every little nuance of the driving experience, look elsewhere.

The Lexus IS F dashboard carries over Toyota’s love for the big simple buttons and knobs over rotating dialers and plasticized joysticks of the competition. It took less than a day to get used to the flow of the layout.

There are also several other unique take-it-or-leave-it touches to this interior such as…

This shift gate along with the single cupholder. A definitive post-Y2K design element.

What is this strange contraption? I thought this would house the USB connection and maybe an adapter or two. Ash trays are gradually becoming the CD players of the modern day and the cassette players of ten years years ago. By the way, Lexus was also the last brand to get rid of the old cassette players.

Interesting… on a slow news day I’m sure we can debate the right place for these plug-in connections.

The rear seat room is about on par with a Civic. Small, but amazingly comfortable if you’re 5’8″ or less.

The kids never complained, even after two several hour jaunts. As for seat comfort? These seats depend highly on your height and your girth. This 5-foot-8, 170 pound guy was perfectly happy; as were my smaller wife and kids. Bigger people should take extra care to feel out the seats in any car of this ilk.

As for the driving experience, it’s pretty much bipolar. When you are light on the throttle it’s as easy to drive as any Camry except for the fact that your handling is precise to a surprisingly minute degree. When you hammer it, even a little bit, the IS F is so incomprehensibly fast and fun that you feel like you’re driving a car that can easily handle the racetrack and the twisted road – but not necessarily the beaten one. You better make sure that the open road in your neck of the woods is sports car friendly because the suspension can get brutal if you live in pothole central. It was a pleasure to drive in the one-lane rural smooth roads of Deliverance country, but an unforgiving misery to navigate through the steel plates and bottomless road pits in the city of Atlanta.

TTAC ended up reviewing the car multiple times way back when it was new and fresh. Michael Karesh, Robert Farago, and Jack Baruth all reviewed the IS F back in its new car heyday, and, other than the Scion FR-S, I’m having a hard time finding any other vehicle that was so broadly reviewed and admired as this one. This is one of the few sports sedans left that doesn’t take the driver and completely destroy their line of vision under an ergonomic catastrophe of thick A-pillars, small windows, and side mirrors the size of a football.

You see nearly everything, and the driving experience is in the thick of the fun quotient. All for a real world cost of around $55,000.

Did I say $55,000? Yep! The average wholesale price for a 2014 Lexus IS F at the auctions with about 7,000 miles on it is in the $52,000 range. Throw in the seller fee, transport, and maybe a minimal bit of reconditioning and you’re looking at around a $53,000 wholesale price, and a meeting of the minds at around $55,000. If you want to get a certified pre-owned version, plan on paying around $700 more for it.

That nice little condo in West Palm Beach that you planned on using for your retirement can now be all yours in the form of four wheels and a driver seat that may be easier to sleep in than most hotel beds. About halfway through the week, I thought about driving off to some remote part of north Georgia and sleeping in the thing. Then again, I’m also the type of guy who buys a $100 SUV sight unseen. Your financial risk tolerance and desire for daily weirdness may be far different than mine.

Speaking of cost, do you want to engage in basic DIY maintenance on the IS F? Don’t. Or at least if you do, and rarely do any work yourself, just relegate yourself to raising the hood between oil changes and looking at all the pointless plastic that keeps you away from all the dirty icky engine parts.

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  • Maymar Maymar on Jun 23, 2015

    I always found the front tires on these would get rather cranky at full lock wheeling around a parking lot, and that the seats were rather boy-racer snug (and I'm not huge). They sound pretty spectacular on start-up though. Not shocked about the price either - around here, you're comfortably north of 60k miles on an IS250 until you get below $20k, let alone a car with any options or better engines.

  • Power6 Power6 on Jun 26, 2015

    Thanks Steven nice write up. In the same vein of Barks article about amateur journalists writing like they are expert drivers, you bring another reminder that what the reviews say (or the cranky old men on TTAC) is not gospel. I'm sure there are many out there enjoying their IS-F even if a chipped Audi S4 is as fast. This car is the last of the compact luxury/sport (whatever this class is called) V8s. To me it was a magic period where the M3, S4/RS4, C63 and this IS-F all sported V8s. CAFE has taken care of those so the V8 generation is over. I know the turbo and super 6s are faster get better MPG, but who cares these cars are hardly about value, I would want the sound and feel of an 8. If I was shopping in this range, I would give a lightly used IS-F a look or perhaps even better the previous gen V8 M3 or RS4.

    • Noble713 Noble713 on Jun 26, 2015

      The C63 AMG is still a V8, it's just a lower-displacement twin-turbo mill now, instead of NA.....So your point *kinda* still stands.

  • Tassos I hope y'all had a happy Thanksgiving. To answer the question, my present car is almost Ideal for such road trips, but I can think of an even better one, which has the same awesome engine in a bigger, far more luxurious vehicle.OK, let's THINK, what kind of car is best for such a trip? NOT a 911 or a Corvette, not a Body-on-frame pickup truck or SUV. It has to be a LONG vehicle, and most importantly, with a LONG WHEELBASE. It should be quite heavy so it is comfortable (in addition to the always nice to have passive safety). It should be powerful but frugal, with today's ridiculous gas prices. It should be LUXURIOUS so when you get out of it after 12 hours of driving, to feel as rested and relaxed as when you started the trip. So naturally the best candidates are FLAGSHIP LUXURY SEDANS with the above attributes. What are the best ones to choose? A 2007-2012 Lexus 460 LS would be hard to refuse, and is very reliable to boot. (in 2012 they ruined its grille), but is poor in other chores (handling, poor steering feel etc). A BMW 7 series, like the MAGNIFICENT 1998 740iL with its adequate 4.4 lt V8 and its 282 HP and 300+ LBFT torque was also an excellent cruiser AS WELL as a great (as if on rails!) Handling car, with plenty of features and luxury fit for a king inside (plus they had facrtory GPS as early as 1998, which Merc Did not then!), but it is not as reliable as you would like. I owned one from 2005 to 2017, almost 20 years old and 150k miles at the end, when I donated it. My current car is just perfect for this job, being a GLORIOUS DIESEL Merc E 320 Bluetec 2007 (I also have a 2008 twin!), it gets 35-37 MPG on long trips, which offsets the ridiculous current Diesel prices, AND its 21 Gallon tank gives you 700-800 MILES OF RANGE, so you can fill up at the lowest cost stations at your convenience. COmpared with the BMW 7 V8, its V6 actually gives you about the3 same performance at half the MPG!! Because the HP may be less (208 vs 282) BUT the TOrque can only be matched by AMG gas versions, the E55 AMG, at over 400 LBFT.If you want a little better than the above AWESOME choice, try the S350 Bluetec Diesel, 2010-2013 models. THere are very few Diesels sold in the US, so you may have to drive 4 hours to buy yours (as I had to do with both of mine), BUT it is REALLY WORTH IT.BTW, the extra benefit of the diesel MErcs, they are THE MOST RELIABLE VEHICLES I EVER DROVE, and I had plenty of Hondas and other alleged reliable cars in the past. TWO diesels, owned from 2016 and 2017, and NOTHING went wrong with them except ROUTINE Maintenance, brake pad replacement, new set of tires, NO FAILURES OF ANY KIND!If you have experienced these outstanding cruisers, tell us what you think. If NOT, try them!
  • Nrd515 I bought an '88 S10 Blazer with the 4.3. We had it 4 years and put just about 48K on it with a bunch of trips to Nebraska and S. Dakota to see relatives. It had a couple of minor issues when new, a piece of trim fell off the first day, and it had a seriously big oil leak soon after we got it. The amazinly tiny starter failed at about 40K, it was fixed under some sort of secret warranty and we got a new Silverado as a loaner. Other than that, and a couple of tires that blew when I ran over some junk on the road, it was a rock. I hated the dash instrumentation, and being built like a gorilla, it was about an inch and a half too narrow for my giant shoulders, but it drove fine, and was my second most trouble free vehicle ever, only beaten by my '82 K5 Blazer, which had zero issues for nearly 50K miles. We sold the S10 to a friend, who had it over 20 years and over 400,000 miles on the original short block! It had a couple of transmissions, a couple of valve jobs, a rear end rebuild at 300K, was stolen and vandalized twice, cut open like a tin can when a diabetic truck driver passed out(We were all impressed at the lack of rust inside the rear quarters at almost 10 years old, and it just went on and on. Ziebart did a good job on that Blazer. All three of his sons learned to drive in it, and it was only sent to the boneyard when the area above the windshield had rusted to the point it was like taking a shower when it rained. He now has a Jeep that he's put a ton of money into. He says he misses the S10's reliablity a lot these days, the Jeep is in the shop a lot.
  • Jeff S Most densely populated areas have emission testing and removing catalytic converters and altering pollution devices will cause your vehicle to fail emission testing which could effect renewing license plates. In less populated areas where emission testing is not done there would probably not be any legal consequences and the converter could either be removed or gutted both without having to buy specific parts for bypassing emissions. Tampering with emission systems would make it harder to resell a vehicle but if you plan on keeping the vehicle and literally running it till the wheels fall off there is not much that can be done if there is no emission testing. I did have a cat removed on a car long before mandatory emission testing and it did get better mpgs and it ran better. Also had a cat gutted on my S-10 which was close to 20 years old which increased performance and efficiency but that was in a state that did not require emission testing just that reformulated gas be sold during the Summer months. I would probably not do it again because after market converters are not that expensive on older S-10s compared to many of the newer vehicles. On newer vehicles it can effect other systems that are related to the operating and the running of the vehicle. A little harder to defeat pollution devices on newer vehicles with all the systems run by microprocessors but if someone wants to do it they can. This law could be addressing the modified diesels that are made into coal rollers just as much as the gasoline powered vehicles with cats. You probably will still be able to buy equipment that would modify the performance of a vehicles as long as the emission equipment is not altered.
  • ToolGuy I wonder if Vin Diesel requires DEF.(Does he have issues with Sulfur in concentrations above 15ppm?)
  • ToolGuy Presented for discussion: https://xroads.virginia.edu/~Hyper2/thoreau/civil.html
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