First Drive: the 2008 Lexus IS F
Click the image above for a hi-res gallery of Lexus IS F pics
So we recently got some seat time in the Lexus IS F, and we can proudly report that it's not anything Lexus has ever been before. Does it really compare to the M3 and C63 AMG? In a little-kid-from-down-the-street-trying-to-get-in-the-game way, yeah. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't be in the game. Follow the jump for the full story, and check out the new gallery of Lexus IS F pics below.
I could start off with wheel sizes and the 8-speed transmission and all that, but this car is only marginally about the numbers. Still, let's get the numbers out of the way:
8-speed auto, 5.0L V8, 416-HP, 371 lb.-ft.
6-speed manual, 4.0L V8, 414-HP, 295 lb.-ft.
Mercedes C 63 AMG
7-speed auto, 6.2L V8, 467-HP, 442 lb.-ft.
I left out curb weight and 0-60 times because no one can agree, but the results are constant: the M is lightest, Lexus in the middle, Mercedes the heaviest. To sixty, the AMG rocks it first, the BMW usually gets the second-place nod or tie, then the Lexus, all of which do the do in under 5 seconds.
However, the story of the IS F isn't truly about this first set of numbers, and everyone knows it -- Lexus, BMW, Mercedes, and you, too. Why? Because we all know that anyone who says they want to straight up outperform an M or AMG... doesn't want a Lexus.
In fact, the comparisons of all of these cars are slightly disingenuous. Until the C 63, people didn't really buy AMGs to compete with M3s -- they bought them because they liked Mercedes and AMG made the hottest version of the car they liked. Let's face it: anyone who bought an E55 thinking they'd beat an M5 on a road with at least one tight turn didn't really want an E55. This is about brand, and the question is whether people have been wanting to buy a really hot Lexus and couldn't do it before the IS F growled on scene.
We'll start with this: the Lexus is a good car.
I'll go even further: for what it is, and where it's come from, it is a very good car -- and that is not an insult or an attempt to make excuses. This car comes from the luxury division of a company that has never fully translated its motorsports prowess to its customer cars, is the the brainchild of one man and his revolving, cobbled-together team working on its days off, and started with the plain jane customer car that wasn't pre-engineered for this. With all that, it's simply unfair to expect the IS F to take on the decades-long, company-wide might of the M3, or the C 63 AMG, which is a completely different car from the A-pillar forward than the regular C-Class. Even Lexus shouldn't do it.
Nevertheless, just to make sure you know where I stand, even in the group it's a very good car, and not out of place in such company. And if you want one or you're thinking about buying one, you should go check it out.
One thing Lexus did not do is remove the Lexus and replace it with racer; they added the racer to their brand values. I'll admit I'm not smitten with the styling, but I'll also say the car looks better in silver or black or burgundy. Anything but the blue. Something about the blue just makes it... bulge.
Inside, it's still all Lexus all the time. There's plenty of quiet comfort in the beautifully finished seats that are as comfortable as they are supportive, even on track. The white carbon fiber on the center console is a very nice touch. The gauges are typical Lexus, easily readable, electroluminescent gems. Around town, the car rode just like I wanted it to: stiff enough to let me know I was driving, compliant enough even over uneven pavement and bumps not to make me wish the drive were finished. All of this means, though, that we're talking about just another Lexus. And that's not the point of the IS F.
If we hadn't all seen the car already, I would challenge anyone to give this car a pasting around the track and figure out it's a Lexus. First is the sound: that quad-tailpipe arrangement is also a bit much for me, but the sound that comes out of it soothing to the racer's soul. The car sounds terrific on the overrun, and there was one particular corner on the track I looked forward every time just to hear throttle blip for downshifts. Hit the gas, and it's all go and all noise. Hit the paddle shifter in manual mode, and that .1-second shift offers you nothing but a continuous run of power. Steering feel is good. There could be more, but I never wondered where the wheels were or what they were encountering.
The brakes are fantastic, worthy of the name "anchors," and do not take a vacation no matter what the workload. Go into a corner not a little, but a lot too hot, and you know you've got outrageous stopping power and, depending on the settings you chose, a gracious and understanding nanny to guide you through an ugly racing line. If you rear-end someone in this car, it's because you didn't hit the brake pedal until your bumpers were touching.
Speaking of that nanny, even with the traction control completely off, the car doesn't all of a sudden lose its mind, predictably throwing its weight around and scooching its tail out. If you end up in the gravel, it won't be a surprise. The verdict: the car is good for a day -- and I mean a full day ---of fun at the track, and you can have your Verdi on the Mark Levinson system while you do it. Lexus: mission accomplished.
At least, with this first car. When I said that this car isn't about the first set of numbers, I was referring to this first Lexus IS F. If the next generation IS F is planned and engineered with the F version in mind, and the IS F gets the full weight of the company behind it, then it'll be fair to lock it in a room with the C63 and M3, turn out the lights, listen to the ruckus, and wait to see who drives out.
I like the car, but I think it has one hurdle and two huge problems. The hurdle is brand image. When the original LS rode silently into the luxury picture, it was something unseen, like it had emerged from the SG-1 vortex, and people got a look at the alien and exclaimed "Gadzooks! What luxury and what a price!" The IS F expands the boundaries of what you think of when "Lexus" comes up in the word association game, but it doesn't elicit a "Go get Nelly and tell her I said whoa!" I can see it appealing to folks who've wanted a hotter Lexus. But to attract the conquest buyer, does the IS F speak to whatever might be missing from the M3 or C63 AMG? I don't know.
The two huge problems are the prices of the M3 and the C63, both of which are cheaper than the Lexus. (That's why I haven't mentioned the RS4, which is $10K more expensive and at the end of its run.) The C63 is $53,800, the M3 sedan is not quite $1,000 more. In this section of the market, are enthusiasts ready to pay more money for an unproven, unpedigreed car that doesn't shellac the competition? Even if it is very good? That sounds like a big ask to me.
But it's Lexus. And the game has only begun. Which means it's certain we haven't begun to see Lexus take the fight to this market. Continue reading below to find out everything you ever wanted to know about the Lexus IS F.
The Lexus Formula
Enthusiasts who just can't wait to settle their driving shoes into the 2008 Lexus IS F, the V8-powered sports sedan designed to reset class standards for performance, handling, comfort and quality, most likely are thinking more about the car's ability to incinerate their favorite roads than they are about the etymology of its name.
But there's a story behind that name, a story that includes the V10-powered LF-A supercar concept shown at the Detroit Auto Show in January.
The story explains where the name came from, and it outlines the beginnings of the Lexus performance and quality heritage. It goes like this:
In the beginning, there was Toyota, a company that of course represents its own remarkable success story. A critical element of that success involves building reliable, efficient vehicles for every segment of the marketplace – it involves being a full-line company, with a vehicle for every buyer.
So far, so good; but in the early 1980s, Toyota Chairman Eiji Toyoda recognized that the company was not represented in a segment he was certain would be critical to the company's continued success and growth. He called together his most trusted corporate officers and advisors and told them that the company needed to create a luxury automobile that would equal, and then exceed, the world's best.
Mr. Toyoda challenged them all to create a vehicle that would serve as a flagship. Because of the size of the American market, the car would be designed with American tastes in mind.
So that's what they set out to do. They took the challenge so seriously, and so literally, in fact, that thinking in English, the language of the car's intended market, they assigned the code name "F," with a circle around it, to the project – with the "F" standing, of course, for "flagship."
The first vehicle to be completed was known as the "F1", or "Flagship One." This of course was the LS 400, which was developed by Chief Engineer Ichiro Suzuki and a group of 60 designers, 24 engineering teams, 1,400 engineers and 2,300 technicians.
The LS stands of course for Luxury Sedan, and 400 means that the car was powered by a 4.0L V8 engine.
The first LS, and the Lexus models that followed, were developed using procedures even more complex and demanding than those in place for regular Toyota vehicles.
So it is that in addition to standing for "flagship," the "F" came to symbolize a vehicle that conceived, designed and developed using Lexus' special "flare."
And now, it's come to symbolize even more than that. It's come to symbolize a separate brand designation within Lexus. In a move that was telegraphed by the appearance of the LF-A concept car, the first production vehicle to wear the "F" as a formal part of its identification is the IS-F, a carefully planned and engineered vehicle that was developed by after-hours enthusiasts, and was not part of Lexus' usual deliberate development program.
To be certain performance targets were met on the IS F, it was tested at racetracks that count, at tracks that have challenge and heritage. Those test tracks include the legendary Nurburgring Nordschleife, in Germany's Eiffel Mountains; Circuit Paul Ricard, in the South of France; Circuit Zolder, in Belgium; Laguna Seca Raceway; and at Fuji Speedway, in Japan.
In fact, the "F" logo design comes directly from the shape of Turn One at Fuji Speedway, the home circuit of IS F.
The "F" might also mean "fast," or "fun," "fascinating," or "formula," suggesting a precise recipe for excellence. But as much as anything else, it's also a symbol of our "focus" on satisfying every element of the market.
Most importantly, it could also mean "finally." If it means that, it's only because it signifies our relief that there's now a serious, fire-breathing enthusiast's car that embodies all of the Lexus flagship DNA.
Irresistible Force Creates Moveable Object
What is it that's said about the irresistible force?
Anyone encountering an engineer named Yukihiko Yaguchi might just find out first hand, for he's an irresistible force that's created a highly movable object.
Yaguchi is a very convincing, compelling guy, but he's also quiet and self effacing. Once he gets hold of you, you not only can't help but like him, you can't help but want to help him accomplish whatever it is that he's up to.
Plenty of people have learned that lesson, and there's solid evidence to support it. The evidence sits on four fat, sticky tires. It's called the Lexus IS F.
In order to understand the IS F and its genesis, the first thing that you have to understand is that Yaguchi is an enthusiast, a performance hard case who loves to drive fine, responsive equipment.
For the 30 years he's been at Toyota, he's wanted to build a car he wanted to drive, a car he'd love to own. During his tenure at Lexus, Yaguchi has worked on the first and second iterations of the Lexus LS luxury sedan, the turbocharged Toyota Supra and the first Lexus GS sport sedan. But none of those cars, however excellent, scratched his peculiar performance itch.
For the past 15 years, he's been thinking in terms of nothing less than an all-wheel-drive supercar with huge horsepower, racetrack-inspired handling and enormous stopping power.
What he had in mind was a take-no-prisoners premium sport sedan that would offer comfort, sophistication and performance to equal or beat the best of the class from Europe.
Finally, he got tired of waiting. He decided that he'd just go ahead and figure out a way to build it.
Yaguchi was ideally placed to ramrod such a project, as he was working at TMC's Lexus Center in the Brand Strategy department in preparation for the Lexus brand to expand globally.
Lexus is of course a well-organized company with carefully proscribed procedures for getting things done. But Yaguchi, the irresistible force, turned procedure on its head.
To begin with, in Lexus' careful way, it's not the engineers who make the decisions to design and develop a vehicle. It's the Product Planning Department. The experts there want to be sure that there's actually a market for a proposed vehicle, and that the finished product will fill the needs of that market.
So instead of the Product Planning people going to Yaguchi and saying something like, "Look, Yaguchi-san, we think that the market is ready for a high-performance sport sedan," it was the other way around. Yaguchi pitched his concept to Product Planning. Incredibly, after much convincing, he received Product Planning's approval to proceed.
But just because the project got the green light from Product Planning, that didn't mean that it had resources and budget allocated to it. It didn't. But that wasn't enough to derail Yaguchi. He developed the IF S when he wasn't busy with his Brand Strategy responsibilities, working informally, on the side, beginning in 2004.
In other words, in the best tradition of the factory-based hotrod, Yaguchi recruited his own special "Skunk Works," an under-the-radar operation populated by a team of speed-crazy rogue engineers who, working in their spare time between their regular assignments, developed their own vision for a Lexus performance vehicle.
Most chief engineers, when they are tasked to develop a new Lexus model, typically have between 1,500 and 2,000 people on their development teams. That didn't happen here. Instead, Yaguchi had between 100 and 300 people at any given time on the IS F development team. He designed and built the IS F with a team that was a fraction of the size of the usual engineering and development staffs.
Working outside the confines of Lexus' usual carefully planned corporate program, Yaguchi cherry-picked the very best people, folks he thought might want to have a hand in creating this special car. Because it wasn't possible to get them assigned full-time to his team, he convinced them to contribute their ideas and skills in their spare time, when they weren't working on their regular projects.
This approach didn't just apply to individuals. Yaguchi worked his wiles on whole departments. For example, a corporate subsidiary called Toyota Technocraft, among many of its special projects, builds packages for police cars and also builds the aero kits used on some Toyota models. Yaguchi reasoned that Toyota Technocraft would be perfect to help with the many specialized modifications of the standard Lexus IS that this car would require.
He pitched the idea to the division's leadership, and they went for it. The result is an engineering marvel with special aerodynamics, an 8-speed Sport Direct Shift transmission with paddle shifters and its own special performance profile, Brembo disc brakes that feature huge, 14.2-inch cross-drilled discs and six pistons per caliper up front, 19-inch wheels and a specially tuned suspension system. Indeed, Technocraft's participation in the IS F project marks the first time the division has worked on the design of an entire production car.
But Yaguchi's determination didn't end there. He went so far, in fact, as to take his requests for help outside the company's confines. He knew that the IS F was going to require a really spectacular engine. So he went to Yamaha, which has a history of making engine components for Toyota and Lexus. He didn't go to just anyone, he asked his old friend Mr. Kimura, who worked on Yamaha's Formula One engine program and then general manager of the aftermarket project division, to help out. As a result of that request, Yamaha did most of the development on the IS F's DOHC 5.0L V8, making sure to pack it with more than 416 horsepower, enough to blast the IS F to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds.
Eventually, none of this was done in secret. So well known did the project become, and so legendary was Yaguchi's persuasiveness, that the whole experience came to be known as Yaguchi-Go. In Japanese, today "go" is a suffix referring to a car, but originally it characterized a ship, the equivalent of a vessel making its unstoppable way forward. So this was Yaguchi and his project cutting a swath, and leaving a wake, through Toyota and Lexus. In this way, "Yaguchi-go" constitutes recognition of his leadership of, and ownership of, the IS F project.
To be certain they got the IS F exactly right, Yaguchi and his team tested the IS F at racetracks that count, at tracks that have challenge and heritage. Those test tracks include the legendary Nurburgring Nordschleife, in Germany's Eiffel Mountains; Circuit Paul Ricard, in the South of France; Circuit Zolder, in Belgium; Laguna Seca Raceway, in California; and Fuji Speedway, in Japan.
In fact, Fuji Speedway is the IS F's home circuit and its many turns the inspiration for the F-logo design.
In fact, by the time testing was concluded, there'd never been a Toyota or a Lexus production car that had been so heavily tested at race tracks all around the world.
The result of all this, of course, will be available to the public beginning in early 2008. And that means that Yaguchi can stop thinking about exactly the car he'd most like to drive. He can actually begin driving it....and so can every other enthusiast.
LEXUS INTRODUCES 2008 HIGH-PERFORMANCE IS F SPORT SEDAN
The 2008 Lexus IS F high-performance sedan is the first production model to wear the brand's new "F" marque. Based on the robust IS sport sedan platform, the 2008 IS F will deliver 416 horsepower from a specially engineered 5.0-liter V8 engine and will accelerate from zero-to-60 mph in 4.6 seconds when it arrives at Lexus dealerships in early 2008.
In addition to the exclusive V8, the 2008 IS F's performance credentials include racetrack-developed suspension and braking, and a specially calibrated version of the advanced Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system. Much of the IS F development took place at racetracks around the world including Germany's legendary Nurburgring Nordschleife, Circuit Paul Ricard in France, Japan's Fuji Speedway and the Higashi-Fuji Technical Center in Japan. In fact, Fuji Speedway is the IS F's home circuit, and the shape of turn one was the inspiration for the F-logo design.
The 2008 Lexus IS F will make an unmistakable design statement as it launches the brand's F performance marque. The IS F applies a distinctive new high-performance layer on the brand's L-finesse design language, with themes and design features that set the F model noticeably apart from standard Lexus models. Likewise, the interior will feature exclusive performance-influenced luxury appointments befitting the brand.
The "F" originates from the "Circle-F" internal code for what became the Lexus Division nearly 20 years ago. Since then, the "F" code has signified special Lexus vehicle programs that fall outside the normal engineering and development process.
"With Lexus solidly established as a luxury leader, it was time to expand the brand's scope by offering unique high-performance models, and the IS F is the first," said Dave Nordstrom, Lexus vice president of marketing. "Lexus did not design the IS F as a direct competitor to any specific models, but as a true performance sedan in a distinctly Lexus way. The IS F is totally authentic with a unique interpretation of driving excitement at all speeds and provides a new definition of 'usable power.'"
The Look of Performance
Based on the IS luxury sport sedan, the IS F is clearly differentiated when viewed from the front, rear or in profile. A trapezoid-shaped front bumper fascia, a theme that is repeated at the rear, sets off the V-shape grille. The hood has a raised center section to make room for the V8 powerplant, and the front fenders were widened to envelop the 19-inch low-profile tires.
Both upper and lower grilles use a special wire-mesh pattern, and total grille area is increased to ensure adequate cooling for the 5.0-liter V8. The lower grille is flanked by large brake cooling ducts adjacent to standard fog lamps. Standard bi-xenon HID headlights include the Lexus Adaptive Front lighting System (AFS), which helps to illuminate curves at night.
The IS F's wedge-like profile is accentuated by functional front fender air outlets with lower edges that transition into larger rocker panels and continue as a character line into the rear bumper. The front fenders wear a discrete silver, black and blue "F" marque.
The rear view conveys a strong parting signature for the IS F, with a dramatic trapezoid shape and easily recognizable design elements. Four exhaust diffusers, two per side in a vertical arrangement, are integrated into the rear bumper. Above them, light-emitting diode (LED) stop and tail lamps behind clear lenses give the IS F a unique nighttime appearance. Attention to design detail extends down to the white LED license plate lamps. The subtle rear spoiler is one of many aerodynamic enhancements, which also include special underbody panels to optimize airflow.
Contributing to both design and performance, 19-inch forged-alloy wheels produced by BBS® feature a distinct dark-gray finish and an asymmetrical 10-spoke design.
IS F Engine, from the Bottom Up
The 2008 Lexus IS F is exclusively powered by a performance-tuned 5.0-liter V8 engine producing 416 horsepower at 6,600 rpm and 371 lb.-ft. of peak torque at 5,200 rpm. Although based on the 4.6-liter V8 used in the Lexus LS and GS, the V8 in the IS F was specially engineered for higher power output, high-performance driving and durability. This new engine's high specific output (83.2 hp/liter) and high operating range (6,800 RPM redline) reflect the thorough attention to detail underlying the core engineering.
The IS F V8 introduces new technology and features that are exclusive to this version of the engine. Some of these include a dual air intake system, engine-oil and transmission-fluid coolers for high-speed performance and a cylinder-head scavenge oil pump. The scavenge pump forces oil from the cylinder heads back to the oil pan, ensuring a reliable oil supply even during cornering that exceeds one g.
The IS F 5.0-liter V8 is based on a die cast aluminum cylinder block with steel liners. Ribs positioned on the block's outer wall provide high rigidity. The crankshaft is forged, with high-frequency hardening to the fillet area, and uses a double torsional damper. Crankshaft journals are polished to a mirror finish to minimize the friction generated between the connecting rods and the crankshaft, and forged sintered iron alloy connecting rods ensure high-rpm durability.
Pistons use two-piece oil rings for low friction, and the skirt area is resin-coated to reduce noise and vibration. The timing-sensor rotor is attached at the rear of the crankshaft, which experiences less vibration than the front.
High-flow cylinder heads designed by Yamaha have a lightweight valvetrain, contributing to the IS F V8's high-rpm capability. The horsepower peak arrives at 6,600 rpm (just 200 rpm before redline), and the torque peak at 5,200 rpm. The resulting performance character, while quite responsive in low-speed situations, provides a rush of power at higher engine speeds. Carefully chosen ratios for the 8-Speed Sport Direct Shift transmission help ensure responsiveness at all vehicle speeds.
The IS F V8 engine employs innovative new technologies to maximize efficiency and reduce emissions, including the SFI D-4 (direct-to-cylinder injection system with secondary port injectors) fuel injection and the Electronic Throttle Control System with intelligence (ETCS-i). Essentially, SFI D-4 integrates two types of fuel injection: A direct-type high-pressure fuel injection system, which provides a cooling effect in the cylinders and enables the high compression ratio (11.8:1) employed to extract maximum energy from the fuel; and a set of low-pressure port fuel injectors that help produce a precise burn to optimize power and efficiency under light- and medium-load conditions.
A dual air-intake system uses a primary intake passage for low and medium engine speeds. In the higher engine speed range (above 3,600 rpm), both the primary and secondary passages are opened, helping boost high-rpm power. Both intake passages share a common high-efficiency, low-restriction air filter.
Lexus optimized the intake system down to the smallest details. For example, the throttle valve shaft has been tapered down from 10 mm to 7 mm diameter in the center to expand the intake air passage. The intake manifold uses a simple plenum design with equal-length runners.
High-Precision, High-RPM Valve Control
With a strong bottom end to help ensure durability, the top end of the IS F V8 could be engineered for high-rpm capability. The aluminum cylinder heads made for the IS F by Yamaha feature integrated cam journals. The four composite camshafts use net-sinter forged cam lobes on hollow shafts, with the inside of the shafts serving as oil passages.
Titanium intake valves operated by roller rocker arms with needle bearings and fixed fulcrums contribute to a low-inertia valve train. High-flow intake ports were specially designed for the IS F engine, with a cross-section area optimized to improve intake-pulsation efficiency and increase air-intake volume.
With the IS F 5.0-liter V8, Lexus has made a leap in valve-control technology with the new Variable Valve Timing with intelligence and Electrically controlled intake cam (VVT-iE). The exhaust camshaft uses hydraulically controlled variable valve timing.
Variable valve timing systems typically use engine oil pressure to operate cam-phasing mechanisms. In the IS F, using an electric drive motor to alter the intake camshaft phasing made it possible to expand VVT operational range to lower engine speeds, where engine oil pressure is usually not high enough to operate conventional VVT. An electric motor, with electronic control unit and a reducer, is mounted to the front of each intake camshaft.
Dual single-row independent primary timing chains drive the intake camshafts, which drive the exhaust camshafts via smaller secondary chains. Reinforcement ribs inside the timing-chain cover reduce timing chain noise, and integrating the water pump, oil pump and scavenge oil pump into the timing chain cover reduces weight.
The IS F V8's compact pent-roof combustion chamber positions the long-reach sparkplug nearly in the center. The plugs use an iridium-tipped center electrode and a platinum-tipped side electrode. A water jacket between the exhaust port and plug thread ensures optimal cooling around the plugs. Four knock sensors in the engine's valley reduce the possibility of detonation.
A true high-performance engine relies on outstanding support systems and thoughtful engineering that touches every detail. The Lexus IS F's unique stacked quad diffusers, for example, make more than a visual statement. They play an important role in a high-performance exhaust system by reducing backpressure. The stainless steel exhaust system starts with tubular exhaust manifolds and integrated catalysts. Next come dual 2.4-inch diameter front pipes that are joined before a pre-muffler and 2.7-inch single center pipe, after which the system splits into two 2.1-inch pipes and enters dual 16.8-liter mufflers.
A number of additional engineering details were integrated into the IS F to improve performance and efficiency. A cooling-fan motor was installed that is 30 percent lighter than conventional fan motors, and the fan shape was modified to enhance cooling and control noise. Front engine mounts have liquid-filled insulators, and the rear mounts are covered by rubber heat insulators. Inside the fuel tank, an offset high-output fuel pump and a sub-tank help prevent fuel starvation during cornering maneuvers. The alternator uses a larger front bearing, a cooling fan and die-cast aluminum cooling fins for the rectifier. The planetary-gear starter uses the crank-hold feature.
8-Speed Sport Direct Shift Transmission
The IS F 5.0-liter V8 engine is mated to the world's first eight-Speed Sport Direct-Shift automatic transmission. This new transmission blends the performance characteristics of an automated manual-type transmission with the smoothness and refinement of a planetary-type automatic transmission. As a result, the driver can choose between ultra-quick manual shifts for performance driving, and smooth automatic shifts when convenience is the top priority. The driver can shift manually using either the console shift or steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
The eight-speed transmission is approximately the same length and width as the six-speed transmission used in other rear-wheel drive Lexus models. The transmission has a die-cast aluminum case and some aluminum internal parts, which contributes to weight reduction. Using eight speeds allows gear ratios that maximize torque up to the tire-grip limitations in the lower ranges while optimizing efficiency.
Driving enthusiasts will appreciate the transmission's Manual mode (M), which will hold each gear to the 6,800-RPM redline. A pair of unique paddles located within a fingertip's reach behind the steering wheel enables the driver to make ultra-fast up-shift gear changes. Paddle-shifting operation is allowed in either D or M modes, but shifts are quicker and more direct in M mode. At higher engine speeds, downshifts are accompanied by automated and precise throttle blips to match engine rpm to vehicle speed.
In addition, a Sport mode switch on the dashboard allows the driver to select from among Normal, Sport and Snow driving modes. In Sport mode, the VDIM system allows higher dynamic thresholds before intervening, alters steering assist to increase steering weight, and throttle response is sharpened. With the transmission in D mode, gears are held longer in response to throttle input.
Versatile Drive Mode
When the driver selects Drive mode (D) using the console shifter, the eight-speed transmission provides quick shifts that are smooth and befitting a Lexus. At the same time, D mode offers plenty of versatility with full torque-converter lockup in 6th through 8th gears to optimize fuel efficiency. A flex-lockup clutch operates in 4th and 5th gears, continuously controlling lockup-clutch slippage to enhance fuel efficiency.
Until the engine reaches operating temperature, and when the VDIM system detects slippery road conditions, the transmission will automatically select 2nd gear start. Once the engine reaches operating temperature, or VDIM detects better road conditions, the transmission allows 1st gear start.
From D mode, the driver can select M mode by moving the console shifter into the M slot, or can gain temporary sequential operation by keeping the console shifter in D and operating the steering wheel paddle shifters. The latter is useful for situations where engine braking is desired, such as driving through a hilly area.
Paddle shifting while in D mode, however, is not the same as in M mode. If the vehicle is stopped, or if the vehicle is at a constant speed for a certain period of time, the transmission will change back to normal D operation. In addition, the driver can switch immediately into normal D operation by holding the upshift paddle (+) for one second.
The transmission uses flex-lockup control and deceleration control when decelerating while in D mode, using as many gears as possible and extending the fuel cutout for maximum efficiency. AI-SHIFT (Artificial Intelligence-SHIFT) complements the driver's Sport switch selection by automatically adapting the shifting based on road conditions and driver input. The new transmission is also highly responsive to uphill/downhill driving, always selecting the best gear for power or engine braking. Because the IS F is a Lexus, the intuitive powertrain control optimally smoothes out off-the-line response.
Sporty Manual Mode
Manual mode (M) goes beyond simply allowing manual gear selection by changing the transmission's operational behavior to facilitate performance driving. In M mode, the driver will experience the feel of a manual transmission. Specifically, one will feel immediate g-force during acceleration and deceleration. In addition, the transmission uses downshift blipping control to match engine speed for high-rpm downshifts.
The driver selects M mode using the console shifter, which then allows upshifts by pushing forward (+) and downshifts by pulling rearward (-). With the console shifter in M, the driver can also use the paddle shifters mounted behind the steering wheel.
In 1st gear, the torque converter operates to provide torque multiplication for consistent launches from a standing start. The torque converter is locked continuously in 2nd through 8th gears to provide a direct connection between engine and transmission for the fastest shifts and most direct driving experience.
In M mode, gears will be held until the driver up- or down-shifts. Two exceptions are if vehicle speed falls too low for the selected gear, then the transmission will downshift automatically; and if the transmission fluid or engine coolants exceed limits, then the transmission will revert to automatic operation to prevent damage.
Shifts in 0.1 Second and Downshift Throttle Blipping
New hydraulic-control technology allows the IS F 8-Speed Sport Direct Shift transmission to perform on par with manual transmissions without sacrificing the smoothness of a torque-converter automatic. In M mode, upshifts are executed in just one-tenth of a second, six times faster than manual shifts in the V6-powered IS models.
The transmission-control system uses high-flow linear control valves for engaging and disengaging the clutches. The resulting simultaneous release and engagement of the shifting clutches provides fast shifts while diminishing gearshift shock. The solenoids allow direct control of the hydraulic pressure applied to the shifting clutches, along with centrifugal fluid pressure canceling mechanisms, enabling finer control than conventional clutch-control systems. In addition to a conventional input-shaft speed sensor, the intermediate members of the gear train use a speed sensor to allow finer control of gear changes.
Driving enthusiasts pride themselves on the ability to execute a perfect manual-transmission downshift, which requires "blipping" the throttle while the clutch is disengaged to match the engine speed for the lower gear. The IS F transmission executes perfect downshifts in a similar way but with the consistency most drivers cannot match with a manual transmission.
When a downshift instruction is received, the transmission control system quickly opens the electronic throttle, instantaneously increasing engine speed (blipping) to match the engine speed after the gear change. Simultaneously, the system completes the gear change by smoothly and quickly engaging the shift clutch. The downshift, with throttle blipping, occurs in just 0.2-second.
To enhance performance and durability, a breather system separates air bubbles from the transmission fluid during performance driving. The transmission is also equipped with an air-to-liquid automatic transmission fluid (ATF) cooler to help ensure optimal transmission performance even during track driving. There is a transmission fluid temperature warning-light in the instrument panel.
Sports Car Dynamics
The 2008 IS F is based on the robust IS platform, which was engineered from the start to allow a high dynamic envelope. The stiff body structure and the rear subframe are connected through several reinforcements.
Although using the basic double-wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear suspension configurations of the IS platform, the IS F benefits from a multitude of track-proven modifications. The IS F sits an inch lower on its suspension than the standard IS models, helping to lower the center of gravity for quicker handling response. Like other IS models, the IS F employs high-strength steel suspension components for the optimal combination of rigidity and weight.
Spring and damper rates are increased, and larger-diameter stabilizer bars are used. The rear-suspension control arms are specific to the IS F to optimize geometry for the 19-inch wheels. In addition, the monotube shock absorbers use a larger-diameter piston rod. As on other IS models, the sophisticated shock-absorber design utilizes multi-leaf linear control valves to help improve damping force, and rebound springs offer improved body control without degrading ride comfort.
Suspension bushings have been specially tuned for better feel, and the subframe suspension mounts are stiffer than on other IS models to help reduce sway and ensure control under acceleration and braking. The engine mounts are also stiffer for a more direct feel. Special jounce stoppers added to both the front and rear suspension come into play early in the compression stroke to help reduce the roll angle when cornering and to reduce dive when braking. High-rigidity hub unit bearings are engineered for rigorous, high g-force track driving.
The Electric Power Steering (EPS) system has been remapped for improved steering response and feel while providing precise control and excellent straight-line control. The vehicle-speed-sensitive system eliminates parasitic loss from a hydraulic pump and reduces weight and complexity.
The front wheels measure 19 x 8J, with 225/40R19 tires and 19 x 9J in the rear, with 255/35R19 tires. Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 and Bridgestone Potenza models were each developed specifically for the 170-mph capabilities of the Lexus IS F. Design parameters called for handling grip befitting a premium sports car but with the control and ride quality expected for a Lexus in this class.
The direct-type tire pressure monitoring system allows two sets of tires to be registered, giving the customer the benefit of a system with a set of track tires or winter tires. The multi-information display indicates the tire selector switch.
Performance-Tuned Stability Control
The IS F is equipped with a specially calibrated version of Lexus' innovative Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system to help provide superior handling dynamics and traction control. Combining input from a variety of sensors, VDIM is designed to anticipate the onset of a vehicle skid or slide and help correct the situation with a combination of braking, steering and throttle control in a way that is essentially transparent to the driver. VDIM integration provides precise management for Electric Power Steering (EPS), Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), traction control (TRAC), the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Brake Assist (BA), Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD), and engine torque (via the electronically controlled throttle).
VDIM also provides an electronically controlled brake-based limited-slip differential effect on the rear wheels. During cornering, VDIM suppresses any tendency for the inside wheel to spin, transmitting more power to the outside wheel to maintain traction and momentum. Overall, VDIM enhances handling performance by helping to control front and rear wheel slip. When braking on a mixed-friction surface, VDIM will direct steering assist in the direction that will help provide the greatest control.
In the IS F, a Sport mode switch on the dashboard allows the driver to select from among Normal, Sport and Snow driving modes. In Sport mode, VDIM allows higher dynamic thresholds before intervening and alters steering assist to increase steering feel. Sport mode enables optimal vehicle control on a track in areas where the skills of even top-level drivers are challenged.
The experienced driver can disengage VSC/TRAC by press-and-holding the TRAC-off button for more than three seconds. Even with VSC/TRAC disengaged, however, the system still provides the brake-based limited-slip differential effect and ABS.
The IS F is equipped with heavy-duty Brembo® brakes designed to the specifications of the Lexus engineering team. The 14.2-inch ventilated, drilled front rotors are gripped by rigid, powerful six-piston aluminum calipers, while the 13.6-inch ventilated, drilled rear rotors use two-piston calipers. High-friction brake pads are fitted on both. The brake system gives the driver confidence in extreme usage.
A single 10-inch brake booster with a tie-rod structure was utilized and tuned to improve feeling, effectiveness and firmness. Front bumper ducts adjacent to the fog lamps stream cooling air to the brakes. The brakes are finished with the Lexus name displayed on the calipers, a first for a Lexus production vehicle.
The Security of a Lexus
Passive-safety technology in the IS F begins with a reinforced passenger compartment that helps protect the occupants with front-and-rear crush structures. Seatbelt pre-tensioners and force limiters are used for all seating positions.
In addition to the driver and front-passenger front airbags and front seat-mounted side airbags, the Lexus Supplemental Restraint System (SRS) includes side-curtain airbags that extend from A-pillar to C-pillar and a knee airbag for both the driver and the front passenger. Advanced dual-stage front airbags are designed to deploy based on impact force. The driver's front airbag also includes an extra low stage designed to deploy based, in part, on the seat's position on its track. The front passenger's airbag features twin chambers, creating an indentation in the center impact area that helps provide overall occupant protection.
The available Pre-Collision System (PCS) can help reduce collision damage. The package includes Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, which uses millimeter-wave radar to measure and maintain a set distance from a vehicle traveling ahead. PCS relies on the radar sensor to detect obstacles in front of the car. The PCS computer, taking sensor inputs from vehicle speed, steering angle and yaw rate, is designed to determine whether a collision is unavoidable. In such a situation, PCS preemptively retracts front seat belts and pre-initializes Brake Assist so that increased braking will be applied the instant the driver depresses the pedal.
The rear back-up camera, included with the available navigation system, automatically projects an image of what its lens can detect behind the car onto the navigation screen when the transmission is in reverse gear. The available Intuitive Park Assist (IPA) system uses ultrasonic sensors to detect objects close to the car's front and rear bumpers, alerting the driver and showing distance to objects in the multi-information display within the speedometer. When the IS F is equipped with the navigation system, information on detected objects is shown in greater detail on the seven-inch touch screen display.
Uncompromised Lexus Luxury
Like the exterior, the interior of the IS F features an exclusive design treatment highlighted by aluminized composite trim, aluminum-rimmed main gauges, unique steering-wheel treatment and other special surface treatments. The instrument panel integrates a new oil-temperature gauge, voltmeter and shift-indicator lights, and the "F" logo is discretely showcased on the steering wheel, rear-center console and outer seat cushions. For comfort, UV-reducing, heat-absorbing glass is used throughout the car.
In addition to the usual Lexus standards of comfort and convenience, the IS F interior features specially shaped and trimmed seats that hold the driver comfortably and securely in place. The special leather-trimmed sport seats are available in Black with blue stitching or a unique high-contrast Alpine and Black trim. The standard SmartAccess keyless entry and push-button start allows the driver to keep the access fob in a pocket or purse.
Standard amenities include 10-way power front seats; dual-zone automatic climate control, a pollen filter and smog detector; power moonroof with one-touch open/close and seven open-position settings; power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel; three-position memory function for front seats, steering wheel and mirrors; all power windows with automatic up/down operation with jam protection; an auto-dimming rear-view mirror with HomeLink® programmable garage door opener, automated rain-sensing wipers and heated auto-dimming outside mirrors with integrated puddle lamps.
The air conditioning system's electrically controlled variable compressor adjusts output to demand rather than simply cycling on and off. The system can independently adjust upper and lower temperatures in response to ambient conditions or sunlight.
A multi-information display located in the speedometer integrates a trip computer that provides outside temperature, driving range, average fuel consumption, average fuel consumption since refueling (per tank), current fuel consumption, average speed and the F logo. The display also includes an oil-maintenance reminder and system warnings.
High-Power, High-Performance Audio
The standard Lexus Premium Audio System features a six-disc, in-dash CD changer, and 13 speakers. Automatic Sound Levelizer (ASL) maintains consistent sound levels at varying extraneous noise levels. A convenient mini-jack in the center console enables connection of an iPod® or other portable music players.
Like all Lexus models, the IS F offers its own version of the Mark Levinson® Premium Surround Sound Audio System, which is specially tuned for IS F. This 14-speaker audio system features discrete 5.1 multi-channel playback with 7.1-channel speaker architecture. Its 10 amplifier channels provide 300 watts total output at less than 0.1 percent total harmonic distortion from 20 to 20,000 Hz (THD all channels driven). The Mark Levinson system plays conventional CDs and DVDs, plus MP3/WMA-formatted CDs. DVD movies can be viewed on the navigation system's color seven-inch touch screen when the parking brake is engaged.
The Lexus IS F 8-Speed Sport Direct Shift Transmission:
Conquering a Stereotype
Conventional wisdom has long held that a good manual transmission is always faster and more fun than an automatic transmission: Faster because it directly transfers power without the typical power loss of a torque converter, and more fun because it responds exactly to the driver's commands with no delay. Fast, direct, fully controllable and predictable – exactly the desired qualities in any "driver's car." Moreover, precisely the qualities that describe the new Lexus IS F's 8-Speed Sport Direct Shift transmission.
The transmission is an arrow through the heart of conventional wisdom.
But why go to the trouble of creating an automatic transmission that performs better and faster than a manual? After all, the simple yet effective manual transmission is held in high esteem by driving enthusiasts everywhere.
Engineers love a challenge and when the IS F Chief Engineer dared his staff to build a paradigm-changing high-performance car, the conventional automatic transmission was a ripe target. Why? The IS F would not meet their lofty goals with anything less than a complete re-think of the gearbox. Goals that included scintillating track performance.
You may not care much about the detail and might feel that driving is the only proof you need. If so, you're encouraged to get some IS F seat time at your earliest opportunity. But if you would like to know how Lexus built the world's fastest shifting automatic transmission, read on.
Moving from Weakness to Strength
In the process of creating a maximum performance car, Lexus has done nothing less than turn what is typically thought to be a weakness into a solid advantage. To illustrate the point, let's get right to the qualities that make it so:
- The worlds fastest shift time for street legal production cars. At 0.1 second, it's faster than you.
- Full manual shift control that can be instantly accessed by moving the console-mounted shift lever to "M" and then using either the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters or the shift lever. In manual mode, it shifts only when you tell it to.
- A direct feel unrivaled by conventional automatics, made possible via clutch lockup (yes, like a manual) employed in second through eighth gears
- Ultra-quick throttle blipping downshifts match engine and gear speed to avoid sudden engine braking-an advantage during performance driving, on the track or on the road
- First gear torque multiplication for maximum off-the-line acceleration
- Smooth, yet quick and drama free automatic shifting, if that is what you desire
These qualities add up to create a track-worthy ultra-high performance transmission that works for you, not against you, by responding to your demands the moment you want or need it to. And unlike other transmissions built for high performance duty, there is no pain required for your gain.
Speed is Essential
The most important quality in the development of the new gearbox was shift speed. Incredibly, the team looked at the world's fastest shifting transmissions for reference and inspiration: Formula One. A typical F1 transmission shift time is approx. 0.05 seconds, with virtually imperceptible lag. The IS F shifts occur in approximately 1/10th of a second. The charts below put the remarkable shift speed of the IS F's transmission in perspective.
Begin with a Robust Design...
The transmission team started with a new 8-speed automatic transmission design from the LS 460. This may sound like physical overkill but IS F would have notably more power than the LS and certainly be driven more aggressively, so a robust design was required.
The cleverly designed gearbox is relatively light and uses a special planetary gear set that allows a more compact design. The whole unit weighs only 96.3 kg yet has more than enough torque capacity for the IS F's 5.0-liter engine.
...and Relentlessly Pursue Efficiency
The team that designed and developed the transmission knew that they had to think without boundaries to achieve the type of performance on both road and track that skilled drivers demand. The surprising results are rooted in two key areas: Shift/lockup clutch operation and shift control. It also doesn't hurt to have eight speeds in the g'box.
The so-called lockup clutch is not new to automatic transmissions, but the control strategy is. Traditional automatics have used the lockup clutch to make them more efficient by creating a direct power path between the engine and transmission. This is normally done in the upper gears and in low load operations to preserve smoothness while gaining fuel economy.
The IS F turns this idea on its head by employing lockup in all gears except first when in manual mode. This eliminates any power loss from torque converter from 2nd through 8th gear while preserving desirable torque multiplication in first gear for stunning launch acceleration. The result is a direct feel unlike any other automatic, and right now response to the throttle.
This lockup scenario surely creates excessive shift shock, you say? The intentional result is much more in the "useful feedback" category than shock. And remember we're still in manual mode; Shifts are quite smooth and quick in auto mode but manual is so addicting, you may never look back.
Add Strategic Control...
In order to create the virtually instant upshifts (in manual mode), Lexus engineers developed new methods to control the hydraulic pressure that actuates the transmission clutches. A high flow-rate linear solenoid is one of the key elements that work together with special computer programming to provide quick and precise control in concert with engine torque. Ultra quick shifts-when you want them-are the outcome.
The ability of the transmission to respond only to your commands yields a manual mode that is true to its name. It shifts only when you ask it to, and not when it thinks it should.
In addition, a modified manual mode is readily accessible without even touching the shift lever. When driving in "D," one only needs to tap the downshift paddle once to move into the modified manual mode. In this mode, one can shift manually as desired; the system returns to automatic when the vehicle is stopped or driven at a constant speed for a time.
...and Performance without Pain is Assured
The IS F SPort Direct Shift transmission manages to be both an amazingly effective manual and a refined automatic. One stereotype...conquered.
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