Vital Stats

Engine:
5.0L V8
Power:
416 HP / 371 LB-FT
Transmission:
8-Speed Automatic
0-60 Time:
4.6 Seconds
Top Speed:
170 MPH
Drivetrain:
Rear-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,780 LBS
Seating:
2+3
Cargo:
13.3 CU-FT
MPG:
16 City / 23 HWY
As Tested Price:
$65,804
Sometimes fortune really smiles on even shiftless car-reviewing Dutchmen like myself, I must admit. I had come into Austin, TX the week before I was supposed to meet up with the good people at Lexus, who had graciously invited me to drive the 2014 IS. I flew in early because Austin is a pretty good place to eat, as well as being a place that my wife doesn't live. Let me say that a nicer way... while my stunningly attractive wife pretty much represents all things good and light in this world, she does occasionally shoot me a sideways glance when I dig in for my fifth Tacodeli breakfast taco. Thankfully, I leave most of my good sense and information about the effects of high-calorie diets on lifespan at home with Molly when I come to Texas, so I can better focus my laser-like attention on car reviews and TexMex. You guys are worth it.

Aside from all the tacos, I was also lucky to be visiting town the weekend before South By Southwest really kicked off in earnest, because it was that Sunday that my good old buddy John, and my new old buddy Pat, were headed up to the Circuit of the Americas to see the first ever SCCA Majors event there. It was lucky that I had planned to be out at CotA, which is east of Austin, because that made it very slightly easier for a very nice woman named Marcia to bring me a 2013 Lexus IS F from Houston, roughly 150 miles away.

Marcia brought me the IS F to replace another press car, which was having mechanical troubles; I didn't ask for the fire-breathing IS but when it was offered up I figured I couldn't do much better as a warm up for the 2014 IS program I was about to go on. See, lucky right?

Driving Notes
  • It's been a long time since we've written up a review of the IS F, so let me remind everyone of a critical fact: this car lives just inside the borders of sanity. Forget for a moment that the 416 horsepower and 371 pound-feet of torque from the 5.0-liter V8 is actually starting to sound modest in today's turbo and biturbo days, and pay attention to the fact that the IS-F might be the easiest luxury car to get sideways that I've ever driven. Power delivery to the rear wheels via the quick-spinning V8 is incredibly rapid, so if you are inclined to introduce even smidge of steering lock into the equation, you're bound to go drifting, boy. Good thing hadn't just finished watching hours of racing at a Formula One track right after I picked the car up... oh, wait.
  • In many ways, the newly sporting character of the more basic IS350 is a direct result of lessons learned building this IS F. The eight-speed automatic is a carryover from the F to the new IS, even though it's handling a lot less power in the new application. I actually don't think it works quite as well in manual mode in the IS F as it does in the new IS, primarily because it doesn't react quite quickly enough to smoothly handle all the power of the quick-revving engine. I found myself really needing to shift up a beat or so before I would have expected to in order to account for the lag in the transmission. Not a horrible thing after getting used to it, but it does make it harder to squeeze out those last rpms before having to shift up. Automatic mode is unobtrusive, however, and that's what I used for three-quarters of my driving in downtown Austin, for sure.
  • When I got this IS F in Austin, I was immediately transported to the first drive I'd ever had of the car, and recapitulated my thoughts on what a bruiser it is. There's very little "Lexus-like" about how the IS F rides and handles. It's stiff and almost brittle over badly surfaced roads (of which Texas has far fewer of than Michigan, thank God), with practically zero lean in hard corners. It is also loud when accelerating hard, having a flat, metallic bark of an exhaust note that seems better-suited to a Nissan Z car than anything wearing the Lexus lazy L badge. It's almost as if the Lexus performance engineers got sort of pissed about getting teased in the Luxury Car Lunchroom and built a sort of psycho mini muscle car to get back their street cred. Yes, that means it's awesome.
  • You can really see how far the Lexus interior design team has come between the launch of the IS F in 2007 and now. This older style car seems like a much less mature version of the 2014 IS, albeit with many of the same materials. The IS F has got loads of high-gloss carbon fiber, bright white leather and shiny black trim. None of that is bad, per se, in fact, John (who generally hates new cars as a rule) claimed to like the simplicity with which the controls were laid out, but it does feel immediately behind the times when compared with more recent Lexus interiors.
  • On that front, Lexus doesn't have plans to discontinue the IS F in the face of the new IS. I was told that this car will stay on sale concurrently with the new model, presumably until Lexus decides to built a second generation of the F. Frankly, I couldn't even get them to confirm that a followup version of the F is set in stone at all.
  • This is a completely tiny, annoying-car-writer bitch, but I can't help myself: How in the hell did the overlords at Toyota sign off on a front cupholder setup this bad? The IS just has that one easy-to-use front cupholder for the front two seats. The second one requires you to drive with the center armrest pad lifted up to use. Am I the only one that ever drives with a passenger and two beverages? Has the whole world gone crazy? As soon as I saw that the new IS had remedied this with two normal cupholders, I jumped up in the air just like those Toyota commercials from the 1980s, I swear.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 60 Comments
      canuckcharlie
      • 1 Year Ago
      this review is about 5 years late
      Joe
      • 1 Year Ago
      I guess I am more curious about the car with mechanical problems that was mentioned at the top of the story.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Joe
        [blocked]
      BShoppy
      • 1 Year Ago
      "The second one requires you to drive with the center armrest pad lifted up to use." While the cupholder design is very poor, you technically don't have to have the armrest pad lifted to use it. You can slide the armrest rearwards, and have access to the cupholder, and still have some armrest functionality.
      zizixx89
      • 1 Year Ago
      I didnt know. New rims and LED strips and LED tailights would make the 2009 IS-F look better hmmmm
      rmkensington
      • 1 Year Ago
      The side profile of the car still looks like a camry.
      Bobby_Sards
      • 1 Year Ago
      There was an article about "Cars should be catered towards woman" This is the answer to a girl who doesn't want to drive a real car like an M3 or RS4
        jcar302
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Bobby_Sards
        Be realistic, the CTS V is a far better value than this lexus, the m3 and rs4. I'm guessing that you think the m3 and rs4 are real man's cars, that's a joke, the m3 can barely keep up with the mustang gt. And as for the RS4, a proper performance sedan is rwd. Hell, even the upcoming non V cts has more power than this lexus.
          thequebecerinfrance
          • 1 Year Ago
          @jcar302
          A proper performance sedan has to be RWD? Lol. You talk performance (not fun to drive), every person I know going on a circuit where faster with AWD. It is so much better out of corners it is ridiculous. If you wanted to talk fun to drive than you would not be comparing the M3 to the Mustang GT. The numbers are close but every tester admits that the M just has an incredible chassis that is so much fun to drive.
          Tom
          • 1 Year Ago
          @jcar302
          @ loler I bet there is a lot of American men and women who work hard to build that car. Who would disagree with you. But I guess you arnt an American are you.
          Bobby_Sards
          • 1 Year Ago
          @jcar302
          I dont buy my car because of peak horsepower number. If you just said a mustang GT is better than an M3 or RS4, you are a obviously wrong. The IS-F doesnt have the race history of the M3. It doesnt have the same driving dynamics as any 3 series. Can I get this car in a manual? NO. 8 gears...
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Bobby_Sards
        [blocked]
          Tom
          • 1 Year Ago
          Lets not forget trust fund babys
          • 1 Year Ago
          [blocked]
          • 1 Year Ago
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      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
        carguy1701
        • 1 Year Ago
        "The only recommendation about the ISF I can make is that Lexus should stiffen the chassis a bit more to prevent understeer. I think they purposely set this car to understeer because of safety reasons" That is correct. With the exception of some Porsche's and most Ferrari's, pretty much EVERY car sold these days is set up to understeer when pushed. Its easier to get out of trouble.
          • 1 Year Ago
          @carguy1701
          [blocked]
      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
        CarGuy
        • 1 Year Ago
        You should try to find tracks with better drivers. Because the IS-F isn't going to smoke a properly driven C63 or M3 around any track...other than perhaps the track around the Starbucks drive-thru.
      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
      Mazdaspeed6
      • 1 Year Ago
      2 Fatal Flaws. Unusable rear seats and no manual. Despite that, I would still buy used if the price was right. These are bad a**.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Mazdaspeed6
        [blocked]
          • 1 Year Ago
          [blocked]
      oRenj9
      • 1 Year Ago
      "Let me tell you about my hot wife..."
      Trevor
      • 1 Year Ago
      Mehhh........ Those fake exhaust tips look laughable, totally ruin the rear end of the vehicle.
        sfblog
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Trevor
        They are not fake, they are as real as your misconception about things you have no facts about but yet you like to speak upon. If you had been the engineer behind the IS-F with the exhaust design it currently has, the bumper would have melted or caught fire. Dont feel bad when you start googling the list I provided you below to verify as you start to rip up the posters on your wall, because they are "fake" Lets list some cars with the same setup... Tips full loating not attached. Bugatti Veyron Ferrari 430 Scuderia Lamborghini Murcielago Lp640 Lamborghini Reventon Audi R8 V10 Audi RS4
          • 1 Year Ago
          @sfblog
          [blocked]
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Trevor
        [blocked]
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