After establishing itself as equal in terms of luxury to BMW, Audi and Mercedes, Lexus has taken the next step in its development with the IS-F. Just like each of the Bavarian automakers has in-house performance upgraded models (M-BMW, AMG-Mercedes, S/RS-Audi), the IS-F represents an impressive first example of the Lexus maturation as both a luxury and performance brand.
What Lexus gets right begins with the powerplant: a naturally aspirated 5.0-liter 417 horsepower V8. This monster is mated with the world’s first eight (that’s not a typo) speed automatic transmission that drives the rear wheels. 0–60 times in the IS-F are achieved in 4.6 seconds and produce a governed maximum speed of 170 mph.
While clearly the mechanics of the IS-F are on target, the most direct competitor for the IS-F, the BMW M3, takes care of the details in a way that the Lexus hasn’t quite mastered. To begin with BMW and Mercedes don’t bother with non-functional pieces, such as the imposter air vents on the Lexus. From the hood bulge to the menacing bumpers and stacked tail pipes, the Lexus looks like it is trying to convince you of its speed and perhaps trying too hard. The Bavarians are more subtle in their design, until they drop the hammer on the throttle and you see the M on the truck as it leaves you in its wake.
Also, for a company that has successful achieved a level of elegance, ergonomics and taste, the interior of the Lexus sometimes borders on cheap looking. A silver carbon fiber “appliqué” is present on the doors and center console and a rather flimsy looking plastic tray divides the rear seats. The rest of the interior sports blue stitching on black leather seats, solid aluminum gear shift paddles and an ‘F’ on the steering wheel to designate this special model.
The price tag of the IS-F is $56,610, which is comparable though slightly more expensive than the M3 ($54,575). For a first attempt into this genre the IS-F is a solid entry. It may not be completely refined, but the IS-F will probably still appeal to those that want to stand out a bit from the typical performance sedan crowd. Lexus will most surely keep closing the gap on its competitors.