The 2014 Lexus IS F Sedan, which Lexus says was “born on the track and unleashed on the street” is this weeks test drive. Specifically, the “F” cars are pure bred performance machines, with just two models available.
In addition to our test drive this week, the other “F” is called the “LFA,” with a list price of $375,000 and only 500 produced this year.
To my regret, all 500 have been sold with none ever available in the press car pool. No wonder, as this 4.8-liter V10 powered super car built on a carbon fiber chassis produces 552 horsepower, can lap the famed German Nurburgring on street tires in a record time of 7:13.92, goes zero to 60 in 3.2 seconds and has a top speed of 202.
Enough day dreaming…let’s get back to reality.
And, reality is also very impressive. The rear-drive “slower F” is quite the performance car itself, with zero to 60 times in 4.6 seconds and horsepower coming in at 416 thanks to a 303 cu. in. 5.0-liter V8 with direct port fuel injection. Transferring the power is an advanced eight-speed paddle shift automatic that is a high tech wonder. The transmission truly works in tandem with the engine’s RPM range resulting in what Lexus calls a “direct shift” capability. Be it a downshift necessitating a higher rpm “blip” compensation or an under full power up shift that puts you back in the seat, this transmission does it all.
Underneath, a double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension that is also race bred and, not forgetting about deceleration, IS F features a superior stopping package thanks to Brembo, another noted name in racing. Brembo’s setup includes four wheel discs with drilled rotors, featuring six pistons fore and four pistons aft built into opposed aluminum calipers. When you need to slow in a hurry, this system works to perfection, even when slowing from the unbelievable top speed of 170 mph (no, we didn’t try it).
Overall, the “F Spec” is one of the most impressive “muscle” luxury cars we’ve driven to date, and considering it costs $300,000 less than its limited edition sibling, it’s a serious contender if shopping this niche market.
Structurally, IS F is a nice sized vehicle capable of carrying four adults in comfort and five in a pinch. From the exterior, the only real hints of the car’s performance potential are the “F” spec badges on the side and trunk, carbon fiber real spoiler and quad chrome rear exhaust outlets. The outlets also give away Fs nucleus, as enthusiasts will quickly decipher the car’s potential thanks to a distinct howl the engine produces, especially under full throttle.
Not forgetting the luxury and convenience features all Lexus models are known for, expect only the best of the best when you slip behind the controls of the F series sedan. The special “F Spec” Electroluminescent Optitron gauges are most impressive, as is the special performance tilt and telescopic steering wheel and the special “feel of the road” transferred to your hands. Noteworthy are the “F” embossed headrests and carpet trim, and special “F-Spec” only power sport seats that will keep you in place when you decide to attack a sharper curve on “track day” at your area road race course. Be it outstanding acceleration, impressive road gripping suspension via 19-inch tires and lightweight BBS forged wheels, the Lexus IS F is a driver’s car that will impress even the most finicky of performance enthusiasts.
The EPA fuel economy is acceptable for a car like this, as 18 city and 23 highway are the expected numbers. However, if you put your foot into this car more often than not, look for those numbers to drop substantially.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 107.5 inches, 3,780 lb. curb weight, 13.3 cu ft. of cargo space and a 16.9 gal fuel tank.
Domestic competitors are Cadillac CTS-V and Chrysler 300 SRT, both delivering rear drive and high horsepower. I’d put the IS F in the middle of the group, as the CTS-V starts at $64,900 and delivers 556 horses while the Chrysler 300 SRT delivers 470 horses with an entry of $45,900. All three will get your attention.
Likes: Lexus quality, horsepower, transmission, true performance car.
Dislikes: Time for an exterior enhancement as it looks too much like a “regular” Lexus.
(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist)