2014 Lexus IS-F
Personality: Dale Earnhardt Jr. meets Justin Timberlake
Best Gizmo: Well, the engine of course.
Most Annoying Feature: The cup holders.
MPG: 16 in the city, 23 on the highway. (As tested: 22 overall)
Performance: Simply amazing. Other drivers will be drooling as you smoke them off the line.
Cars we smoked at stoplights: Every. Single. One. (except the Police)
How Fast Is That? Almost Exotic car fast.
How Much? Base at $61,750. Options will take you above of $70k easily.
What option should I splurge on? Mark Levinson sound package ($4k).
Serious Contenders? BMW M3, Cadillac CTS-V, Mercedes C 63 AMG
This four-door sedan boasts blistering speed, tight steering, and race-lile suspension. Add it all up, and you might make racetrack daydreamers everywhere think twice about the Lexus badge.
Born out of Japan's legendary Fuji Speedway, and infused with appointments expected by the most discriminate customers, the IS F combines performance and luxury on par with the Mercedes AMG and the BMW M lineup. Years of development followed by years of production mean this is a tried and true model capable of the most stringent performance standards. Just one push with the right foot is all the convincing we needed.
Under this sleek Lexus' hood sits an 8 cylinder, 5.0-liter, 418 horsepower machine worthy of the autobahn, or anywhere else with no posted speed limit. Tap the accelerator enough to raise the revs to 4,000 RPM, and the exhaust notes passing through are nothing short of beautiful. Take a look for yourself and admire a jam packed compartment and more carbon fiber than the eye can see.
With a $20,000 price premium over the base IS model and a newly introduced F-Sport level (some of the eye candy without the expensive performance bits), the IS-F doesn't exactly fly off the dealer floors. In fact, only hundreds were sold last year. The laser focus on the small market of wealthy people with a teenager like desire for speed and bragging rights makes for a unique market niche.
But none of the luxury brands sell these limited-number, high-performance models to make money. They build these models to make a reputation. And Lexus—long known for comfortable but sleepy and unsporty cars—was in need of some adrenaline in its lineup. Like the BMW M-series and the Mercedes AMG, the IS-F will be more likely to draw buyers into the Lexus show room, where they will likely settle for a nicely equipped Lexus IS, in the non-F variety.
And those buyers will be happy. The Lexus IS is a proven combination of luxury, sport, comfort, reliability and performance. The lucky few who can afford the additional IS-F package will be further rewarded, of course.
The IS-F has matured in recently years. Its interior has morphed from its early, braces-wearing teen years of 2007 into a briefcase-toting, trial lawyer with a penchant for street racing. Carbon fiber covers the center console, and Lexus has pasted an "F" badge wherever they could find the space. We don't mind that, considering those badges and their correlating parts, cost a good $20,000. The IS-F's interior rounds out with beautiful colors and comfortable, side hugging seats. Great for the tight turns.
For those drivers with wide-open spaces (or at least, wide open wallets), the IS-F is racecar enjoyment in a small, street legal box of luxury. Like surgeon general warnings, it should come with a sticker that says "May Cause Poor Driving Records, Enjoy Responsibly." We sure enjoyed it. And if you manage to test drive one, you'll surely enjoy it, too.
© 2014 John Dickerson and John Kehlenbeck, Horsepower Auto Reviews