Flash Drive: 2009 Lexus IS-F
This 2009 review is representative of model years 2008 to 2014.
By Staff of MSN Autos
Lexus has finally developed a car that is refined enough to wear a tuxedo in and to compete in drag racing at the stoplight. The IS-F is essentially an IS sedan on steroids. The large tires, bigger vents and four staggered exhaust pipes signal that this is not a normal car. The interior is just superb, with leather-wrapped sport seats and slick carbon-fiber accents. When the engine's "start" button is pressed, the growl of the V8 engine is announced. Under hard acceleration, the IS-F lurches forward with violent urgency. If the accelerator is not floored, then the car doesn't really go; it is like all or nothing. A 6-speed manual transmission would remedy this problem. If you are looking for a performance car and luxury car in one, and don't mind using an automatic, then the IS-F might be for you. -Joe Chulick
The first Lexus to wear the "F" designation, the IS-F takes direct aim at BMW's M3 and hits the mark. It is powered by a 416-horsepower, 5.0-liter V8 engine with high-tech direct injection and a dual air-intake system, which gives the IS-F a menacing sound and totally changes the vehicle's character above 3600 rpm. Combined with the 8-speed direct-shift automatic transmission, the IS-F is lightning-quick under full acceleration but still achieves admirable fuel economy of around 18 mpg combined city/highway, when driven a little more conservatively. The driver can shift manually with steering-wheel-mounted paddles, and while the revs are matched on downshifts in the lower gears, it's not as crisp in the higher gears. Steering is quick and direct but lacks feel, and the suspension is stiff, with a nice overall balanced feel to the chassis. Surprisingly, the stability control is not overly intrusive, allowing the back end to step out a little when pushed. The interior is luxurious and refined, with a sporty flair, including fabulous sport seats. -Mike Meredith
Lexus can build a sports sedan after all. There have been previous Lexus models with the self-proclaimed title of sports sedan, but this IS-F is the real deal. With four exhaust outlets, big wheels, low-profile tires and sport seats front and back, the IS-F definitely looks the part. But frankly, that's easy — it's what's underneath the shiny metal that counts. And under that skin is the power and suspension to make this the quickest, best handling Lexus I've ever driven. Power is plentiful, and as the rpms build, the exhaust note changes from rumbling to something you'd expect to be coming out of a muscle car. The innovative 8-speed automatic transmission shifts very quickly for an automatic, and the steering is dead-on. Perhaps this is a sign of things to come. -Perry Stern