The first time you see the IS-F you know its something different. It’s bulging hood and flared fenders tell you something wicked lives beneath. The quad-pipes emerging from the rear fascia and wide 19” wheels scream it loud.

All this chest thumping bravado is what the IS-F is about. This car rides stiff and revs loud because that ‘s its purpose in life. Its muscle car personality belies its Lexus badge in some ways, yet earns it back in refinements unexpected.

At first fire-up you know its different from the energy of its throaty V8 soul. The engine sends a purring vibration through your seat that is ever present, reminding you what you are driving. The seats are stiff and tight with thick bolsters, making sure the engine’s hum isn’t lost when you start throttling it hard.

And while the interior design is old-generation Lexus with the maddening touch-screen infotainment center stack, the IS-F makes up for it with fine details like embroidered seat logos, contrast stitching and other bespoke elements that make you smile.

Our IS-F’s singular option was the Mark Levinson premium audio system with touch-screen navigation, Entune and all of the latest gizmotry. It sounds so good and should be optioned in every Lexus as a mandatory upgrade.

Once strapped in you feel like you are in a serious machine, tightly held in place with the controls close at hand. The 8-speed automatic transmission is the only one offered, but has paddle shifters on the steering wheel that encourage your use.

There’s a sport button on the steering wheel which is almost laughable considering the baseline feel, but it does good for you in the powertrain department by giving the transmission and throttle response a bit more attention span.

On the road the IS-F is a beast barely contained. Its suspension is stiff like it should be in a serious sports car, to the point of being too much on rough roads….just like I like it. Steering is also stiff and requires effort, making this drive an athletic exercise.

The IS-F corners with wicked grip, its chassis tight and stiff as if it has all the aftermarket parts bolted on, yet refined like the factory Lexus it is. It seemingly has a 50/50 balance in transitions from left to right.

The 5.0 liter engine’s 416 horsepower power comes on higher in the rev range, thus isn’t a habitual tire smoker. In fact the Torsen rear differential and electronic chassis nannies pretty much prevent any such uncivilized show of force. Even with traction control off, launches are all thrust, little dust.

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The only area I came to be annoyed with is the transmission’s inconsistent way of following orders. The manual shifting via steering wheel paddles or console lever are quick and direct when it wants to, non existent when it doesn’t.

The rev-matching feature was a nice touch when down shifting toward a curve provided you aren’t asking for it too early. If you do, it just won’t do it. Conversely up shifting in manual mode will let you hit the rev limiter if you aren’t right there with another one behind it.

These are small potatoes tho as once you learn it’s quirks you can rattle shifts up and down like smack. Overall, it’s a car that can make you look like a pro if you’re a moderately talented driver, and save your ass if you are a novice. That makes it good in modern times.

Best of all this car still has feel. Unlike BMW and Mercedes which have cast enthusiasts off to the feeling of driving a Playstation, the IS-F still gives you some high speed connection to the road you roam.

For a full review and photo galleries see our report at


Drives, Sedans


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