Claremore Daily Progress

March 22, 2013

Lexus IS F: Big ride, big price

By Len Ingrassia
CNHI News Service

— Much of what this car will do is illegal on most roadways in the U.S. but it certainly is exhilarating getting up to speed. The newest iteration of the Lexus IS F is flashy, fast and furious.

This high performance sedan runs in the fast lane with the likes of Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG and BMW M3 and, depending on driving manners, will achieve the highest fuel economy of the trio.

Its eight-speed transmission, nearly twice the number of gears in most cars, seamlessly shifts up or down in less than one-tenth of a second. Manual paddle shifters are mounted behind the steering wheel for the sportier driver. There is no manual transmission in the Lexus lineup.

The Lexus F series has just two high performance models, the IS F and the outlandish and sleek LFA with 552 horsepower and a starting price of $375,000.

Do not get the idea the smaller version is not up to speed, so to speak. The IS will throw you back in your seat on its climb from zero to 60 miles per hour in just 4.3 seconds. For the price difference, you get a one of a kind futuristic skin on the LFA and a powerplant that will catapult to 60 mph in 3.9 seconds. 

One of the thrills of spending time with the IS F is exploring its driving dynamics, starting with selecting gear modes between Normal, Snow and Sport. Normal is the default setting. Besides using the ‘snow’ during well, snow, it is particularly useful when you want to optimize fuel consumption and muffle a throaty exhaust.

Sport mode is for those times when you want to justify paying 60 large plus for an all-out performance car. Hit the start button and the V8 engine roars to life with a not-so-muffled rumble at idle. It gets louder and meaner with acceleration.

After a week of test-driving the rear-wheel drive IS F, I can sum up its driving modes this way.

For family driving, push the auto start and then the ‘snow’ button hidden from driver view on the lower dashboard under the steering wheel. Gearing is relaxed and fuel economy can reach 23 miles per gallon.

For daily commuting, push the start button, put in drive and go. In normal mode, the gears will shift as needed depending upon your driving style.

For an aggressive stance, push the start button and the steering wheel mounted ‘sport’ button. This instantly increases throttle, steering response and shift pattern while loosening the car’s traction control settings. Nudge the gearshift to activate ‘manual’ mode and the paddle shifters spring to life, then hold on.

There is more. For track use, press and hold the VSC button for three seconds to disengage stability controls and achieve all-out performance.

Car people talk about horsepower and torque a lot. Just remember, torque is what powers the rear wheels through a crankcase similar to what an eggbeater does with the yolk. It spins and twists. The faster it spins, the quicker the yolk blends. 

On the IS F, a torque-sensing rear end (eggbeater) matches its power output to any slippage (traction) of the rear wheels. The result is increased traction for mind-blowing fulfillment through turns and bends in the road.   

If you are seriously considering an IS F purchase, you may want to add the price of track membership for pure, adrenalin rushing all out performance and safety.

Len Ingrassia is an automotive columnist for CNHI News Service. Contact him at editor@ptd.net