Fleet News

New launch: Lexus IS F

Lexus

Review

Think Lexus and luxury, comfort, reliability, excellent customer service and petrol-electric hybrids probably spring to mind.

But for its latest model, the first in the company’s new F performance range, Lexus has turned to the dark side and created a car to more than rival Audi’s RS4 or BMW’s M3 extreme machines.

With its 10-spoke alloy wheels, twin-tiered exhausts and aggressive stance, the IS F looks particularly sinister in black and great in white.

The cabin is a mix of the usual leather and aluminium garnished with a sort of mock carbon-fibre that’s shiny silver and a matter of taste, but it’s what under the bonnet that matters.

The Japanese company has fitted a 417bhp 5.0-litre V8 engine with so much torque – 372lbft – it makes the 295lb-ft M3 look weak-wristed.

But because Lexus is still about effortless luxury the IS F comes with a clever eight-speed automatic transmission that starts in first gear using a torque converter for smoothness and then “locks up”, so that it feels like a manual and allows near-instant changes using paddles on the steering wheel or the gear selector.

The changes are smooth in Drive or near-racecar-hard in Sport mode. From rest, the IS F feels quicker than an M3 even though the two companies quote identical 0-62mph times.

I’ve driven a road-going German Touring (DTM) race car and the Lexus feels similar but with all the noise, vibration and harshness removed and all the luxury kit put in.

From about 3,600rpm – thanks to a specially-fitted airbox under the bonnet – the IS F even sounds like a DTM car.

Carbon dioxide emissions of 270g/km put the IS F into the highest road tax band even though it is 25g/km lower than BMW’s 4.0-litre V8 engine.

 

Behind the wheel

In traffic you only ever need a few seconds of acceleration – and the gorgeous accompanying sound track – to reach any cruising speed you think of.

Even pushing on, the IS F feels more confidence inspiring and chuckable than the last M3 I drove, though the ride is lumpy by luxury car standards.

On a race track in Spain, the car was so stable in a straight line you needed a knack to get it turned into corners quickly so that you could get back on the power sooner.

Driving hard on the circuit the IS F felt stronger in acceleration than an RS4 and the brakes much superior to those on an M3.

Verdict

The most driver-focused Lexus ever and refreshingly off message. With only 150 for sale in the UK this year, get your order in quickly.
 

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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