Lexus Rocks Hard : Lexus IS-F [review]
Wed, 05/06/2009 - 16:49 — admin
What car has four doors, a 400 plus bhp V8 engine, does 0-100 km/h in under 5 seconds and has a top speed over 250 km/h? Could it be the C63/CLS63, M3/M5 or RS4? How about if it has an 8-speed automatic gear box and if it comes from the land of the rising sun? Impossible?
This particular Lexus would not have made it into production were it not for a fortuitous chain of events. First of all the IS platform is an abbreviated version of the GS platform which can accommodate a V8. Secondly, Toyota is heavily into motorsport namely Formula One and the Japan GT series. And last but not least, an enthusiastic engineer by the name of Yukihiko Yaguchi wanted to make a M3 challenger.
Take the engine, it is from the 5-litre V8 of the LS600 which is of course related to the entire range of V8s for the GS and LS models. The idea was not to extend its rev range to 8000 rpm for that would need a new block and other stronger parts. Yaguchi called upon Yamaha (a Toyota-owned company) to help with the tuning. They managed to get 416 bhp from the motor without special parts other than new cams and software.
Of course there are the de rigueur gear-shift paddle located on the back of the steering wheel but not fixed to the column ala Ferrari. Well at least with a +paddle on the right and – paddle on the left, it is more intuitive than the one switch in front and another on the back of the steering wheel. Still when in full twirl it can get disorientating. It has to be said that this is one rapid response transmission, swapping gears instantaneously as the paddles are triggered, matching any F-1, E-gear or PDK transmissions. A small miracle considering this is actually a torque converter type transmission.
Admittedly the best expenditure is on the exhaust system. Not that it looks nice, far from it but that it sounds great. A Lexus sounding like a proper sports car? This must have caused major consternation back at Lexus HQ. But credit must be given for going against the grain to deliver such a musically(Yamaha) tuned exhaust.
Few are the electrically assisted power steering systems that we approve of but luckily the IS-F has one of those. It is no heftier than a typical Lexus but seems more connected to chassis and road. The chassis is definitely more communicative as we could explore its limits readily as it displayed decent front end grip.
In Sport mode the progressiveness in the way the IS-F handles is brilliant. The first time it gets its tail out of shape there is ample warning and it seems to happen in slo-mo giving you plenty of time to apply correction to which the IS-F responds quickly and favorably. Sometimes entering too fast results in understeer but it is not excessive and just by lifting tightens the line.
Budgetary constraints meant there is no special rear LSD but the engineers have devised one based on the ABS function that remains engaged even with VSA-off and it delivers the goods provided prolonged drifting is not your thing.
While the pictures show the IS-F in full drift, the rear brakes are getting a real workout because it is constantly trying to stop the excessive spinning. When it reaches the point where the pads are overheated (maybe on the second or third lap?) the rear responds no better than an open differential vaporizing the inner wheel.
At one end of the scale the IS F delivers the refinement of a standard IS250 should you only want a pleasant drive through town. But once you hit the accelerator hard it lroars like no Lexus we know of and rockets off like the German super saloons but has a higher 275 km/h top speed which might be a virtue on unrestricted highways.
It handles so progressively that one need not be a race spec driver to cut swaths around corners unlike some of the existing super saloons. The gearbox will deliver Lexus smoothness and attacks like the electro-mechanical manuals in the exotics when provoked. In short, the Lexus IS F is truly two-in-one, it will match head on, the German sports brigade yet it can behave impeccably Lexus-like when just cruising around.
FAST FACTS : LEXUS IS F