Preview: 2008 Lexus IS-F

ON SALE: February 2008 / $50,000 (est.)

Lexus claims that the new eight-cylinder Lexus IS-F doesn't compete head-to-head with the Audi RS4, the BMW M3, and the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG. Instead, the Lexus party line is that "the goal was to create a true performance sedan in a uniquely Lexus way with a unique interpretation of raw driving thrill, and to provide a whole new definition of 'usable power.' " What a bunch of bunk. The way we see it, when you have four similarly sized, sedan-based cars, all with V-8 engines putting out more than 400 hp, they are most definitely competing with each other.

For this upcoming battle, the IS-F has armed itself with a 5.0-liter V-8 developing at least420 hp and more than 350 lb-ft of torque. Instead of a manual transmission, the IS-F uses a retuned, paddle-shift version of the Lexus eight-speed automatic. The IS-F sits one inch lower than the regular IS, and nineteen-inch wheels hide 14.2-inch front brake rotors clamped by six-piston calipers. Lexus claims a 0-to-60-mph time of less than five seconds. But until we drive it, we won't know if the IS-F is finally the performance car from Lexus that enthusiasts should consider.

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