2008 Lexus IS-F – Four Seasons Update – March 2009

Long-Term 2008 Lexus IS-F Update: Spring 2009 ( 4 of 5 ) Miles to date: 0

Months in Fleet: Nine
Mileage: 23,033

Assistant editor David Zenlea brings the IS-F out to New York, where contributor Jamie Kitman and I will spend several weeks with the car. Zenlea, who already has logged plenty of miles in the bright blue Lexus, traveled on the day of a major wind storm, which he was unaware of until he stepped out of the car to refuel and the door flew back in his face.

Although Zenlea comes away with even more respect for the IS-F, citing its “effortless acceleration and bullet-train-like high-speed stability” (which can find you at 120 mph when you thought you were doing 80), he prefers the return trip in the BMW 135i, despite its somewhat less awesome speediness.

Zenlea joins several others in criticizing the responsiveness of the eight-speed automatic – which does, after all, have to swap down several cogs in answer to a booted throttle. The gearbox might seem more responsive if you could just quickly slap it down a few ratios with the shift paddles without first having to move the gear lever out of drive.

Coming out of the 135i, which isn’t exactly the most plush-riding car you can name, it’s still a notable change to get into the IS-F, which feels far more stiffly sprung. The IS-F has a very busy ride, even over what appears to be smooth pavement.

It’s been months since I’ve driven the IS-F, and I’m immediately enamored of its steering, which is direct, linear, and nicely weighted. I love the super-tight turning radius, which, combined with the optional back-up camera, make this a very easy car to park and maneuver. And I find the swiveling headlamps to be a boon on the dark, curvy roads that wind through the heavily wooded north part of the county.

I hand the car off to Mr. Kitman, who makes several trips into and out of New York City. “I love the sound of the V-8 when the secondary cam profile kicks in and all hell breaks loose,” he opines. “But the IS-F is not the most relaxing car to drive because of its performance-biased damping, ultra-low-profile tires, and inevitable really big wheels.” He reports that the IS-F does cause a stir in New York City – I’ve noticed the same thing where I live. “Parking attendants love it. One guy in midtown told me he’d gone on the web to check it out. People seem to know they’re looking at money and speed, which is surely a big part of the equation for those who purchase IS-Fs.”

  • Base Price: $56,765
  • As Tested: $62,051
  • Options: Headlight washers $100, Navigation/Mark Levinson Package (Navigation, backup camera, Bluetooth, Mark Levinson 14-speaker sound system, DVD/CD changer) $3990, parking assist- front and rear $500, XM satellite radio $486, Preferred accessory package (Trunk mat, cargo net, and wheel locks) $210
  • EPA Fuel Economy: 16/23/18 mpg (city/highway/combined)
  • Powertrain: Engine: DOHC 32-valve V-8 Displacement: 5.0 liters Power: 416 hp @ 6600 rpm Torque: 371 lb-ft @ 5200 rpm
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic
  • Drive: Rear-wheel
  • Tires: Bridgestone Potenza RE050A
  • Tire size: 225/40YR-19, 255/35YR-19
  • Weight: 3700 lbs

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