The Lexus IS-F has a brute of an engine under the hood, making 416 hp and 371 lb-ft of torque from the 5.0-liter V-8. The IS-F has a seriously taut suspension that, as Joe mentions, is myopically focused on sport. It's interesting, though, that the powertrain happily dances between laidback cruiser and high-strung hero. Keep the engine under 4000 rpm at low load and there's no hint as to the potential of this machine. There's no raspy exhaust or aggressive tip-in, just subtle, consistent power delivery. Dip into the right pedal, though, and the engine comes to life, unleashing a deep intake roar midway through the rev range. The dichotomy between Lexus-like smoothness and raw acceleration is quite unique.
Yes, the eight-speed transmission is good, but it's crippled by the same weakness as most other automatic gearboxes; when operated via the wheel-mounted paddle shifters, you can't get multi-gear downshifts quick enough. If you want a quick eight-to-four downshift -- and you often will when on the highway -- you can leave it in automatic and jab the throttle, but it's not quite as fun as choosing your own gears. Still, the IS-F stands out as a breakthrough product for Lexus, showing that the brand is capable of infusing its products with passion and performance. Now the team just needs to infuse that same charisma throughout its entire lineup.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor