From £56,605
The Lexus IS F moves closer to the BMW M3 thanks to a proper limited slip diff

Our Verdict

Lexus IS-F 2008-2012
Lexus takes on the super-saloon establishment with its V8 IS-F

The Lexus IS-F is the marque's first attempt at a genuine performance car - and it's a competent M3 rival

  • First Drive

    Lexus IS-F

    The Lexus IS F moves closer to the BMW M3 thanks to a proper limited slip diff
  • First Drive

    Lexus IS-F

    Lexus's new M3-chaser feels quick, but isn't quite as entertaining or as horny-looking as its rivals

What is it?

The 2010-model Lexus IS-F. Besides upping the price on the car and throwing some extra no-cost options at it, Lexus has made one significant change to this car’s mechanical make-up. And neatly enough, it was a change that we asked them to make.

Autocar’s 2008 road test on the Lexus IS-F contained the following sentence: “Better suspension control and a limited-slip differential would revolutionise what’s already a very entertaining car.” Congratulations to Lexus, then, for introducing a 2010-model year IS-F fitted as standard with a mechanical limited-slip differential.

Otherwise the IS-F’s got the same 417bhp 5.0-litre naturally aspirated V8, the same eight-speed automatic gearbox and, rather regrettably as we’ll go on to explain, the same chassis settings.

What’s it like?

Better, if still some distance from being a class-leading car.

If nothing else, that LSD should make the IS-F a more common sight at track days. Without a proper slippy diff, the old car could be a bit erratic on a circuit. Exiting slower corners it would often spin away its 400-odd horsepower via an inside wheel. Going faster, at the limit of grip, it also had the capacity to be a bit, well, unpredictable.

Owners of the revised car won’t experience the same problems; you don’t even have to go on track to tell. Venture out of a quiet T-junction with enough gusto and you’ll feel the benefit of the improved traction that the LSD generates. The car’s stability control system allows a little throttle steer for those who want it, and if you knock the automatic gearbox into manual mode, you’ll also get full transmission lock-up and full control over when that eight-speed ‘box swaps ratios.

It’s a shame, however, that Lexus didn’t do something about the IS-F’s damping while it was in the mood for improvement, because this chassis still lacks control and subtlety. It’s fine during normal, day-to-day use, if a little restless. During faster driving, though, it’s still short on bump absorption and composure, and doesn’t fill you with confidence in the consistency of its connection to the road.

It’s also a shame Lexus didn’t do anything about this car’s overly high driving position. You perch high up in the IS-F, with the top of the steering wheel too far away from you. A lower-set seat, together with a more adjustable steering column, would be better, especially for taller drivers.

Should I buy one?

Depends what your priorities are. The IS-F has a likable and intriguing character; it’s more 21st-century Japanese muscle saloon than out-and-out performance four-door, but you’ll like it if you like the idea of lots of wheelspin and bombastic V8 exhausts noise, all tied up in a very upmarket, well equipped, usable everyday package.

As a driver’s car, however, it still falls short – especially given that Lexus is now asking for more than £56k for this car. At that price, the IS-F will set you back a good £5000 more than both Mercedes’ C63 AMG and BMW’s M3 saloon.

It’s also within £5500 of the price of the brilliant Jaguar XFR. And the plain truth is, this car still isn’t good enough to justify that kind of billing, limited-slip differential or not.

 

Join the debate

Comments
6

2 November 2009

But as you say a gimmky eight speed box!, now mostr of the other cars, M3 included make do with six, six you can see the point of but eight are almost like two super over drive gears or are they a sop for the Japanese worried about economy?, and if it is , why can't they make a six-speed manual or paddle for the rest of the world?

Peter Cavellini.

2 November 2009

I believe last year the ISF won the North American sports car of the year above $50k.

I think those journalists take into account day-to-day living with a car (comfort, refinement, etc.), not only performance at 10/10ths on a track.

3 November 2009

In the real world this car is quite literally a apin in the arse. My brother has one and he also now shares more than a nodding acquaintance with the local chiropractor. Shame really but good handling does not have to equal bad ride these days. Ask Lotus!

3 November 2009

"Meantime, some existing foibles remain. Lexus has reinforced behind the dash area to up body stiffness and sharpen the steering, but IS F ultimately still lacks the crispness and feedback of an M3 at the helm." - AUTOCAR Lexus ISF first drive

"The first is the Servotronic steering. In ‘light’ mode, the wheel moves more easily but there is little sense that it is connected to the front wheels. In fact, the same can be said about the heavier sports mode. So there is little or no feel, but it is accurate and pleasantly quick-geared." - AUTOCAR M3 road test

3 November 2009

this car has nothing appealing to me! bmw m3 and merc c63 amg all the way

19 April 2010

a toyota for 56k ? toyota have obviously lost their way in lean production / just in time / etc etc. toyotas strength was cheap and reliable. now look at them, loosing billions. and i read today that mitsubishi is busy posting record losses as well. quite strange considering the huge market of asia is right on their doorstep.

www.KOOOLcr.com

 

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