Addition of LSD brings the IS-F closer still to the BMW M3
Driving position is overly high
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.