Lexus IS F – 2008 First Drive: At one time or another, be it as a youngster with friends or while sacked out watching HBO on a dreary weekend, we’ve all watched one of those cheesy high school flicks in which the main character, in highly dramatized fashion, sprouts from a wallflower into the sudden focus on all the cool kids’ attention. The scenario varies, but usually includes a John Cusack look-alike knocking out the varsity quarterback, saving the prom queen, or drawing the delirious admiration of drunken teens as he pounds out some serious guitar licks at a party he had to sneak into.
This extension of established expectations is found beyond the bounds of straight-to-DVD movies, a fact proven with the launch, literally and figuratively, of the 2008 Lexus IS F. About two decades have passed since Toyota introduced American consumers to its newly-created premium brand, one that’s transformed from a slightly-veiled Japanese version of Mercedes-Benz to a class-leading favorite among car buyers seeking everything from entry-level IS 250 luxury to top-notch coddling from the capable LX 570. Aside from the Cadillac Escalade EXT pickup, Lexus had a competitor for most all segments. But there was something missing. Without any true performance models, luxury buyers intent on filling their garages with serious horsepower, handling prowess and muscular styling dismissed Lexus and filled their day test driving a BMW M3, Audi RS 4, the Cadillac CTS-V, or another equally capable sedan.
Enter the 416-horsepower IS F. You know, the baby Lexus that looks like it’s been off its be-nice medication for a few weeks, wears hardware with names like Brembo, and uses a unique secondary intake system to announce to all within earshot that the reservation list has been permanently amended. In other words, consider the luxury sport sedan party crashed.
Like the kid who has his breakout moment at the school dance, the IS F demands that we all view Lexus in a new light. Even so, is the IS F ready to hold the spotlight all on its own? Not quite – it’s fast, capable, comfortable, flashy, and competitively priced, yet it requires front end styling less reminiscent of a swollen nose and more of the “it” factor. But if Lexus’ history of success is any indication, we shouldn’t have to wait long.