Lexus IS-F Preview – 2007 Detroit Auto Show: Words such as lower and wider do not commonly define sex appeal, but in the case of the delectable new 2008 Lexus IS-F, they’re right on the money. Add stronger and faster to that list as well. Finally, after years of flirting with BMW-style performance with the IS, Lexus is dropping a Japanese bomb on Germany with this hot new high-performance sports sedan.
Lexus is painfully aware that its products are perceived to be unexciting, mainstream luxury cars for the mass market. The introduction of the “F” mark - and the first production car to wear it, the Lexus IS-F – serves to put Audi RS, BMW Motorsport, Mercedes-Benz AMG, and Cadillac V-Series on notice.
Stuffed into the Lexus IS-F’s engine bay is a 5.0-liter V8 making more than 400 horsepower and more than 350 lb.-ft. of torque. Highlights include a two-stage intake and specially engineered heads with an oil scavenging pump for high-g-force driving. Acceleration to 60 mph takes just 4.9 seconds. Power flows to the rear wheels through an eight-speed direct sport-shift transmission with an advanced manual mode that constantly locks the torque converter in gears 2 through 8. Gear changes via the paddle shifters take just a tenth of a second and the transmission matches engine revs on downshifts.
Power and performance are great, but without handling all you’ve got is an old-fashioned muscle car. Lexus endows the IS-F with cross-drilled Brembo brakes: 14.2-inch front discs with six-piston aluminum calipers and 13.6-inch rear discs with two piston calipers. High-friction brake pads make optimum use of these gleaming pizza pans, halting BBS-sourced forged aluminum 19-inch wheels with 225/40R-19 front and 255/35R-19 rear performance tires. This hardware is bolted to a modified suspension sitting one inch lower than stock, and the steering is tuned specifically for the IS-F. Worried about Lexus’s meddlesome Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management system? The IS-F’s has a sport mode with greater patience, or it can be defeated entirely.
In addition to the lowered suspension and BBS wheels, the Lexus IS-F receives body modifications to accommodate its heart transplant. The hood is larger and utilizes a lower air intake than the stock IS, and both the grille and front fenders are wider to aid cooling and clear the larger wheels. Fender vents are punctuated with the new “F” badge. At the rear, there’s a subtle spoiler and huge exhaust outlets to give fellow motorists a preview of the dust they are about to ingest.
To keep the driver and front passenger glued in place during high-speed driving, a new set of sport seats decked out in black or high-contrast white-and-black leather are installed in the 2008 Lexus IS-F. Accent trim is what Lexus calls aluminized composite, and the “F” logo is emblazoned upon the steering wheel and rear center console. An oil temperature gauge is added and shift indicator lights help keep the driver in the engine’s sweet spot.
Bob Carter, Lexus group VP and General Manager, explained the philosophy behind the new Lexus IS-F thusly: “This car is, in the best tradition of the factory hotrod, the result of an effort by a ‘Skunk Works’ team, a covert operation populated by a team of rogue engineers. They developed this vehicle while endorsing the ‘Lexus Musts,’ a rigorous set of development standards. We also added a couple of additional Musts, the sort of Musts that you might expect hard-core enthusiasts to demand: Must be balanced. Must be authentic. And, most importantly, Must haul ass.”