POINT CLEAR, Alabama - The 2008 Lexus IS F isn't like any other Lexus sedan on the road today. That's great!
Although Lexus sedans are extraordinarily dependable cars with quality and customer satisfaction ratings that are the gold standard of the industry, they are as much fun to drive as pouring molasses out of a bottle. And they're about that silent, too.
The Lexus IS F changes all that. The F is Lexus' new designation for its vehicles that have undergone mechanical steroid treatment. The IS F is the first, and Lexus promised more, F car.
But let's not dawdle. The IS F is the performance version of the IS 250/350 sedans which are Lexus's entry level models. Those first two letters of the badge is where the similarity between them and the IS F begins and ends.
Our test car was powered by a specially tuned 5.0-liter V8 that made 416 horsepower and 371 pound-feet of torque. The engine was mated to an eight-speed transmission (that's right, eight forward gears) with manual shift capability. Those gears could be manually engaged via the gear shifter or paddles attached to the steering column.
Shift speed was one-tenth of a second in manual mode and two-tenths of a second in the automatic setting. More telling was that Lexus claimed a 0-to-60 mph time in a blistering 4.6 seconds for the IS F. Its top speed is electronically limited to 170 mph. That's on paper, let's talk about pavement.
This area is at the mouth of and on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay. To the south is the Gulf of Mexico and 15 miles across the bay is the western shore of the bay. Small farms with intruding residential developments sliced by two lane roads were plentiful here
On the short straight-aways, feet not miles, our test vehicle easily hit 110 mph before we backed off the gas pedal because we couldn't see over the upcoming rise. At 3600 rpm, the primary and secondary air intake passages opened boosting high rpm power. And the sound was the guttural symphony of eight cylinders pumping toward the 6,800 rpm red line that was channeled into the passenger compartment.
The F car sounded like it could run with the likes of AMG, M and RS high performance sedans from Germany. That's why the IS F was created; to compete in this speedster sliver of the market where the brand image of luxury cars is made and maintained.
It's about looks too and the Lexus IS F had 'em. From the rear, the car's quad exhausts, two per side, were stacked atop each other and integrated into the rear bumper. A subtle rear spoiler comprised the trunk's edge.
Many of the IS F cars here were equipped with 19-inch gray forged alloy wheels with a 10-spoke design. The dual mesh grille was flanked by large brake cooling ducts and with front fender air outlets on the side that transitioned into large rocker panels.
The point is that the car looked like it had gone through a tuner shop. Undoubtedly, real tuner shops are going to make the Lexus IS F look like even more of a street marauder. We had such a good time in the front seats of the F car as driver and passenger that we didn't think to get into the back seats to see if they really could accommodate two full size people.
Although it is a high performance sedan, the IS F is also meant to be a daily driver. However, we weren't interested in daily driving, ride, suspension, interior appointments, equipment, none of that. What we wanted to see is if the 2008 Lexus IS F could run with the best high performance luxury sedans from Germany. Yep, it can.
Next is to get it on our turf to check out its everyday driving attributes and creature comforts but so far so good. Prices start at $56,765.