Comfort, subtle style, and luxury are three things that the Lexus brand has come to be known for. Aggressive noise and a pulse-quickening V8 engine are not. The 2010 Lexus IS F doesn’t simply ignore the cozy standards set by the rest of the brand – it screams past them at high-velocity leaving only the faint glimmer of quad exhaust tips and the deep bellow from the 5.0L V8 engine.
The 2010 Lexus IS F is essentially a Lexus IS mixed with F Brand steroids. Gone are the available 2.5L and 3.5L six-cylinder engines, and they are replaced with a 5.0L V8. A direct-injection V8 which redlines just shy of 7,000 RPM and spews forth 416 hp. That power is sent to the fun wheels courtesy of an eight-speed paddle-shiftable automatic transmission.
I know the purists will cry for a manual gearbox, but this car is still a luxury sedan and needs to retain some semblance of that….even the caviar and bubbly placed in the trunk ends up destroyed because I took the curvy road home. The eight-speed is surprisingly adept at handling the two-faced task of controlling the IS F. When left in D the shifts are light and comfortable. The Lexus IS F behaves like a calm, upscale four-door. Swap the gear selector from D to M, and faster than Penfold can scream “Crumbs!” the car transforms from relaxed to restless. The revs rise quickly but I never have to glance down thanks to the audible redline alert. I crack off another shift and the IS F keeps pulling. In this car, I run out of road well before I run out of gears.
The interior of the Lexus IS F is pretty much a standard Lexus affair with a few sporty exceptions. It is comfortable but the IS F employs more supportive bolstering. This is a good thing I was constantly switching my driving style from Don’t-Spill-the-Starbucks to Look-Ma-No-Brains! Without the bolstering I would have given myself scoliosis or found out what the passenger side window tastes like.
The level of tech on the inside is nothing new here. It is functional and mildly pleasing to the eye, yet feels about 2 years behind the visual punch curve. The graphical display is not ugly but I expect it to look better. I have driven sub-$25,000 Volkswagens with nav displays which appear to be crafted from the same team that built Pandora for Mr. Cameron, yet this luxo rocket-ship makes me wish I owned a Tom-Tom? That doesn’t make sense since the car has great visual touches inside and out. I wish Lexus would update their command center to match.
Outside the Lexus IS F is the perfect blend of stealthy, sports sedan style. From a distance and without seeing the rear end, the car appears to be your standard IS with perhaps a set of upgraded wheels bolted on. Get a little closer and the body gets more muscular before your eyes. The hood has a sizable bulge to fit the substantially larger engine. The front fenders have cooling ducts for the larger 14.2″ slotted and drilled, six-piston caliper front brakes. The tail is a small spoiler and the exhaust exits through 4 pipes, with dual vertical stacks on each side.
The 2010 Lexus IS F is a wonderful example of what I want from a luxury sports sedan. An upscale and comfortable, yet supportive interior. An exterior style that has soft lines intersected with touches of angry. A transmission that works and has power being fed to the fun wheels. A motor that shouldn’t be under the hood and forces out an exhaust note which can range from socially acceptable to startlingly awesome.
The BMW M3 is an ultimate driver’s machine and the Mercedes C63 is the epitome of luxurious brute force. However the Lexus is an oft-overlooked chariot that I think deserves some more of your attention. It certainly is not cheap, with a base price of $58,460 and an as-tested price under $65,000. This category is not about the dollar though since all players add up to a healthy second mortgage. This segment is defined by how the car makes you feel. A BMW M3 makes you feel absolutely own the road, even if the California Highway Patrol will ensure that you realize you don’t. A Mercedes C63 will let you think you still fit in at the golf club, but everyone hates when you leave long smoky burnouts on your way out of the parking lot. The 2010 Lexus IS F makes me feel like going for a cruise down the Pacific Coast Highway with the windows down and the Mark Levinson sound system set just loud enough to be audible over the glorious exhaust notes. After cruising that stretch of road, set in a sea of folks in M3s and C63s, it feels good to have something a little different…