Just what is in a name? When it comes to the Lexus IS-F
, it depends on who you talk to. Some say the letter F comes from the original prototype for the Lexus LS400
. When the first model for the Toyota
luxury brand was being developed, the project was call F1 or circle F. Because the LS400 wasnt sold in all markets, the more official story on the nature of the IS-F nomenclature is that the hot Lexus
was developed at Fuji Speedway, hence the name with the letter F. Either way, Lexus finally builds a proper sports sedan and we've got our hands on a nice blue one for a whole year.
The IS-F showed up in May of 2008, ready to pile on the miles during summer vacations. The strong, 416 hp 5.0-liter V-8 is impressive and the eight-speed automatic helps keep fuel economy numbers above an indicated 25 mpg on highway jaunts. Not surprisingly given the brand's reputation, we've only had to visit the Lexus dealer for routine service. And boy have we had to visit them often. Like other Lexus models, the IS-F alerts us to the need for fresh oil and other work every 5000 miles. This is far more often than what's required of its main German competitors, the BMW M3 and the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG. Plus, unlike the M3, you have to pay for each service after the first one.
You'll also have to pay for the performance of the IS-F with a punishing ride on the not so impressive Midwestern roads. This is the strongest complaint in the logbook thus far. The M3 and to a lesser extent, the C63 AMG, ride much better than the Lexus. Other comments include questioning the need for eight gears in the standard automatic transmission. When cruising in eighth gear, a stab of the throttle doesn't bring the needed ratio for maximum acceleration quick enough. Downshifting four or five gears in one go just isn't quick enough. Yes, the extra ratios help fuel economy but they can sometimes frustrate in aggressive driving. Also, while we love the thrust of the powerful V-8, many have commented on the somewhat contrived change in engine tone as the intake system changes paths around 3500 rpm. We prefer the more natural sound of the high-revving V-8 in the M3 and the NASCAR meets German high-tech song of the Mercedes powerplant.
As we press ahead with the final months of our Lexus IS-F, we look forward to seeing if the bullet proof reliability will continue. We are look forward to dismounting the Bridgestone Blizzak LM-25 winter tires and playing with the powerful Lexus on dryer, warmer roads. Stay tuned for more regular updates on the IS-F and all our Four-Seasons test vehicles at automobilemag.com.