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‘F’ MEANS FAST: Lexus masterfully mixes luxury with performance in IS F

2014_Lexus_IS_F_105
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Lexus, Toyota’s premium-vehicle division, has produced few, truly out-and-out performance cars. There is a range of several F Sport models, but those consist mainly of appearance and trim tweaks with a few mechanical upgrades.

Then there’s the IS F. Now this is a high-performance car.

The F takes the previous generation’s tidy-sized IS sedan (a new F based on the current IS is in the pipeline), stuffs the engine compartment with a rockin’ V-8, tightens down the suspension, upgrades the steering and brakes, dresses up the already luxe interior, and sets it loose on an unsuspecting public.

Germany, of course, is the nirvana of high-performance sedans, what with BMW’s M series, Mercedes’ AMGs and Audi’s RS models. But the IS F might be Japan’s most honest attempt yet at taking on the Teutons.

The F is amply armed, starting with its 5.0-liter V-8. Lexus had Yamaha, known as a master at massaging ultra-high-output engines, breathe on the twin-cam powerplant, resulting in a stout 416 horsepower.

That prodigious output is transferred to the rear wheels through an eight-speed, direct sport-shift transmission featuring rev-matched downshifts and paddle shifters. A Torsen limited-slip differential helps put the power to the road.

The upgraded steering feels weighty at low speeds, but once under way it delivers right-now response and excellent road feel.

Braking is track-worthy, with Brembo-sourced ventilated discs all around. Pedal response is perfectly progressive.

FinteriorLaunch the F into a series of turns and marvel at how flat the car stays. This is achieved through quite firm suspension tuning, but it’s never overly harsh on the highway.

Starting the engine produces a menacing burble from the quad exhaust outlets that morphs into a roar when the revs race past 3,600 RPMs.

The snug interior’s heavily bolstered sport buckets hold driver and passenger in a leather-lined hug, enhancing the sensation of being one with the car.

Jam-packed with top-line materials and features, the IS F never forgets it’s a luxury vehicle as well as a high-end hot rod.

Until Lexus unleashes the new IS F, the current car is well deserving of a close look from performance fanatics.

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