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Joyride: 2014 Lexus IS F

If you’re the kind of person who yearns for the dynamism of a BMW M3 but fears the upkeep costs, head right over to your nearby Lexus dealer to check out the IS F.

The Lexus IS F debuted in December 2006 for the 2007 model year and has changed little since. But it hasn’t really needed to; it was right from the outset.

Powered by a direct-injected 5.0-liter V8, the 2014 IS F makes 416 horsepower and 371 pound-feet of torque. Mated to an eight-speed automatic and backed by a Torsen limited-slip rear differential, the IS F’s V8 will rush the family-friendly Japanese sports sedan to 60 from a standstill in 4.6 seconds, a quarter-mile in 13.0 seconds, and onto a top speed of 170 mph.

Though it’s an eight-cylinder acceleration monster, the IS F will still achieve 16 mpg city, 23 highway, with a combined score of 18.

On the road

The IS F has one of the most uncharacteristic exhausts notes on the road. While most Lexus are built for dead-eyed dentists and bathroom tile salesmen, the IS F is produced for prudent playboys. Accordingly, the IS F roars like a (insert Japanese monster cliché).

The engine – aside from its sound – is one of the silkiest on the planet.

The engine – aside from its sound – is one of the silkiest on the planet. Some engines produce over 400 horsepower but seem like they’re extremely taxed doing so. The IS F’s 5.0 feels like it’s barely lifting a finger hitting 100.

As roar-y as it is, it’s not loud for long. That’s because the transmission simply has too many gears. Even in Sport mode, which is activated on the steering wheel, doesn’t allow for extended full-throttle charges in traffic.

If you see an opening in traffic, you punch the throttle, the transmission shifts down – one speed at a time – to first or second – and then rears back and careens forward, making the sound of a T-Rex in heat.

Problem is, though, that acceleration and savage sound only lasts few seconds, because you’re instantly up on the traffic ahead and have to slam on the brakes. The story is similar on the open back roads, too. To enjoy the auditory euphoria, you have to rev the hell out of the engine. And the eight-speed auto simply doesn’t want you to do that … ever.

2014 Lexus IS FIf you’re OK with rarely letting loose the sounds of fury, the IS F handles incredibly well. Over the years, Lexus has softened the blow of the F’s sport suspension. Now in one of its last years in existence, it’s finally dialed.

The seats, too, are brilliant and old your body confidently in hard cornering. Taller buyers ought to be wary of examples with moonroofs, as letting the light in cuts into headroom significantly.

Conclusion

Although the IS F is aging, its driving dynamics have remained cutting-edge.

Yes, it’s exterior styling and interior amenities remain locked in the mid-2000s. But what it lacks in a flashy front-end and interior tech features, it easily makes up for with a history of reliability and customer satisfaction … backed by a 400+ horsepower V8.

So if you’re the kind of person who yearns for the dynamism of a BMW M3 but fear the upkeep costs, I suggest you head right over to your nearby Lexus dealer to check out the IS F.

Highs

  • V8 power and acceleration
  • Riotous exhaust note
  • Firm yet forgiving sport suspension
  • Relatively efficient
  • Reliable as the day is long

Lows

  • Too many gears in transmission
  • Interior amenities from the early 2000s
  • Lacking in interior space