Lexus IS-F

Ollie Marriage
26 Oct 2009

As the keys are handed back, our Lexus IS-F will be remembered with fondness. We never had a dull moment during its stay

Drive a car for a year and you establish a routine. Mine with the IS-F went something like this. Walk up to car, admire the high bonnet, the dark wheels, the stealthiness. Pull the door handle twice, once to remind it that you’re there with the key in your pocket, then again to actually open the door. Sink into the plump chair, marvel at the comfort, then skin your knuckles reaching for the electric seat controls, realising a) how little spare space there is an IS-F and b) that the seat is already as low as it goes. Press the Start button, take a moment to listen to the 5-litre V8 rumble into life, fail to suppress the urge to smile.

Next, grope for the Sport switch down by your left knee and wonder why it wasn’t put somewhere more accessible given that it’s absolutely essential that you press it if you want the throttle to feel like it’s operating in the same time zone as you. While your index finger is in that area consider whether the forthcoming journey is likely to involve any frolics. If so, disable the VDC. It has to be done now because it can’t be done when you’re moving. For the same reason, now’s the time to fiddle with any settings or sat-nav functions. Finally, pull the gearlever left-down-right-down-right-down (imagine it tumbling down a flight of stairs) into Drive and release the foot-operated parking brake, wondering if it has any place in a modern car.

Then, and only then, are you free to drive off – at which point things get a lot simpler, because at heart the IS-F is an old-fashioned supersaloon, a car that allows you, if you so wish, to ignore the complexities of its eight-speed gearbox and electric diff and focus on the fun.

I found there was something deeply, richly satisfying about the way our IS-F gained speed. The wild abandon with which it threw itself at the horizon was rampantly hedonistic, and the noise, that epic snarling bellow, was as central to the experience as the acceleration itself. Third gear, topping out at 90mph, was my favourite, the change-up beep most often serving as a reminder to pull the right-hand paddle a further five times to select top. The IS-F doesn’t need eight gears – sixth and seventh are entirely superfluous, and while second, third and fourth are pleasingly tightly stacked, having to consciously count down from eighth as you arrive at a roundabout when you’re also trying to concentrate on braking isn’t ideal. I still always drove the IS-F in manual, though, as I loved the feel of the cool metal paddles, the 100-millisecond upshifts, even the accompanying jolts (but not the slightly delayed downshifts).

The drivetrain was undoubtedly the highlight of the whole car, and its ability to deliver 417bhp and 372lb ft to the rear wheels was undiminished by 12 months and 28,000 miles: just before it left it recorded 0-60mph and 0-100mph times of 4.6 and 10.4sec respectively. Its West Circuit lap time of 1:28.5 was faster than the Merc C63 AMG, too.

Being a Lexus, time and distance had little effect on other areas of the car. The driver’s seat barely looked sat in, the footbrake’s rubber cover was the only thing to work loose, and aside from a faulty amplifier for the stereo – diagnosed and replaced under warranty – no electrical gremlins intruded.

Depreciation aside, the Lexus wasn’t too costly to run. An overall average of 24.1mpg seemed respectable (the best I saw from a tankful was 28.2mpg, the worst, on eCoty, was 12.7mpg, although I’m ashamed to admit that I failed to spot any difference between running the car on super and regular). The original Bridgestone Potenzas, so well suited to the IS-F, lasted nearly 19,000 miles, and the Michelin Pilot Sports that replaced them were equally hard wearing and more progressive in the wet. Meanwhile, the engine never used a drop of oil and two services passed without hitch or major outlay.

I’d be the first to admit that the IS-F doesn’t drive with the precision and balance of an M3, but it’s a convincing effort, trustworthy and involving (apart from the lack of steering feel), and it comes across as more European than Japanese. Ours chased an SLR to the north tip of Scotland, hit 173mph in Germany, and, despite a jiggly ride, even played the part of a family holiday hauler reasonably convincingly. But above all it ensured I never had a dull moment behind its wheel, never once forgot I was driving something special. It’s going be a great second-hand buy for someone.

Running Costs

Date acquired July 2008
Total mileage 28,345
Duration of test 12 months
Average MPG 24.1
Servicing costs £573.18 (two services), £935 (four tyres), £165 (bodywork repair – see below)
Price new £51,105
Trade in value £38,500
Depreciation £12,605

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