Lexus IS-F road test review

Lexus upgrades IS-F super saloon with proper limited slip diff. evo's first to try it

Evo rating
Price
from £55,995
  • Diff makes whole car feel more precise and fluent
  • Price has gone up, ride hasn’t improved

What is it?

The updated Lexus IS-F complete with a new sat nav system and new colour choices. Oh, and the small matter of a proper limited slip diff instead of the electric diff of the first generation IS-F super saloon. It now costs £55,995.

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Technical highlights?

The torsen (torque sensing) diff, the addition of which is claimed to lop two seconds off the IS-F's lap time at the Fuji circuit thanks to improved traction and stability in high-speed corners.

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What’s it like to drive?

In a word, even better. The electronic diff in the previous IS-F was just a part of its stability system, braking a spinning inside wheel, but not doing much to help traction. You’d come out of a corner and sense the car holding back slightly, before snapping straight as the brake released and firing forwards down the next straight, 5.0-litre V8 snarling away. It was a neat party trick in its own right and we loved the way it drove, but it didn’t flow nearly as well as this version.

Pull away in the new car on full lock and you get the telltale hunt and shunt from the drivetrain, but from there on the two cars feel almost identical until you really start working the throttle through corners. What strikes you first is not only how much earlier you can get on the power, but how much harder. The rear end stays faithful for a long time and when the lateral forces do finally overcome the diff’s tenacious hold, the IS-F slides very progressively. OK, if you give it a bootful in second gear you’ll need to be quick with the lock, but on a cross-country strop it feels playful and well balanced, feeding the power in smoothly and consistently.

The front end still isn’t as keyed in as the M3’s, mainly because the steering isn’t as well weighted and consistent, but I reckon rear end traction, grip and accuracy are a match for the BMWs, and the IS-F does have a truly bonkers engine, a proper roarer that goes rabid over 3700rpm.

How does it compare?

Very well against the BMW M3. The fact it’s not quite as fluent is mainly due to the steering and the over-active rebound damping, but it’s genuinely charismatic – enough to give the Mercedes C63 AMG a fair few headaches.  Let’s just hope, in this post Lexus LFA world, potential buyers can see past the badge.

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Anything else I need to know?

You can now have the interior trimmed in white leather (please don’t), the bodywork painted in this rather fetching blue and standard features include a DAB radio, 10gb music hard drive and HDD sat nav – claimed to be one of the fastest-responding and most accurate systems in the world. But the best news, as anyone who’s battled a Lexus sat nav will know, is that it’s now programmable on the move.

Read about evo's much-loved Lexus IS-F long termer here

See our exclusive UK road test video of the rabid Lexus LFA

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Specifications

EngineV8, 4969cc
Max power417bhp/6600rpm
Max torque371lb ft/5200rpm
0-604.8secs (claimed)
Top speed168mph (limited)
On saleNow, £55,995
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