- Rocketlike V-8 power
- Rapid-shifting eight-speed automatic
- Flawless interior fit and finish
- Bolt-on look of some exterior pieces
- No manual transmission
- No all-wheel-drive option
The 2008 Lexus IS-F challenges the best from Germany, bringing 168-mph capability with an uber-high pricetag to boot.
Lexus introduced its IS-series sedan in the early 2000s, and followed it with a sportback wagon. But rather than beef up the brand’s reputation for performance, the IS-series distracted from the usual Lexus selling points -- luxury, quietness and flawless quality.
Imagine what traditional Lexus buyers will think when they twist the 2008 Lexus IS-F sedan to life.
Picture a BMW M3 done by the Japanese, and you’re not far off from pinpointing the 2008 IS-F’s character. The IS-F takes a stock IS sedan and stuffs its engine bay full with a 5.0-liter V-8 making an impressive 416 horsepower and 371 lb-ft of torque. The power’s routed through an eight-speed direct-shift auto/manual transmission, with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. The fastest car ever delivered by Lexus, the 2008 IS-F is capable of hitting 60 in 4.6 seconds and topping out at an electronically regulated 168 mph. All the while, it turns in 16/23 mpg.
The basic IS shape, sleek and reasonably attractive, gets some tweaks in the process too, like a more aggressive grille, with lower vents to enhance engine breathing, and matching vents for brake cooling. Flared wheel arches house the oversized tires needed to pump all that extra power to the pavement. Some of the add-ons to the sedan’s exterior look unrefined, but the interior is more flawlessly pulled together. Four grippy bucket seats are split by a console covered in aluminum-look trim. The back seats don’t offer an excess of head and leg room.
Lexus upgrades the suspension of the 2008 IS-F to give it BMW-like handling. The independent suspension feels tighter than the stock IS suspension, though the IS-F’s electric power steering leaves some feeling behind on the drawing table, even on its stiffer Sport setting. Big 19-inch wheels are standard, as are Brembo brakes.
Standard safety equipment includes anti-lock brakes, traction control, electronic stability control, electronic brakeforce distribution, and more, all integrated into a specially-calibrated VDIM, or Vehicle Dynamics Interface Module.
The 2008 Lexus IS-F is the closest this brand has come yet to mimicking the performance of the best German iron. It lacks a manual-transmission option and there’s no all-wheel drive, either, but in every other regard it’s the equal of the Audi RS4, Mercedes-Benz C63 and BMW M3.