2012 Lexus IS F Review

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Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
December 8, 2011

The 2012 Lexus IS F is a unique take on the luxury/performance formula, and will appeal to those that find the Germans too performance-focused.

Introduced in 2008 and almost completely unchanged since except for a handful of aesthetic options, the Lexus IS F remains the highest-performance model in the brand's standard production range--the halo LFA is in another category altogether. Despite lacking some of the sharpness and focus of its German and American alternatives, the IS F does present a reasonable case for a performance/luxury sedan buyer.

Styling is based on the standard Lexus IS sedan, with a few embellishments to call out the IS F's higher performance, including a slightly bulged hood to make room for the engine, more aggressive front and rear bumpers, and more significantly, the large vents behind the front fenders. Beyond that, a handful of wheel options and IS F badges are all that distinguish the high-po model from its tamer siblings. Inside the differences are even fewer, with only badging, trim choices, and seats to differentiate the car from the standard IS.

Powered by a fantastic-sounding 5.0-liter V-8 engine, the IS F is immediately recognizable even at a distance despite the somewhat understated styling, however. The engine also generates pretty impressive power, at 416 hp and 371 lb-ft of torque. That's enough to get the car to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds and carry on to 168 mph. The standard eight-speed transmission was groundbreaking in 2008, and continues to be a smooth, quick-shifting choice.

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Handling is also very good in the IS F, though ultimately, it's a very heavy car, and its performance shows it. The chassis and setup itself also seem more biased toward understeer than is usual for a focused sports sedan, ultimately leaving the pointy end of driving to its German and American alternatives. On the road, however, it's a relatively comfortable sedan, and far faster than laws will allow.

Like all high-performance sedans, gas mileage isn't the primary concern of its buyers, and that's reflected in its 16/23 mpg city/highway EPA ratings. Safety, on the other hand, is always a concern, and while the IS F isn't rated by the NHTSA or IIHS, its base sedan, the IS 250/350, scores top ranks of "good" according to the IIHS and nets a four-star rollover rating from the NHTSA. Standard safety equipment includes stability and traction control, pre-tensioning seat belts, dual-stage front airbags, plus side airbags, and front and rear side curtain curtain airbags. The Pre-Collision System available elsewhere in the Lexus lineup isn't available in the IS range, however.

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