2008 Lexus IS F

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2008 Lexus IS F Review


Recalibrate your image of Lexus. The 416-horsepower 2008 Lexus IS F, the fastest production Lexus ever, will be the first of many from the brand to compete with the BMW M series, Mercedes-AMG and aftermarket tuners. Coupled to the Lexus IS F's 5.0-liter V8 is an automatic transmission that upshifts in a race-car-like 0.1 second. Expect similar factory hot rods from Lexus: F-Sport accessories are already on sale. (An "F" surrounded by a circle is Lexus' internal symbol for a special project. Also, the logo is said to resemble Turn One at Fuji Speedway.) Lexus says that many IS F buyers will have owned Japanese performance cars such as the Mitsubishi Evo, Subaru WRX STi and Toyota Supra Turbo.

You'll Like This Car If...

You'll love the IS F if you want to know (kind of) what it feels like to drive a race car and you don't mind spending time in traffic court. A better, safer and definitely wiser option: Explore the IS F's lofty limits at a car-club event at a race track.

You May Not Like This Car If...

If you enjoy the comfortable, quiet ride of the ES 350 and think it's plenty powerful, the IS F is not for you. On uneven roads, the ride can be harsh, and its 19-inch-diameter super-low-profile tires and wheels may be susceptible to damage from potholes.

What's New for 2008

The 2008 Lexus IS F is built on the same chassis as the IS 350 and 250. A 416-horspower V8, which replaces the IS 350's 306-horse power V6, is coupled to what Lexus says is the fastest-shifting automatic in a production car. Other features include a race-track tuned suspension and giant brakes.

Driving the IS F
Driving Impressions

When we pressed on the 2008 Lexus IS F's throttle, our first impression was that Lexus' claimed horsepower figures were more than a bit conservative. After...

... two upshifts we were shattering the highest speed limit in the U.S. We didn't disarm the IS F's stability control for the curvy sections, but, unlike similar systems, it allowed very aggressive driving before it kicked in. With wider rear tires and 54 percent of its weight on the front wheels, the IS F can lose front grip first if you get into a corner too fast -- but by that time you'll be going way too fast for public roads, anyway. On the other hand, that chassis behavior is ideal for overly aggressive street driving or track-day novices. On the whole, the ride comfort is perfectly acceptable on smooth roads, but -- understandably, given the car's capabilities -- not so terrific over uneven pavement.

Eight-Speed Transmission
The 2008 Lexus IS F's eight-speed automatic allows anyone to shift almost as fast as a professional racer: Lexus says it's the world's fastest-shifting automatic. Upshifts take 0.1 seconds, downshifts occur in 0.2 seconds and include an automatic throttle blip to match the speeds of the engine, transmission and drive wheels.

Paddle Shifters
In the transmission's manual mode, shifting is accomplished with Formula 1-style steering-wheel-mounted paddles. So that drivers can focus on the road, the car gives a single beep when it's about time to upshift. A double beep means the driver tried to downshift at too high a speed.

2008 Lexus IS F Details

Even passengers will notice they're in an IS F: The F symbol is everywhere. There's an F between the speedometer and tachometer, on the headrests, on the steering wheel, on the console, on the side of each seat and several more places. At speed, the IS F leather-trimmed seats provide excellent lateral support.


It's not difficult to distinguish the 2008 Lexus IS F from its IS siblings. First, there's the "F" badging on front fenders and trunk. Next are wider fenders to accommodate wider tires, vents behind the front wheels to reduce aerodynamic lift at high speed and a larger rear spoiler to help keep the rear tires planted to the pavement. Also, the IS F gets its own grille with a wider opening to help cool the V8. To accommodate the larger engine, the hood has a raised center section. Brake cooling ducts are located next to the foglamps. In the rear are quad exhaust outlets.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

If you build a car capable of 170 miles per hour (and more without its electronic speed limiter), you'd better be able to get it slowed down in a hurry. Lexus had Brembo build extra-large brakes and BBS produce 19-inch wheels to accept them. The front vented and drilled brake discs are 14.2 inches in diameter and surrounded by six-piston aluminum brake calipers. On the rear are two-piston calipers on 13.6-inch rotors.

Optional Equipment

Among the few options available on the 2008 Lexus IS F is a 300-watt sound system with 14 speakers and a six-disc in-dash DVD/CD changer. Those who park their IS F in tight places will want the backup video camera and the sonar-based system that warns of unseen objects. Other options include a DVD-based navigation system.

Under the Hood

For the IS F, Lexus replaced the IS 350's 306-horsepower V6 with an enhanced version of the 4.6-liter V8 used in the LS and GS. To bump horsepower to 416, Lexus engineers added, among other things, electrically (rather than the common hydraulically) controlled variable intake valve timing. This feature is maximized with titanium intake valves, which are lighter and stronger than steel. Also, maximum engine speed was upped from 6500 to 6800 rpm. Torque is down 14 pound-feet and occurs 1200 rpm higher than in the LS 600h L. The eight-speed automatic, based on that in the LS 460, upshifts only about 0.05-second slower than that of a Formula 1 car. Traction and stability control can be adjusted to allow for a more dynamic drive with the touch of the "Sport" mode switch on the dash, or the system can be disarmed completely.

5.0-liter V8
416 horsepower @ 6600 rpm
371 lb.-ft. @ 5200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/23

Trading in or Selling? Know where you stand with the most up-to-date Kelley Blue Book Value at your fingertips. See your car's value

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Trading in or Selling? Know where you stand with the most up-to-date Kelley Blue Book Value at your fingertips. See your car's value

Buying this car?