Road Test: 2013 Lexus IS F


The 2013 Lexus IS F is not a luxury car. Oh sure, it’s a Lexus which means it’s well above the common riff-raff. And the $66,405 (as tested) price tag definitely puts into luxury range. But the extra money put into this car wasn’t meant to coddle anyone. This car is all about performance.

2013 Lexus IS F
2013 Lexus IS F

It’s interesting to talk about what this car doesn’t have. There’s no automatic trunk closer. No side traffic alert systems. Plenty of cars have more seat adjustments. It doesn’t have the Remote Touch interface you’ll find in other Lexus cars. Heck, the center console only has one cup holder (although a second is hidden in the arm rest console).

Lexus IS F 5.0 liter engine
Lexus IS F 5.0 liter engine

What the Lexus IS-F does have is 5.0 liter V8 that pumps out 416 horsepower. And trust me, the people who buy this car will use those ponies every day. It’s one of those cars you can’t help but push every time you get the chance. After all, how many four door sedans will accelerate from 0-60 in 4.6 seconds. Part of the thrill is that the power comes on with a great throaty sound from the quad exhausts. Sometimes it was fun to floor it so I could jump ten miles an hour faster just to hear that engine growl. Come to think of it, I’m kind of amazed I didn’t get a ticket during the week I drove the IS-F around (maybe they never caught me…)

The engine is mated to an eight speed transmission. Like so many cars these days, the IS-F has paddle shifters. Most of the time I think they’re a waste. I have a feeling the  majority of people who own a car with paddles use them a few times when the car is new and after the initial thrill, they go dormant. I used the “F spec” paddles constantly. Since the car doesn’t offer a manual transmission, this is the option to manage the gearing and power. Oh, and using the paddles gave me the chance to hear that engine growl again.

2013 Lexus IS F from Behind
Lexus IS F Will Leave You With This View

What impressed me about the car was that while it lived for performance, it was also well-behaved when you just wanted a casual drive home. The suspension has apparently been softened over the years so that it’s very compliant. The quad exhausts gave little hint about what could happen if you decided to break out of your calmer mood. Big (14.2″ in front, 16.6″ in the rear) vented Brembo brakes made it easy to stop.

Mileage is reasonable. At least it was for a car that was this much fun. 16 mpg around town, 23 mpg on the highway. I’m sure my combined number was very low as a result of constant racing up to the speed limit. Trust me, it’s gas money well spent.

2013 Lexus IS F Interior
Upscale Sporty Interior

Inside, the IS-F is upscale sporty, but not truly luxurious. They didn’t waste money on fancy seat stitching or special electronics (although it did have some neat looking aluminum-composite trim). The front seats were very comfortable. There are only two seats in the rear. They are sculpted so the center portion is unusable. After all, you don’t want the folks in the back sloshing around as you blitz through the turns.

2013 Lexus IS F Instruments
Simple Instrument Is All About Using The Power

The instrument cluster is all about performance. You’re facing a giant tach, with a small digital speedometer set near the bottom. I kind of wish it had a virtual dash that gave you the ability to switch back and forth. I found it too easy to lose track of my speed because I was having too much fun with the RPMs. Still, it’s part of the car’s appeal. Interestingly, the other displays were almost old school tech. Once again, Lexus didn’t waste money on fancy electronics. They poured it all into the performance.

2013 Lexus IS F
Vented Fenders One Of The Few Visual Clues

One of the biggest issues potential owners are going to have to face is the car’s anonymity. There aren’t many visual clues to give away the fact that it’s a high performance car.  The boldest part of the styling are the vented front fenders, and most people won’t notice them. The quad exhausts at the rear are another clue, but very subtle. It does look different from the IS 250/350, but not so much that it stands out. There is, however, a lot of function. Lexus brags that the front fascia, hood, underbody and rear spoiler are all designed to optimize airflow. Still, whoever buys this car will have to be content with the idea that its unassuming looks will allow him to sneak up on others.

But then, that’s part of the fun of this car. It’s not a statement, it’s simply reality. This car is pure performance. And if that’s all you want, welcome home.



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