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2011 Lexus IS F Review & Test Drive

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‘SUPER HIGH PERFORMANCE WRAPPED IN LUXURY’ 

If you crave super-high-performance with a sporty and luxurious interior, then look no further than the 2011 Lexus IS F small sedan.  As the first production model to wear the brand’s ‘F’ marquee, the IS F offering a thrilling, fun-to-drive experience with all of the luxury and amenities that Lexus brings to the fore.

The model races into 2011 with several updates including LED daytime running lamps, an improved suspension system, new instrument cluster, and a special interior leather package.

To improve its responsiveness and ride comfort, in addition to providing you with more control, engineers revised the Electronic Power Steering (EPS) system and suspension.  With revised front and rear spring rates, shock absorber dampening, rear bushings and rear camber angle, the IS F provides a more confident ride straight ahead at speed and when attacking sharp corners.

The sporty interior is complemented with new IP gauges, a silver colored-trimmed steering wheel, dark finish aluminum composite ornamentation, and a sport model switch that is now moved to the steering wheel for easier access.  In addition, the all-new orange and black leather interior with contrast stitching flaunts the IS F’s vivacious attitude with deeply cut side bolsters and an orange ‘F’ emblem on the bottom of the new power tilt/telescoping sport steering wheel.

The Lexus IS F is exclusively powered by a performance-tuned 5.0 liter V8 engine teamed to an eight-speed Sport Direct Shift transmission.  The IS F engine produces 416hp at 6,600rpm and 371lb.ft. of peak torque at 5,200rpm.  the engines’ high specific output (83.2hp/liter) and high operating range (6,800rpm redline) reflect the thorough attention to detail underlying the core engineering.  The resulting performance character, while quite responsive in low-speed situations, provides a rush of power at high engine speeds.

The forged crankshaft features journals polished to a mirror finish to minimize the friction generated between the connecting rods and the crankshaft.  Forged, sintered iron alloy connecting rods ensure high-rpm durability.  High-flow cylinder heads designed by Yamaha have a lightweight valvetrain, including forged cam lobes on hollow, chain-driven camshafts, with the inside of the shafts as oil passages.  Titanium intake valves are operated by roller rocker arms.

Lexus innovative technologies help to maximize efficiency and reduce emissions, including the SFI D-4 fuel injection (direct-to-cylinder injection system with secondary port injectors) and the Electronic Throttle Control system with intelligence (ETCS-i).  essentially, SFI D-4 integrates two types of fuel injection.  A direct type high-pressure high pressure fuel injection system which provides a cooling effect in the cylinders and enables the high compression ratio (11.8:1) employed to extract maximum energy from the fuel; a set of low-pressure port fuel injectors that help produce a precise burn to optimize power and efficiency under light and medium load conditions.

A dual air-intake system uses a primary intake passage for low and medium engine speeds.  In the higher engine speed range (above 3,600rpm), both the primary and secondary passages are opened, helping boost higher-rpm power.

With the IS F 5.0 liter V8, Lexus made a leap in valve-control technology with the variable valve timing with intelligence by an electric motor (VVT-iE).  An electric motor alters the intake camshaft phasing, which made it possible to expand VVT operational range to lower engine speeds, where engine oil pressure is usually not high enough to operate conventional VVT.  The exhaust camshaft uses hydraulically controlled variable valve timing.

A scavenge pump force oil from the cylinder heads to the oil pan, ensuring a reliable oil supply even during cornering that exceeds one g.  The low-restriction dual-exhaust system terminates in distinctive stack quad diffusers and the sound produced out the rear is deep and growls, even at startup.

The world’s first eight-speed Sport Direct-Shift automatic transmission combines the performance characteristics of an automated manual-type transmission with the smoothness an refinement of a planetary-type automatic transmission.  As a result you can choose between ultra-quick manual shifts for performance driving and smooth automatic shifts when convenience is the top priority.

Eight speeds allow gear ratios that maximize torque up to the tire-grip limitations in the lower ranges while optimizing efficiency.  Intuitive powertrain control optimally smoothes out off-the-line response.  You can selectNormal, Sport or Snow driving modes wit the flip of a switch.  Artificial Intelligence-SHIFT (AI-SHIFT) complements the Sport switch selection by automatically adapting the shifting based on road conditions and your input.  The IS F transmission is also highly responsive to uphill/downhill driving, always selecting the best gear for power or engine braking.

You can shift manually using either the console shift or steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters.  Hydraulic-control technology allows the IS F’s eight-seed Sport Direct Shift transmission to perform on par with manual transmissions without sacrificing the smoothness of a torque-converter automatic.  Paddle-shifting operation is allowed in eight D or M modes, but shifts are quicker and more direct in M mode.  In M mode, the transmission will hold each gear to the 6,800rpm redline, and upshifts are executed in just one-tenth of a second.  At higher speeds, downshifts are accompanied by automated and precise throttle blips to match engine rpm to vehicle speed.

This is how all high-performing sport sedans and sports cars work or should work today.  Giving the enthusiast the choice between heart-pounding stimulating driving times and true automatic transmission gear-changing at leisure times behind the wheel.

The Lexus IS F is based on the robust IS platform, which is engineered from the start to allows a high dynamic envelope.  The stiff body structure and the rear subframe are connected through several reinforcements.  Much of the IS F development took place at race tracks around the world, includingGermany’s legendary Nurburgring Nordschleife, Circuit Paul Ricard inFrance,Japan’s Fuji Speedway and theHigashi-FujiTechnicalCenterinJapan.  Fuji Speedway is the IS F’s home circuit, and the shape of its turn one inspired the F logo design.

Although using the basic double-wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear suspension configurations of the IS F platform, the IS F features a multitude of track-proven modifications.  The IS F sits an inch lower on its suspension than the standard IS models, which lowers the center of gravity and helps provide quicker handling response.

Spring and damper rates are increased, and larger-diameter stabilizer bars are used.  The rear suspension control arms are specific to the IS F to optimize geometry for the big, 19 inch wheels.  In addition, the monotube shock absorbers use a larger-diameter piston rod.  As on other IS models, the sophisticated shock-absorber design utilizes multi-leaf linear control valves to help improve damping force, and rebound springs offer improved body control without degrading ride comfort.  I did find the ride stiffer than normal but was surprised how well it damped bumps and potholes on the worn streets ofLos Angeles.

When I was driving over newly paved black-top roads in the mountains it felt like I was gliding over glass.

Subframe suspension mounts are stiffer than on IS models to help reduce sway and ensure control under acceleration and braking.  The engine mounts are also stiffer for amore direct feel.  Special jounce stoppers on both the front and rear suspension come into play early in the compression stroke to help reduce the sway angle when cornering and to reduce dive when braking.

The IS F rides on 19 inch forged-alloy race-bred wheels by BBS with a distinct dark-gray finish and an asymmetrical 10-spoke design.  Up front are 19X8 inch wheels wrapped with 225/40R19 tires and 19X9 inch wheels wrapped with 255/35R19 tires.  Both Michelin Pilot and Bridgestone Pontenza tires were each developed specifically for the 170mph track capability of the IS F.  High-rigidity hub unit bearings are engineered for rigorous high g-force track driving.  The direct-type tire pressure monitor system allows two sets of tires to be registered giving you the benefit of a system with a set of track tires or winter tires.  The multi-information display indicates the tire selector switch.

A specially calibrated version of Lexus’s innovative Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system helps provide superior handling dynamics and traction during spirited driving times.  Combining input from a variety of sensors, VDIM is designed to anticipate the onset of a vehicle skid or slide and help correct the situation with a combination of braking, steering and throttle control in a way that is essentially transparent to you behind the wheel.  VDIM integration provides precise management for ESP, VSC, traction control and ABS, BA, EBD, and engine torque (via the electronically controlled throttle.

During cornering, VDIM suppresses any tendency for the inside wheel to spin, transmitting more power to the outside wheel to help maintain traction and momentum.  When braking on a mixed-friction surface, VDIM will direct steering assist in the direction that will help provide greater control.  This all happens in less than a second for you to gain greater control of your direction.

In Sport mode, VDIM allows a higher dynamic thresholds before intervening and alters steering assist to increase steering feel.  Sport mode helps provide excellent optimal vehicle control on a track in areas where the skills even of top-level drivers are challenged.  The experienced driver can disengage VSC/TRAC by pressing and holding the TRAC-off button for more than three seconds.  Even with VSC/TRAC off, however, the system still provides the brake-based limited-slip differential effect and ABS.  The Torsen rear differential helps provide additional traction during very spirited driving.

World-class Brembo brakes were designed to the specifications of the Lexus engineering team.  The 14.2 inch ventilated, drilled front rotors are gripped by rigid, high-friction, six-piston aluminum calipers, while 13.6 inch ventilated, drilled rotors use two, high-friction two-piston calipers.  Front bumper ducts adjacent to the foglamps stream cool air to the brakes.  The brakes are finished with the Lexus name displayed on the calipers.

Passive-safety technology in the IS F begins with a reinforced passenger compartment that helps protect occupants with front-and-rear crush structures.  Seatbelt pre-tensioners and force limiters are used for all seating positions.

In addition to advanced dual-stage front and front seat-mounted side airbags, the Lexus Supplemental Restraint System includes side-curtain airbags that extend from the A-pillar to the C-pillar, plus knee airbags up front for both.  The optional Pre-Collision System uses millimeter-wave radar to measure and maintain a pre-set distance from the vehicle traveling ahead.  PCS if it detects an object closer to the set distance can retract front seat belts, and pre-initialize BA so that increased braking will be applied the instant you apply the brakes.

The IS F interior is both sporty and luxurious with specially shaped and trimmed, 10-way front bucket seats that help hold you in place comfortably and securely.  The standard SmartAccess keyless entry and push-button start/stop button is great for convenience.

Standard amenities include dual-zone automatic climate control, pollen filter and smog detector, one-touch power moonroof, power tilt-telescoping steering wheel, three-position memory function, all power-express windows, remote-heated sideview mirrors, self-dimming rearview mirror, rain-sensing wipers, power door locks, grab handles at each door, rear pull-out armrest with dual cupholders, front console with dual cupholders and storage bin, Lexus Premium Audio System with a six-disc, in-dash CD changer, 13-speakers, USB/iPod connectivity, streaming audio via Bluetooth, XM radio, and an auto sound levelizer.  Options include the Mark Levinson Surround Sound system with 14-speakers.  The optional Lexus Navigation system features Voice Command.  Lexus Enform and Safety Connect response centers operate 24-hours per day/seven days per week.

Based on the IS luxury sport sedan, the IS F is clearly differentiated when viewed from the front/side or rear.  A trapezoidal-shaped front bumper fascia, a theme that is repeated in the rear, sets off the V-shape grille.  The hood’s raised center section makes room for the V8 engine, and the front fenders were widened to envelope the 19in. low-profile tires.  Total grille area is increased to ensure adequate cooling for the 5.0 liter V8, and both upper and lower grille feature a special wire-mesh pattern.  The lower grille is flanked by large brake cooling ducts adjacent to standard foglamps.  The front fenders wear a discrete silver, black and blue ‘F’ marque.

The car’s wedge-like profile is accentuated by functional front fender air outlets with lower edges that transition into large rocker panels and continue as a character line into the rear bumper.  The rear view conveys a strong parting signature for the IS F, with a dramatic trapezoid shape and easily recognizable design elements.  Four vertically stacked exhaust differs, two per side, are integrated into the rear bumper.  Above them light-emitting diode stop and tail lamps behind clear lenses give the IS F a unique nighttime appearance.  The subtle rear spoiler is one of  many aerodynamic enhancements which also include special underbody panels to optimize airflow.

For a base price of $59,010.00 or $63, 572.00, you can’t buy a finer, more luxurious and high-performing sport sedan on the market.  The IS F is definitely worth the money!

COPYRIGHT:2011:HARVEY SCHWARTZ

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Price: Base IS F $59,010 / As-Tested $63,572
  • Engine: 5.0-liter 32-valve DOHC V8 416 horsepower @ 6,600 rpm / 371 ft-lbs. torque @ 5,200 rpm
  • Wheelbase: 107.4in.
  • Total length: 183.5in.
  • Total width: 71.5in.
  • Total height: 55.7in.
  • Track: f/r-61.4/59.6in.
  • Fuel tank: 19.9 gallons
  • Turning circle: 33.5ft.
  • Headroom: f/m-37.2in./36.7in.
  • Legroom: f/r-43.9/30.6in.
  • Curb weight: 3,780lbs.
  • EPA mileage: 16mpg/city, 23mpg/highway
  • 0-60 mph: 4.4 seconds
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