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2013 Lexus IS F Review & Test Drive

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As Lexus continues to inject a sporty taste into their vehicle lineup, the new 2013 Lexus IS F continues to be at the forefront of serving up exactly what true automotive enthusiasts want in a high-performance luxury sports sedan. Featuring a powerful V8 engine, 8-speed automatic transmission, unsurpassed fit and finish, and unique styling all continue to put the Lexus IS F on a prided pedestal as one of the very few high performance vehicles the automaker offers.

The Lexus IS is already a remarkable sports sedan with a capable chassis from the base IS 250 with a 204 horsepower V6, to the respectable IS 350 with a 306 horsepower V6. Each IS trim strives to offer a taste of the prided IS F with F-Sport packages while the new Lexus IS F is the ultimate realistically attainable high performance Lexus.

Already starting off with an excellent platform, the Lexus IS F doesn’t just stuff a 5.0-liter 416 horsepower and 371 pound-feet of torque V8 under the hood, the Lexus engineers made the IS F a complete package to run alongside of its competition. The new 2013 Lexus IS F, entering into its 6th year, has only received minor changes since its debut in 2008. For 2013, just after a slight refresh in 2012, the new IS F gets Lexus’ Enform 2.0 App Suite and slightly retuned suspension.


The Lexus IS F’s road mannerism is well-adapted to the cable performance car driver where it communicates the road well even through the only transmission, an 8-speed automatic with manual shift mode. Though some enthusiasts will balk not having an available manual transmission option, the transmission and 5-liter V8 engine still work in harmony to do their job with ample available power at just about any rpm. A manual shift mode with steering wheel paddles offers a delectable driving experience. In manual mode, the transmission does not want to leave traditional Lexus out of the driver’s seat as it seems to limit the threshold of downshifting. Basically, you are not permitted to perform ‘aggressive’ downshifts where the computer does not let the rpm needle get anywhere near the redline. The 8-speed automatic also takes over a second to downshift into a higher gear when 3 or more up-shift cogs are demanded by an immediate full throttle.  Somewhat of a bummer for the track enthusiasts who want to take the Lexus IS F to the track, the IS F still begs to unleash its beefy V8 on road courses.

The body motion is kept to a minimum with a relatively firm ride that is not very forgiving on uneven roads. The rear wheels are easy to break loose with minimal upset to the chassis. Even though the Torsen limited slip differential keeps both wheels turning, you are prone to get some rear axle hop but a well-sorted out suspension that dampens abrupt movements.


The improvements on the suspension system are quite noticeable as it firms things up a bit. Some may consider the suspension out of character for a Lexus but on-point for a well-capable high-performance sedan. The 19-inch dark alloy wheels not only accent the characteristic body styling of the IS F, but they prove to aid in the handling department being wrapped in sticky 255/35R19 Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires. The IS F does not break a sweat when it is pushed hard into turns. The rear track of the IS F wants to snap out and bite back when you fully disable traction control and stability control with an on-set of oversteer. When oversteer does occur, the body roll is kept to a minimum allowing you to power out of your slides with easy – for as long as you do not abuse the throttle.

Sport mode, accessible by a steering wheel mounted button, advances throttle position and adapts the quick-shifting 8-speed automatic to hold lower gears longer. What is most interesting about Sport mode is that it is still well adapted to every-day driving in the sense that the transmission will often hit 8th gear without cruising for a long period of time. Quite the opposite of what other transmission’s mapping will do in sport mode. Disabling the traction and/or stability control is usually a temporary setting. In true Lexus style, the system wants to override to re-enable the control system after coming to a stop. Speaking of coming to a stop, the large 14.2-inch cross-drilled rotors and Brembo-sourced 6-piston calipers in the front and 13.6-inch rear rotors with two-piston calipers bite down hard to bring all 3,750 pounds to a stop in about 112 feet from 60 mph.


The new Lexus IS F has the right formula for a high-performance luxury sedan with the interior appointments and goodies to match. The interior has topnotch fit and finish with several quality aspects of the materials used throughout. The cabin is quiet as it can be until the V8 really comes alive with a subtle deep drone from the exhaust and a noticeable purring pitch from the dual-stage intake manifold at about 3,500 rpm and above.


All controls and instrument panels are characteristic to the IS in all trim levels with the slight exception of various F logos throughout. Even the seats feature F embroideries on the side visible when the doors are open. The soft-leather heated 8-way power front seats are extremely comfortable with just the right amount of bolstering and headrest support. The bright electroluminescent gauge cluster with accented soft-blue LCD background colors accent the F logo theme well. The cluster features a centralized rpm gauge as the focal point exuding what the IS F is all about – that being performance. Lexus did well to place a digital speedometer inside of the rpm gauge with an analog gauge on the right side, as these prove to be useful tools to keep from getting chased down by the highway patrol.


Rear seating, as with the other current Lexus IS trims, can be a bit cramped for someone in the 6-feet tall range. The rear seating is ideal for smaller adults and children. The over-all ride quality can be a bit harsh, as mentioned previously, especially for those accustomed to other Lexus vehicles. The soft feel and gadgetry of the cabin does a good job of over-shadowing the ride quality with the optional 7-inch touchscreen, as part of the navigation package, including a new Enform 2.0 system with excellent smartphone app integration. HD radio with iTunes tagging, back-up camera and automatic Bluetooth phonebook capabilities are also part of the options available to complete the infotainment spectrum of the new IS F.

The competition for the Lexus IS F is ‘fast’ to say the least. For one, there is the fast German side of the spectrum including the BMW M3, Benz C63 AMG and Audi S4 looking down on the IS F in some aspects. Lexus has literally performed well with the IS F proving that a high-performance luxury sedan can exude what Lexus has stood for all of these years in terms of proven quality and durability with a generous injection of performance.

Pricing for the Lexus IS F starts at $61,750. My fully loaded IS F test vehicle, equipped with the navigation/Mark Levinson premium audio package, came to an as-tested price of $66,405 including a destination, processing and handling fee of $895.

Copyright: 2013


  • Price: Base IS F $61,750 / As-Tested $66,405
  • 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: 3,750lbs.
  • EPA mileage: 16 mpg/city, 23 mpg/highway
  • 0-60 mph: 4.4 seconds
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