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  • Glorious V8 exhaust note; predictable handling at limit; acceleration; build quality
  • Firm ride; no Bluetooth audio streaming; standard tyres

by Elgin Lam

After a few months of searching for a car, I finally decided on the Lexus ISF. The Mercedes Benz C63 AMG was too frantic, and the BMW M3 was too highly strung as a daily driver.

The German cars were also significantly more expensive than the Lexus ISF, which was strange because the ISF is more expensive than the other two in other countries.

The Lexus ISF is the ultimate sleeper car, often overlooked as an IS350 with a body kit. Its Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde personality also extends to its driving. Under 3500rpm it feels just like any other IS250/350, quiet, smooth and refined. But once that dual stage intake opens up, that addictive V8 exhaust note tells you you’re not in Kansas anymore. The scenery blurs and the speedo rises – this car has some serious speed.

The handling of this Japanese sports saloon is let down by having skinny standard front tyres – unchanged from the IS250/350 – causing understeer at the turn in. Some fatter rubber at the front would go a long way to reducing understeer. The rear end is dynamic though, with trail braking a must in this car. A stab of the throttle with traction control turned off will quickly induce oversteer, and keeping the power on while countersteering creates some really fun and controllable action. If you like driving sideways, this car is for you.

The interior is dated but does the job well. However, one pet peeve is the lack of Bluetooth audio streaming. An aux input mitigates this to some degree, but at this price, the car should come with it.

The ride is stiff, but still liveable. Lexus has tuned the suspension over the last few years to make the car more comfortable while still retaining its smile-inducing handling characteristics.

The Lexus ISF undercuts its German rivals significantly, comes with a lot of gear, and is immensely fun to drive. Moreover, you get Lexus’ excellent customer service and reliability.

It’s not a perfect car, but it’s a fine effort from Lexus and anyone considering a car in this segment should seriously consider it. It’s not a cheap car, but I would consider it good value compared to its rivals.

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2012 LEXUS IS F Review
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