First Look – 2012 Lexus IS-F

When it comes to luxury cars, nobody can beat Lexus’ reliability, fit and finish, and overall luxurious feel.  However, when it comes to making go-fast versions of premium midsize sedans, Lexus has admittedly been late to the party, although they’ve arrived wearing a silk Armani sports coat over a Christian Audigier T-shirt, Triple 5 Soul jeans, and a pair of Future Cats.  Needless to say, although nobody does luxury like Lexus, there’s something overtly “laid back” about the IS-F.  It looks just as good parked in the valet lane at the Chase Park Plaza as it does in the car hop lane at Sonic.  One thing’s for sure – this isn’t your father’s Lexus.

While at first glance the IS-F might look like any old IS sedan to the untrained eye, closer examination reveals details like a slightly raised hood design, chrome mesh grille, larger, 19-inch staggered-width gunmetal wheels, more pronounced side moldings, and quad-exhaust tips out back.  Inside, rather than the exquisite wood inlays you would expect to find in any other $60,000+ Lexus, you’ll instead discover carbon-fiber trim throughout the cabin, particularly on the doors where the power window/door lock controls are found, and in the center console around the shifter for the IS-F’s 8-speed sequential automatic transmission.  The gauge cluster has been revised to emphasize performance driving, as the tachometer is now front and center, and the leather-wrapped steering wheel features more pronounced side grip extension and a two-tone color scheme to reflect the rest of the interior.

So, why does the IS-F have such a tall hood?  Open it up, and you’ll find that Lexus shoehorned a massive, 5.0-liter, 416 horsepower engine in it.  That’s nearly 200 more horsepower than an IS 250 and about 110 more horsepower than the IS 350 sedans.  Still, one question comes to mind – why can’t you get the IS-F in a manual transmission?  Well, two reasons, the first being that Lexus primarily sells cars with automatic transmissions and has had very little success selling cars equipped with stick shifts in the past, and the second reason is fuel economy.  The IS-F achieves better fuel economy than the BMW M3 or Mercedes Benz C63 AMG.  With gasoline prices nearly $4/gallon for premium (with no end in sight), fuel economy is still a big deciding factor for car buyers, even in the super-sedan segment.

The IS-F has been on the market for a few years now, but it’s obvious that Lexus can’t just build something fantastic and leave it alone without trying to improve it in one way or another.  When journalists reviewed this car back in 2008, one of the few things that came up about the IS-F was that several reporters remarked on how the suspension seemed a bit stiff for their tastes, which was understandable at the time.  Lexus was trying to further differentiate the IS-F away from the comfy-cozy IS sedan and its German rivals.  For 2012, many reviewers have commented on how more refined the IS-F’s suspension feels.  It’s no softie, but it’s certainly much more bearable for long commutes along America’s crumbling infrastructure.

Overall, the IS-F is as good as it gets for the luxury sports sedan segment.  It offers plenty of power, lots of luxury, and it will make anyone driving it look their best.  We certainly can’t wait until we get the opportunity to to a test drive review of the IS-F so that you get a better idea of what we’re on about.  For more information, log on to or come check out the IS-F we have in our showroom.  Until then, you can check out our gallery with sketchy iPhone pics below (sorry, no high-res this time).

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