Lexus works ISF magic
It’s with a tear in his eye that PETER BARNWELL hands back the key to the Lexus ISF.
WE have “done” affordable cars until we are blue in the face and the bit of luxury having the Lexus ISF long term was a treat.
Our time in the ISF was punctuated by an appreciation of just what Lexus has done with this hand-built car. It rivals the Germans for performance and handling and after all, that’s what this class of car is all about.
It came out of a “skunk works” at Lexus with a committed racing enthusiast at the helm. He drove the project, got in touch with Yamaha to build the sweet 5.0-litre, direct injection V8 and picked all the good bits like Brembo brakes and the eight speed sports auto transmission to give the car sports cred and a performance edge.
The group spent plenty of time at Fuji raceway fettling the ISF that, as a result, ended up scoring a mechanical limited slip differential in version two for better drive out of corners, better overall feel.
It really gets mobile despite tipping the scales at 1700kg. It puts away a 0-100km/h sprint in 4.8 seconds. One wonders whether they are developing a lighter version that would undoubtedly be quicker and possibly use less fuel.
With 311kW and 505Nm percolating out of the compact engine, the ISF has superb response across a wide rev range. Push the Sport button near the steering wheel and it grows horns as the engine responds even quicker, the suspension stiffens up and the auto goes into race change mode complete with a throttle blip on the down change if you use the paddles on the wheel.
We like the look of it despite the overt bonnet bulge and lurid side air vents cut in behind the front wheels. It is well settled on the suspension and rides on glamorous 19in alloys with wide rubber.
Inside is modern and functional with focal points on the silver carbon fibre fascia and the blue/white dash.
It’s a worthy competitor for the two German compact sports saloons and actually costs thousands less. Would we change anything? Yep, the exhaust note and the locking system which borders on the paranoid. And we reckon they aren’t trying with 311kW from this hi-tech 5.0-litre V8 – it should be 375 (the magic 500 horsepower).
If you can’t run to the $130,000 for the ISF, there’s an IS350 V6 coming out soon with plenty of mumbo and splashes of ISF DNA if you get our drift.