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2011 Lexus IS-F Review

This review was written when the 2011 Lexus IS-F was new.

The 2011 Lexus IS F features a revised steering system, limited-slip differential and a suspension setup that’s been re-tuned for better handling. Overall, reviewers say that the changes are a marked improvement compared with the 2010 model, though the IS F still trails the performance of rivals like the BMW M3 and Cadillac CTS-V

Model Overview

The 2011 Lexus IS F is a performance-tuned variant of the 2011 Lexus IS, which test drivers praise for its responsive handling and easy-to-use interior electronics.

The Lexus IS F adds to these attributes with 212 more horsepower than the IS 250 and 110 more horsepower than the IS 350. For 2011, Lexus has made tweaks to the IS F’s performance-tuned suspension and steering, along with adding a limited-slip differential to improve traction. These enhancements make for a thrilling ride. “A spirited stint on a country road highlights the F’s newfound handling prowess,” writes Car and Driver. “Corners are inhaled as the driver’s confidence builds. The retuned electric steering feels more natural, more like traditional hydraulically boosted steering.” Still, many reviewers say that the Lexus IS F can’t quite match the acceleration and handling balance of the BMW M3 or the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG.

The 2011 Lexus IS F is equipped with a 416-horsepower, 5.0-liter V8 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission with manual mode.

  • "The IS F blends luxury and high performance into an incredibly refined package. If you're shopping the BMW M3 or Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, add IS F to your list." -- Consumer Guide 
  • "This year's suspension changes are a welcome improvement, as the car is more livable on city streets and freeways. The steering also feels more natural. The 2011 car still has a fairly firm ride, though, and notably the adaptive suspensions on the M3 and CTS-V help make those cars superior for dual-purpose use." -- Edmunds 
  • "If the tried-and-true BMW M3 sedan is too common for your tastes, the IS F offers rivaling performance with additional flair. Wild bodywork, massive horsepower and a sports-oriented interior are this vehicle's strong suits." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "To describe the Lexus LS F as fun to drive would be bland understatement. This is an authentic performance car that brings smiles to professional driving instructors and racers on the world's fastest racetracks. For the average driver, this is a car so able, so secure, it changes the way you see the road." -- New Car Test Drive

The Bottom Line         

Reviewers say that the 2011 Lexus IS F is an exhilarating drive. It's powerful, fast and handles well. However, many say that the IS F is not as adept as some rivals.

The 414-horsepower 2011 BMW M3 sedan, for example, costs slightly less and features similar performance specs. While most test drivers agree that the M3 provides all-around better handling, there is a trade-off. While both cars accelerate from zero to 60 in roughly the same amount of time, the 2011 Lexus IS F maxes out at 170 mph, which is 15 mph higher than the BMW’s top speed. While most drivers may not test these limits, it may still matter to some enthusiasts.

If you’re looking for even more raw power, the 2011 Cadillac CTS-V is well-liked by reviewers for its nimble handling and wicked acceleration. It’s slightly larger and more expensive than both the Lexus and BMW, but auto writers love its 556-horsepower supercharged V8. That’s 140 more horses than the IS F and 142 more than the M3. And with a zero to 60 mph time of 3.9 seconds, the CTS-V sedan is also considerably quicker than both in a straight line.

With these types of options, car shoppers should think long and hard about what matters most to them: a higher top speed, superior handling or blistering acceleration.

Performance Dynamics 

Reviewers agree that the 2011 Lexus IS F is a thrilling performance machine that’s gotten even better thanks to new suspension and steering tweaks. Still, many test drivers assert that its firm suspension still makes it less useable as a daily driver. They say that options like the BMW M3 and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG offer performance that’s on-par or better than the IS F, while still managing to deliver a more suitable ride on daily commutes.

Under the hood, the 2011 IS F features a 5.0-liter V8 engine that produces 416 horsepower at 6,600 rpm and 371 pound-feet of torque at 5,200 rpm. Power is sent to the rear wheels through an eight-speed Sport Direct-Shift automatic transmission with paddle shifters and manual mode.

According to Lexus, the 2011 Lexus IS F has a top speed of 170 mph and can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds. The EPA reports that the 2011 Lexus IS F nets a city/highway fuel economy of 16/23 mpg.

The 2011 Lexus IS F features Brembo disc brakes and electronic power steering, as well as an independent double wishbone suspension in the front and rear.

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  • "Cracking off shifts with the steering-wheel-mounted paddles doesn’t make us miss a clutch pedal as much as we thought we would, and the swaps feel as quick as any dual-clutch box’s." -- Car and Driver 
  • "A stable, secure, and nimble feel that puts it among the best sport sedans." -- Consumer Guide 
  • "Traditionalists will bemoan the lack of a manual transmission, but the eight-speed automatic proves worthy with quick upshifts and rev-matched downshifts. Unfortunately, eight gears sometimes seems like a couple too many, as the transmission occasionally hunts too much for the right one." -- Edmunds  
  • "At first blush, we felt that Lexus' claimed horsepower figures were more than a bit conservative. We were shattering the highest speed limits in the U.S. in just two upshifts and, despite the fact that we didn't disarm the IS F's stability control for the curvy sections, the logic allowed for some very aggressive driving before kicking in." -- Kelley Blue Book 
  • "On the road, the Lexus IS F is pleasingly quick, precise and responsive. The car emits a low growl and feels good on winding roads that invite bursts of throttle, a brief tap of the brake and a smooth glide through the next apex." -- New Car Test Drive
Review Last Updated: 8/30/11

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