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2009 IS-F Review

This review was written when the 2009 IS-F was new.

The 2009 Lexus IS F is a new and exciting addition to the short list of high-performance, upscale sedans. However, its performance dynamics can't match class leaders.

Model Overview

The IS F is a performance-tuned variant of the Lexus IS, which garners praise among upscale midsize cars for its responsive handling dynamics, top-notch interior finish and admirable straight-line acceleration.

Introduced in 2008, this year's IS F takes the base IS and tunes it for high-performance driving. Overall, auto writers find that Lexus succeeds in making a thrilling ride, but misses its mark in toppling top dogs like the BMW M3. Still, the IS F is a spectacular machine in its own right. "The first Lexus to run low-four-second 0-60 times definitely isn't boring," writes Car and Driver.

The 2009 Lexus IS F features a 416-horsepower 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
  • "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

The 2009 Lexus IS F is high-performance exhilaration. Nitpicking, however, reveals that its performance dynamics aren't as impressive as competitors like the BMW M3, Cadillac CTS-V and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG -- which all pack similar or more horsepower and cost roughly the same. With options like these, why settle?

Performance Dynamics

Test drivers report that Lexus IS F is a thrilling performer, but when compared to class leaders like the BMW M3 and Cadillac CTS-V it falters. Also, auto critics are divided on comfortable its taut suspensions really is.

The 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. An eight-speed Sport Direct-Shift automatic transmission with paddle shifters and manual mode is standard. According to Lexus, the IS F has a top speed of 170 mph and can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds. The EPA reports that it nets a city/highway fuel economy of 16/23 mpg.

The rear-wheel drive IS F features an Electronic Power Steering, as well as an independent double wishbone suspension in the front and rear. The IS F is brought to a stop by Brembo disc brakes, an Anti-lock Braking System, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Brake Assist. Traction Control is also standard.

  • "[T]he engine is outstanding, but it doesn't deliver the low-end grunt its specs promise. With 371 pound-feet of torque it should be gutsier than the BMW [M3], but peak twist occurs way up at 5200 rpm, just 1600 short of the redline.  ... The IS F's handling, however, is hard to fault. There's a confidence to the chassis that inspires the driver to push it up to, and sometimes over, the limit." -- Car and Driver
  • "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
  • "IS F accelerates with race-car thrust, yet is remarkably docile in around-town driving. Credit its 8-speed automatic for lightning-fast, yet smooth shifts.  ... IS F is fairly comfortable on most surfaces despite its performance suspension and wide, track-ready tires." -- Consumer Guide
  • "From the company that's synonymous with a cloudlike ride comes a suspension that's as cushy as a manhole cover." -- Motor Trend
  • "For sure, fearlessly flicking the IS-F into turns is flat-out fun, and the profuse power put forth from the right foot is emphatically formidable. In its own right, the IS-F is a stunning performer. But when stacked up against competing models like the Audi RS4, BMW M3, Cadillac CTS-V and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, it comes up short in terms of real-world usability and overall satisfaction. As Lexus' initial attempt at an ultra-performance sedan, the IS-F is a promising start. But in the meantime, we advise skipping it in favor of one of its rivals." -- Edmunds
Review Last Updated: 10/16/09

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