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Thread: Lexus with attitude

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    Default Lexus with attitude

    Published August 30, 2008

    Lexus with attitude

    The first high-performance model from the Japanese luxury carmaker looks and sounds different from any other Lexus, SAMUEL EE reports


    TO say the Lexus IS F is unorthodox is an understatement. The first high-performance model from the Japanese luxury carmaker may look like an IS250 sedan at first glance, but it hardly is one.


    The Lexus IS F has a classic front engine, rear-wheel drive layout for exemplary handling, and Japanese build quality and luxury for reliability and comfort.

    For a start, you can hear it clearly if you were standing on the side of the road. Any Lexus model before it would have murmured past as silently as a black-clad ninja in the night. Not the IS F. Its deep exhaust rumble is distinct and an aural indication of something very potent under the hood.

    Then there is the visual impact of the car. Most Lexus models are restrained in their styling. The IS F is not. The front fenders, widened for 19-inch alloy wheels inspired by the samurai sword, have uncharacteristic air outlets. At the back, quad tail pipes form a striking pair of number 8s.

    But perhaps it's the the bonnet bulge that is the most intriguing design cue because it hints at the IS F's power. The centre section of the hood is raised to make room for a 5.0-litre V8 based on the 4.6-litre unit found in the LS460 (an ordinary IS has a V6 engine). Tuned by Yamaha, the V8 has high rpm to harness every single horse available. The result is 416 hp at a relatively stratospheric 6,600 rpm.

    This naturally aspirated engine employs a dual air-intake system, with a primary intake passage for low and medium engine speeds. At higher engine speeds - that is, above 3,600 rpm - the second air intake opens to allow more air in and boost top-end power. When this happens, the most wonderful sound emanates from the V8 engine. Chief engineer Yukihiko Yaguchi says this melodic grunt is not 'noise' but a 'pleasant sound' - one specially developed by his team.

    In creating the IS F, Mr Yaguchi was inspired by the idea of a racetrack-inspired supercar. The quiet, almost impassive programme head says he did not set a technical benchmark, although in terms of concept, he had the Porsche 911 in mind.

    To a certain extent, he has managed to achieve at least one hallmark of that German icon - driveability. At the Fuji Speedway in Japan last week, the IS F displayed a Janus-like personality. It has a cabin just like a conventional IS250 except for jazzier interior finishes and two individual rear seats. At low speeds, the controls feel as light and easy to use as in an IS250. But floor the gas pedal and everything changes - the IS F leaps forward as the acoustics change.

    Slot the gear lever into manual mode and the gear position indicator at the top of the driver information display disappears, replaced by the 'F' logo. Using the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters to work the eight-speed Sport Direct Shift Transmission, you can begin to attack the 16 turns at Fuji.

    The gearbox is surprisingly fast for a conventional automatic transmission with a torque converter, and Mr Yaguchi is understandably proud of it. Instead of the increasingly popular dual-clutch set-ups favoured by the Germans, Lexus is sticking with its system because it blends the performance of an automated manual gearbox with the smoothness and refinement of a planetary-type auto transmission.

    But in manual mode, the gear changes become more aggressive. This is a deliberate move to increase driver enjoyment, says the chief engineer. 'We want you to feel the shift sensation. If it's smooth, it will feel like a video game.'

    The transmission and the engine sound are the IS F's most unique features, he adds. Its balance is pretty good too, as evidenced on the 4.56 km circuit.

    With a kerb weight slightly over 1,700 kg, it is only 150 kg more than an IS 250 but with tonnes more torque, so the IS F is fast. Yet for something with a big V8 engine hanging over the front wheels, it doesn't feel nose-heavy, thanks to chassis changes like a doubling of the front axle's spring rate.

    The car has a front/rear weight distribution of 54:46 but feels even more well-balanced on the track. Lexus says much of the development took place at Fuji Speedway (hence, the 'F' in IS F), as well as other famous race tracks such as the Nurburgring and the Circuit Paul Ricard.

    F1-inspired composite underbody bearings suck it down on to the track and the amount of grip is enormous. On the limit, the IS F tends towards slight oversteer.

    But select Sport mode, turn off the VDIM or Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management, and the IS F can be made to oversteer in expert hands. ABS stays on at all times though, with massive Brembo brakes - with six-piston callipers for the front pair - to rein it in safely and quickly if necessary.

    No car is so easy to handle and yet can be so entertaining at the same time. It has a classic front engine, rear-wheel drive layout for exemplary handling, and Japanese build quality and luxury for reliability and comfort. What a great combination.

    Only the minor issue of availability and price has to be sorted out first. Outside Japan, the IS F is only available in the US and Europe. There is no information yet on the export of the model to the rest of Asia. As a result, there are also no estimated prices, although in the UK, the IS F costs about twice as much as an entry-level IS250. Then again, it is at least twice as good.

    For more information, call Borneo Motors on tel 6475-1288

    Lexus IS F

    Engine: 4,969cc V8
    Gearbox: 8-speed automatic transmission
    Max power: 416 hp @ 6,600 rpm
    Max torque: 503 Nm @ 5,200 rpm
    0-100 kmh: 4.8secs
    Top speed: 270 kmh

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    Published August 30, 2008

    Demand IS Fantastic


    DEMAND for the Lexus IS F is so high that Japanese buyers have to wait up to 18 months for the company's first high-performance model.


    Long waiting list: Only 500-600 units of this sports sedan are produced each month

    To placate these future owners, Lexus conducts one extended test drive for each of them. But for most customers, that is not enough and they ask for more sessions behind the wheel. Plus a high-speed taxi ride with a professional race car driver.

    The IS F is a souped-up version of the Lexus IS model with a 5.0-litre V8 engine instead of the usual 2.5-litre or 3.5-litre V6 unit. Because production is limited to only 500 to 600 units of this four-seater sports sedan each month, there are waiting lists in the US, Europe and Japan.

    Only about one-third of all cars manufactured are right-hand-drive and for now, the roll-out of the model in the rest of Asia outside Japan has not been confirmed. But it should be worth the wait.

    The 'F' in IS F stands for the Fuji Speedway in Japan, where the car was extensively developed. In fact, the design of the 'F' logo found all over the car is said to come directly from the shape of the circuit's Turn One. But for chief engineer Yukihiko Yaguchi, F also stands for many things - flagship, fast, fun and even that special Lexus flair.

    Despite the sports car dynamics, the car is not an uncompromising track-only beast. 'If I could describe the IS F in one sentence, it would be that it was developed for owners,' Mr Yaguchi said during a presentation of the car at the Fuji Speedway last week.

    He added that it may be similar to cars like the BMW M3, which defined the compact high-performance sedan segment, because of the V8 engine in front driving the rear wheels.

    But to Mr Yaguchi, the M3 can only be fun if a person can drive well.

    The IS F, on the other hand, is more forgiving towards a wider range of skills. 'The IS F is different,' he explained. 'A person who wants to enjoy it can do so, whether he is a beginner, a professional or an F1 driver.'

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    ive never seen such an ugly exhaust design

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    Quote Originally Posted by toaler
    ive never seen such an ugly exhaust design
    Nice quad pipes. Different from the standard quads in the market.

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