What's New for 2013
The 2013 Lexus IS F receives only minor interior changes, including the adoption of Lexus Enform 2.0 with App Suite on navigation-equipped models. Lexus has also retuned the suspension for slightly sharper handling.
All it takes is one full-throttle run up through the gears for you to realize the 2013 Lexus IS F is light-years removed from your typical Lexus. The 5.0-liter V8 nearly bursts out of the hood with 416 horsepower, making an intoxicating roar as the tachometer sweeps through its range.
The IS F is a handler, too, with wide 19-inch high-performance tires and suitably stiff suspension to properly tackle twisty roads with sports-carlike precision. In short, this is the most special Lexus you can buy, short of the LFA supercar.
Criticized during its market arrival in 2008 for an overly stiff ride, Lexus has since addressed the car's suspension to make it more livable. Less easy to fix, however, is the car's tight interior room. Hard-core driving enthusiasts might also bemoan the lack of a manual transmission.
As such, the IS F isn't our top choice for a high-performance luxury sport sedan. The Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG takes that title thanks to its all-around talents and more finely crafted interior. One might also look at the 2013 Cadillac CTS-V for a car with more rear seat room. But overall, this un-Lexus-like Lexus still earns our admiration.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Lexus IS F is a high-performance luxury sport sedan based on the regular IS sedan. It's offered in a single well-appointed trim level.
Standard features include 19-inch alloy wheels, Brembo brakes, a limited-slip rear differential, a sport-tuned suspension, bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, a sunroof, keyless ignition/entry, auto-dimming mirrors, 10-way power heated leather front sport seats with memory settings, faux-suede seat inserts (black leather only), dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth (with audio streaming) and a 13-speaker audio system with a six-disc CD changer, satellite radio, iPod integration and an auxiliary audio jack. A two-tone interior color scheme in either red or white with black is available at no additional cost.
A navigation system with a 7-inch display and a back-up camera is optional, and also includes automatic Bluetooth phonebook download capabilities, HD radio with iTunes tagging and Lexus Enform 2.0 smartphone app integration.
Also available are a 14-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system (requires purchase of the navigation system), front and rear parking sensors and adaptive cruise control.
Powertrains and Performance
The rear-wheel-drive 2013 Lexus IS F is powered by a 5.0-liter V8 that produces 416 hp and 371 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed automatic with a manual mode and shift paddles mounted on the steering wheel is the only transmission offered.
In Edmunds testing, the Lexus IS F accelerated to 60 mph from a standstill in a brisk 4.7 seconds. EPA fuel economy estimates are 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 18 mpg in combined driving.
Standard safety features for the 2013 Lexus IS F include antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags, front knee airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. A one-year complimentary subscription to Safety Connect, which provides collision notification, stolen vehicle recovery and an "SOS" emergency help button is included. A pre-collision system is also available with the optional adaptive radar cruise control that senses an impending collision and automatically adjusts seatbelt tension and braking force.
In Edmunds braking tests, an IS F came to a stop from 60 mph in a short 112 feet. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the structurally similar IS 250 and 350 its best score of "Good" for frontal and side impact protection, and a second-best score of "Acceptable" in roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
Even though the 2013 Lexus IS F is considerably more serious compared to the supporting IS models, it still features a quiet cabin, well-placed controls and top-notch materials. Unfortunately, the IS F also suffers from the same drawbacks in the form of limited space. Headroom and rear legroom are at a premium, which might prove problematic for taller occupants. The trunk can only hold 13.3 cubic feet of luggage, which is just average for cars in this class.
The IS F differentiates its interior from its more sedate IS stablemates via sporty accents and features. The front sport seats are the most notable upgrade, with extra side bolstering and Alcantara (suedelike) inserts to help hold you in place. Despite the extra lateral support, these buckets are still plenty comfortable for long days. The IS F's rear seat is set up to only accommodate two passengers instead of the normal three. Other sporty touches include aluminum woven-composite trim (instead of wood) and cool blue ambient lighting.
In prior years, the IS F rode too stiffly even for this class of car, making it hard to justify for everyday driving. Suspension changes in 2011 were a welcome improvement, though, as the car became much more livable on city streets and freeways. More refinements for 2013 have focused on giving the car slightly better turn-in, and the steering feels more natural. But make no mistake, the 2013 Lexus IS F still has a firm ride, and notably the adaptive suspensions on the C63 and CTS-V give those cars a slight edge for dual-purpose use.
Without question, the 2013 Lexus IS F is exciting to drive. The powerful V8 roars when prodded and has no problem laying waste to the rear tires in a torrent of white smoke (with the traction control disabled, of course). Even when cruising, the baritone exhaust tempts you to feed in more and more throttle. The chassis is capable of complementing the abundant power, with precise steering and high levels of cornering grip. While the option of a manual transmission would be welcome, 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 for the right one.
Ultimately, the IS F provides traditional Lexus quality and luxury along with an extremely non-traditional Lexus version of ultimate high performance. And plenty of fun.