Full 2014 Lexus IS F Review
What's New for 2014
Though the regular Lexus IS has been fully redesigned, the 2014 Lexus IS F sedan continues on essentially unchanged. Minor revisions include new LED foglights, a carbon-fiber rear spoiler and upgraded leather upholstery.
Like any good "wolf in sheep's clothing" sport sedan, the 2014 Lexus IS F manages to keep a low profile. From a distance, only the car's 19-inch wheels, hunkered-down stance and muscularly flared fenders give the hint that this isn't your hair stylist's IS 250.
Yet, this is a Lexus with the potential to eat your average upscale sports car for lunch.
The heart of the beast is a 5.0-liter V8 engine that sends an impressive 416 horsepower to the car's rear wheels. No manual transmission is available, but the quick-shifting eight-speed automatic shifts very quickly, and it's good enough to earn a 0-60-mph time of just 4.7 seconds. While its straight-line performance is certainly exhilarating, the Lexus IS F also features suspension, brake and tire upgrades to make sure it's just as inspiring on a winding stretch of asphalt.
If you're shopping for an ultra-performance small luxury sedan like the IS F, it's worth noting that 2014 is an unusual year. The BMW M3 is on hiatus, and both the brawny 556-hp Cadillac CTS-V and the impressively crafted 451-hp Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG are likely in their last year before redesigns. The IS F is set for replacement next year, as well. Among this group, the CTS-V or C63 AMG might prove to be more appealing, but the 2014 Lexus IS F easily earns a place at the big kids' table.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Lexus IS F is a high-performance four-passenger luxury sport sedan based on the automaker's regular IS models. It's offered in a single well-appointed trim level.
Its list of standard features includes 19-inch alloy wheels, summer performance tires, a sport-tuned suspension, Brembo brakes, a limited-slip rear differential, bi-xenon headlights, LED foglights, rain-sensing wipers, heated auto-dimming mirrors, a sunroof, keyless entry and ignition and a carbon-fiber rear spoiler. Inside you'll find dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery (red interior includes black suedelike Alcantara inserts), heated 10-way power front sport seats with memory settings, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, trip computer, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a 13-speaker audio system with a six-disc CD changer, satellite radio, iPod integration and an auxiliary audio input jack.
A navigation system that includes a 7-inch display, a rearview camera, HD radio and Lexus Enform 2.0 smartphone app integration is offered as an option. Also available are a 14-speaker Mark Levinson surround-sound audio system (requires purchase of the navigation system), adaptive cruise control and front and rear parking sensors. Deleting the sunroof is a no-cost option as well.
Powertrains and Performance
The rear-wheel-drive 2014 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 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. Both the CTS-V and the C63 AMG are quicker still, however. The EPA rates fuel economy at 18 mpg combined (16 city/23 highway).
The 2014 Lexus IS F comes standard with antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags, front knee airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Also standard is Safety Connect, which provides automatic collision notification, stolen vehicle recovery and emergency assistance. Bundled with the optional adaptive cruise control is a frontal collision warning system that uses the car's radar to detect an impending collision and then automatically adjusts seatbelt tension and braking force.
In Edmunds braking tests, an IS F came to a stop from 60 mph in 112 feet, which is a typical distance for a high-performance sedan with summer tires.
Interior Design and Special Features
Even with its impressive performance potential, the 2014 Lexus IS F remains a relatively civilized sedan. The cabin is remarkably quiet in everyday driving, and the newly upgraded leather upholstery, distinctive aluminum trim and blue ambient lighting only add to the refined atmosphere.
Front sport seats strike an ideal balance of all-day comfort and good lateral support for aggressive driving. Unfortunately, limited headroom and legroom up front may make it difficult for taller drivers to get comfortable. The IS F's two-place rear seat is even tighter, making it best suited for kids or small adults. The trunk offers 13.3 cubic feet of space, an average number for this segment.
At rest, it would be easy to underestimate the performance potential of the 2014 Lexus IS F. Push the Start button, however, and the throaty rumble of the burly V8 is enough to make you question those initial assumptions. Slipping the eight-speed automatic transmission into gear and mashing down on the accelerator will easily send clouds of smoke billowing from the rear tires with the traction control switched off.
Although truly hard-core drivers might decry the IS F's lack of a manual transmission, the eight-speed automatic does a fine job, as it serves up quick upshifts and rev-matched downshifts (controlled by the steering-wheel-mounted paddles). The automatic's only real weakness is its occasional tendency to hunt for the right gear when in fully automatic mode.
If you can live with the firm ride quality, the Lexus IS F's suspension -- combined with its precise steering, beefy cross-drilled Brembo brakes and sticky summer tires -- delivers a level of handling that should satisfy all but the most rabid gearhead. That said, rival sedans with adaptive suspensions have a slight edge in overall comfort during casual driving.