2008 Lexus IS-F: Having Some Fun With It

Categories Lexus, My Own Car Story, Test Drives, Torque Affair

It was January 31st, 2016.  The weather was unusually great for this time of year.  It was 60 degrees in the morning warming up to a nice and balmy 84 degrees later in the day.  While my fellow citizens in the northern parts of the US were shivering under their electric blankets, wondering if they would ever get to drive their stored high performance cars again, us Austinites were sipping beers and walking around in shorts.  I wasn’t sipping a beer.  I was doing something even better.  I was driving around town in my newly purchased used IS-F.

I can’t say that I had my mind set on buying an IS-F, but when I came across it on Craigslist, a test drive made me fall in love with its brutal acceleration and sound.  The seller informed me that the car, with its modifications, was generating close to 400 hp at the wheels and it certainly felt like it.  But who really knew how much power it had.  I would have to take it to a dyno to truly find out, but for now I was more curious about doing a simple 0-60 mph test.  If there really was 400 hp at the wheels, 60 mph should come very quickly…perhaps in the low 4-second range after taking off from a standstill.

My modified IS-F rumbles thunderously with louder, freer-flowing exhaust and an aftermarket intake.  Before I did any 0-60 mph tests, I wanted to enjoy the sound of the booming exhaust.  I did so in a nearly vacant office parking garage I happened to stumble across.

IS-F in a garage

The garage was empty except for a sole employee who had shown up on a beautiful Sunday morning to work.  He was probably there because his boss needed something on Monday and I caught him him suspiciously staring at me through the dark tinted office windows.  He must have been thinking, “Man I wish I could be doing that instead.”  Actually, his thoughts were probably more like, “What is this guy doing?  I don’t like it…I’m going to call the cops.”

Fortunately, before the cops arrived, I became bored with doing laps in the garage and left.  My departure meant that the lone Sunday office worker’s mind was now at ease – free to concentrate on his mind-numbingly boring powerpoint presentation that was due at 8 AM Monday morning.  The Sunday office worker’s boss would then take his presentation that he didn’t put an ounce of effort into and present it to his boss…wait a minute…how is that fair?

So, as I was pondering the unfairness of a soul-sucking corporate existence, I found myself back out on the road amongst many other cars, bikes, motorcycles, scooters and segways.  Everyone in Austin was out and about enjoying the gorgeous weather.

Then I came across some empty roads with the opportunity to floor the car and hit 60 mph as quickly as possible.  But, in doing so, I ran into the usual problem of not having enough traction in a powerful car.  Even with wide rear tires, it was tough to put down over 400 lb-ft of torque onto the pavement with minimal wheelspin.

Inspite of the problems with grip, I thorough enjoyed the spirited driving sessions augmented by the sounds of a delightful exhaust note.  At high rpms the 5.0L V8 screamed which made the IS-F almost sound like a GT-R.  I then realized that I was driving around in the deal of the century – a $28,000 GT-R!  Of course, we all know that the IS-F is no GT-R, but I liked pretending that it was.

Unlike a GT-R, however, I could stealthily enjoy driving aggressively because nobody ever looks at a 4-door Lexus and thinks that it has a V8 producing 450+ hp.  That’s right…I could avoid everyone’s attention because to the untrained eye, the IS-F might as well be a 200 hp IS250 that is being driven by a depressed Sunday office worker.

The immensely quick tenth-of-a-second shifts made me forget that I was driving an automatic.  Paddle-shifting through all the gears in the IS-F’s 8-speed transmission was addicting.  This was the most fun I’ve had in an automatic since the SLS AMG I drove a year and a half ago. I loved this Japanese muscle car way more than I thought I would – except for one thing.

The ride is so harsh.  The lowered IS-F has a ride that is only slightly better than sitting on a slab of concrete sliding down the road.  Your brain bounces around inside of your skull as soon as you hit anything other than smooth pavement.  If you’re not careful, you might even pull a muscle or two as you go over speed bumps.

But it’s easy to get over the unforgiving ride.  The acceleration, power and roar of the exhaust are enough for you to forget about everything else, including your loved one’s upcoming birthday.  Oh no – must order some same-day delivery flowers!

But I didn’t push it too much.  I stuck to the speed limits like the law-abiding citizen that I am and found the right kind of roads and highways with high enough limits that would allow me to hit 60 mph with ease.  For example, we have a tollroad in town with a limit of 85 mph which meant that I spent a good amount of time out there.

Fortunately, we still have free city roads that allow ample opportunity to drive fast.  Believe it or not, we have a road that has a limit of 65 mph.  That’s right – 65 miles per hour.  There is a grocery store located right off of this road which means that you could be out shopping for Cheerios and then as soon as you exit the store parking lot, you have to merge with traffic that’s moving at 65-70 mph.

65 mph speed limit

You’ll also find a Walgreens, an apartment complex and a Vietnamese restaurant named “Pho King” (pho is pronounced fa, you know, like in do re mi fa) that are located right off of this 65 mph road.  There is a 50% chance that after eating at Fa King, you would pull out onto this road in front of a speeding car, immediately get rear-ended, and all the pho residing in your belly would find a way to escape your body through pores that didn’t exist before.  In case you’re wondering what the hell “pho” is, it is delicious Vietnamese soup.  Try it sometime.

I tried a couple of 0-60 mph tests but most of them didn’t work out so well.  I mounted my phone near the speedometer to capture the speed so I could later use a stopwatch to see how long it took to hit 60 mph, but there were numerous times when the phone and the mount flew off as soon I hit the gas pedal.  I captured one of those moments in the video.

My ultra-sophisticated method of measuring 0-60 mph times was a pain to manage but yielded one pretty quick time of 4.1 seconds – that’s at least according to a highly precise stopwatch measurement by carefully staring at the speedometer needle in the video.  You be the judge!  I’m sure the 0-60 mph time would have been even quicker with better tires and the right launch.  So the IS-F may actually be generating 400+ rwhp.

IS-F speedometer

0-60 mph test aside, this Sunday jaunt ended up being an excuse to go have some fun with the car.  An 8 year old IS-F with 77k miles on it and still pulling strong.  I’m curious to find out how reliable the IS-F ends up being during my time of ownership and hopefully it is as bulletproof as regular Lexuses typically tend to be.

After driving for a while, traffic became too heavy and so I stopped trying to find empty roads and gave the Lexus a break.  It had been through enough and was probably wishing that it belonged to someone in New Jersey so that it could sit in a heated garage and hibernate for the next six months.

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2 thoughts on “2008 Lexus IS-F: Having Some Fun With It

  1. I was pleasantly surprised by paddle shifters as well. I think that with the right car you get a nice daily driver that you can use in heavy traffic and still wring some performance out of it on road trips or day drives. I used to think that any performance car I get must be stick, but now I’m thinking I may just leave my manual on the motorcycles (I’m better on those anyway) and sports car can be paddle shift …

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