A few years ago, Lexus released the hot rod IS F sedan, instantly shattering all those perceptions of the company being one that makes only soft luxury vehicles. While the V8-powered IS F, and more recently the LFA have driven the brand into the realm of the serious performance car, Lexus has also been trying to inject some of that sporting character into the rest of its line up.
Enter the F Sport line.
Last week I had the chance to spend some time in a 2010 IS350 equipped with the full F Sport package. The recipe for the package is rather simple – take a nicely equipped IS350, and throw a bunch of TRD-supplied performance parts on it.
After driving the car a few miles, the first thing that jumped out at me was the tight feel of the chassis. The F-Sport package includes Bilstein shocks, firmer springs, beefier anti-roll bars, and under-chassis bracing, painted in the signature "F Blue". These parts no doubt will make car this quicker on the track, but more importantly to me – it makes the car that much more involving on the street. At the same time, most of that famed Lexus ride quality is maintained.
Upgraded brakes are also part of the F-sport package. Not just pads, but the whole thing – six piston calipers, giant rotors and and all. Besides providing some serious stopping power, they are also look pretty awesome tucked behind the wheels.
Inside is your typical array of luxury features and the near perfect fit and finish that Lexus is known for.
The back up camera also helped when navigating those shopping centers full of crazy SoCal drivers.
While the IS is a four-door sedan, don't expect tons of leg or head room in the backseat. Again, maybe I need to find some shorter friends…
The car lacks the V8 muscle of the IS F, but the 3.5 liter 2GR-FSE V6 makes more than enough power to work the chassis.
Rated at 306 horsepower in stock form, the F Sport intake adds a few more ponies and gives the engine a distinct growl at higher rpm.
Also included is an exhaust system with a nice mellow tone that's perfect for a daily driver.
The F-Sport package also includes a set of unique 19" wheels. 8" wide in the front, and 9" wide in the rear.
That's some pretty decent fitment for factory stuff, no?
I really like what Lexus has done to turn the IS into a driver's car.
It's got the look, the sound, the power, and the feel – but there's just one thing that hampers the experience in my eye.
That would be the six-speed auto transmission. It's not so much that autos are bad, it's just that the gearbox here doesn't seem to match the rest of the car. Even in manual mode with the paddle shifters, I didn't feel much connectivity. There was a sizable delay in how fast the tranny reacted.
A trick auto box like the ones available in other high end cars, or better yet an old fashioned manual gear box would be a welcome addition. You can get a manual in the IS250, and it's a shame you can't get one on the more powerful 350. Hopefully it's something we'll see on the next gen IS.
How fun would this car be with a slick-shifting six-speed?
All in all, I'm very impressed with how a group of well-selected bolt-on upgrades transform the car. While the F-Sport package comes at a cost, there's always be something to said for factory-backed pieces that won't void the warranty.
At this point, the only issue would be whether you want to spend a little more and jump into the IS F. Speaking of the IS F, I'll be having a go in that car within the next few weeks – something I'd rather giddy for.