- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2008

SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Lexus represents luxury and perfection in the vehicles they build. Now Lexus adds a new element to their product mix; high-performance. The 2008 Lexus IS F is the first production model to wear the brand”s new F marque. Based on the popular IS sport sedan platform, the 2008 IS F delivers 416 horsepower with zero-to 60 mph time at a quick 4.6 seconds.

The F designation originates from the Circle-F internal code for what became the Lexus Division nearly 20 years ago. Since then, the F code has signified special Lexus vehicle programs that fall outside the normal engineering and development process. In addition to the specially engineered 5.0-liter V8 engine, the 2008 IS F”s performance credentials include racetrack-developed suspension and braking and a specifically calibrated version of the advanced Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system.

With Lexus solidly established as a luxury leader, it was time to expand the brand”s scope by offering unique high-performance models, and the IS F is the first, said Dave Nordstrom, Lexus vice president of marketing. Lexus did not design the IS F as a direct competitor to any specific models, but as a true performance sedan in a distinctly Lexus way.

The new IS F even has the look of performance, with a trapezoid-shaped front bumper fascia that sets off the V-shaped grille. Both the upper and lower grilles use a special wire-mesh pattern, and total grille area is increased to ensure adequate cooling for the enhanced power plant. The lower grille is flanked by large brake cooling ducts adjacent to standard fog lamps. The hood has a raised center section to make room for the new powerful engine. The front fenders are widened to envelop the forged-alloy wheels produced by BBS that feature distinct dark-gray finish and an asymmetrical 10-spoke design. Nineteen inch low profile Michelin Pilot Sport or Bridgestone Potenza brand tires were specifically developed for the 170-mph top speed capabilities of the Lexus IS F.

The IS F”s wedge-like profile is accentuated by functional front fender air outlets with lower edges that transition into larger rocker panels and continue as a character line into the rear bumper. The front fenders wear a discrete silver, black and blue F marque. A third badge on the trunk lid alerts those following to look out ahead for a quick revelation.

The rear view continues the trapezoid theme, of the front styling, which becomes an easily recognizable design element for this new performance car. Four exhaust diffusers, two per side in a vertical arrangement, are integrated into the rear bumper. Above them, light-emitting diode (LED) stop and tail lamps behind clear lenses give the IS F a unique night time appearance. The unusual stacked quad diffusers make more than a visual statement. They play an important role in the high-performance exhaust system by reducing backpressure.

The IS F 5.0-liter V8 engine is mated to the world”s first eight-speed Sport Direct-Shift automatic transmission with a quick and direct special lock up clutch and a control system that enables ultra-quick manual upshifts (0.1 seconds) and blips the throttle for precision downshifts. The driver can shift manually using either the console shifter or steering wheel mounted paddle shifters when driving in either Drive mode (D) or Manual mode (M). The new transmission blends the performance characteristics of an automated manual-type transmission with the smoothness and refinement of a planetary-type automatic transmission, allowing the driver to choose between ultra-quick manual shifts for spirited performance driving and smooth automatic shifts when convenience and comfort are the top priorities.

The eight-speed transmission is approximately the same length and width as the six-speed transmission used in other rear-wheel drive Lexus models. Extensive use of aluminum contributes to weight reduction of the new unit. Using eight speeds allows gear ratios that maximize torque up to the tire-grip limitations in the lower ranges while optimizing efficiency.

In addition to the finely tuned suspension, a specially calibrated version of the advanced VDIM system is equipped to provide superior handling dynamics and traction control. The IS F is also outfitted with a heavy-duty Brembo brake system designed to the specifications of the Lexus engineering team. The 14.2-inch ventilated, drilled front rotors are gripped by rigid, powerful six-piston aluminum calipers, while the 13.6-inch ventilated, drilled rear rotors use two-piston calipers.

Special attention was given to engine development characteristics of the exclusive power plant for the 2008 Lexus IS F. Although based on the 4.6-liter V8 used in the Lexus LS and GS, this new engine”s specific output is 83.2 horsepower (hp) per liter or 416 hp with 371 foot pounds of torque. High-flow cylinder heads designed by Yamaha have a lightweight valve train, contributing to the IS F V8”s high-rpm capabilities.

The total experience found in the new IS F brings back memories of the kind of acceleration realized from the muscle cars of the golden age. Acceleration with the ability to go through the gears with amazing accuracy and speed is better than even the best used to be. So much with conventional wisdom that has long held that a good manual transmission is always faster and more fun than an automatic. Fast, direct, fully controllable and predictable is precisely the qualities that describe the Lexus IS F”s 8-Speed Sport Direct Shift transmission. With a starting price of $56,000., not including the delivery, processing and handling fee of $765., this muscle car delivers more than promised. With a curb weight of 3,780 pounds and weight distribution of 54% front and 46% rear this performer qualifies for ULEV II (ulta low emission vehicle) certification as well. This is the best example of a high-performance vehicle that offers everything and Lexus luxury too.

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