2013 Lexus ISF | Road Test

Posted on Jun 21, 2013 by

Quick Review

GoodGood Glorious sounding V8, Most fun Lexus ever
BadBad Dated Interior, Lack of space
SpecsSpecs 5.0L V8, 416hp @ 6600 rpm, 371 lb-ft @ 5200 rpm, 8 speed automatic
PricePrice AED 280,000
RatingEditors Rating Four Star

The Last Samurai


IMG 1608 614x409 2013 Lexus ISF | Road Test

Not your average IS. Those bulging wheel arches mean business

Maybe the engineers at got sick and tired of being called boring old farts and as revenge, plotted to give birth to its very own ugly duckling as proof that they know how to have fun too. So what did was take the standard IS, plonk an absolutely mental 416 horsepower V8 in the front. Then jab it with enough steroids in the body shop to make sure it got bulges in all the right places and by the time they got to the rear they ran out of ideas and decided to go with stacked quad exhausts. Maybe not the best idea, but boy does it sound glorious! We at Automiddleeast, couldn’t contain our excitement when we had this bad boy delivered in a shiny blue suit. Read on to find out how crazy of a beast this is.

IMG 1605 614x409 2013 Lexus ISF | Road Test

Those exhausts look daft but boy do they sound glorious when you put your foot down!

On quick glance you notice the styling changes to the 2013 Lexus ISF is very subtle. In typical Lexus style there is very little ‘F’ badging on both the exterior and interior. The nose is slightly more aggressive than the standard IS although the new model has not received the family spindle grill treatment yet. The wheel arches get beautifully sculpted heat extractors while the gun metal coloured rims cage the mighty brembos that do an excellent job at bringing this beast to a stop. There are 2 ‘F’ badges on either wheel arch indicating this is not your average IS. Moving to the rear, most of it looks standard. That is until you look down and notice the stacked quad exhaust. Although far from elegant, it seems like the design engineers probably did it on purpose to really go out of the way and break away from that boring Lexus image. Compared to a C63, the styling is mild but compared to any Lexus ever made (barring the LFA) this has got to be the craziest thing to ever come out of Nagoya.

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Let’s dance

Under the hood is a 5.0 Litre V8 pushing out 416 horses and 371 lb-ft of Torque. That is immense amount of power for a car that weighs 1715 kgs. This is mated to an 8 speed automatic transmission which you can either shift using the tiptronic gear or paddle shifters. Push the start button and all the 8 cylinders fire up with a tiny bit of drama and quickly settles down to a sweet burble on idle. Keep the revs below 3500 rpm and that is all you can hear out of the quad exhausts. A sweet burble that is almost drowned out by the excellent Mark Levinson music system. There is a little sport button on the steering wheel. Unlike other manufacturers however, this does not do anything to change the exhaust note. Bury your right foot into the firewall however, and things start to change. As soon as you cross the 3500 rpm mark, the exhaust note completely transforms and you unleash the monster that until now was on a tight leash. It screams so loud you could easily mistaken it for American Muscle. Refined American muscle though. The traction control quickly starts blinking and in just a few seconds the speed limit warning light is flashing in your face. The beast has been woken up from its slumber.

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5 Litres of naturally aspirated goodness

The balance between the power and handling is brilliant. The updated electronic power steering is weighted perfectly and has a very direct feel to it. It isn’t setup as a track weapon but is very accurate. Changes have been made to the suspension to make the ride less harsh compared to the outgoing model. This does not compromise the handling and in fact has an extremely comfortable ride unless you are on a slightly rough piece of tarmac. Good thing we are in the UAE then! The 2013 Lexus ISF is very tail happy and the traction control is like that teacher you had in school who allowed that little bit of mischief before she took you to task. The ISF loves going sideways and the traction control only really kicks in after you have had a bit of fun. It is like a safety net that will take care of you if things go horribly wrong, yet it does not interrupt you while you have a little bit of fun. Safely. The steering is precise. Not surgically precise like in an M3 but just about enough to let you take high speed turns with the widest possible smile on your face. There seemed to be a lack of power in the lower rpms but the 8 speed transmission meant you can always shift to that right gear so you hit the sweet spot. There is no fancy double clutch gearbox here, so don’t expect neck snapping upshifts. The instrument cluster has all its focus on the tachometer with a tiny speedometer on the side which almost appears as an afterthought. Rightly done. You wouldn’t be worried about how fast you are going while you concentrate on keeping your revs in the right place. It even comes with a shift indicator, perfect for when you decide to hit the autodrome for a track day.

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Race inspired instrument cluster means the tachometer is the only thing you really will be looking at.

Our test car was a really intense shade of shiny electric blue with Ivory leather seats. The 8-way power adjustable sports seats are possibly the most comfortable sports seats ever made. They hold you in place while you throw the car around the corners while the soft leather makes sure your comfort is not compromised one bit. The rest of the interior gets step child treatment. The dash is standard Lexus. Plain and boring. For some reason, the 2013 Lexus ISF does not get the upgraded interior with the haptic mouse controller available on the rest of the line up and the design with the big buttons on either side of the touchscreen feel a decade old in terms of design. There is a splatter of light coloured carbon fibre (faux?) around the gearbox and centre console which looks rather tacky. Plain brushed aluminium would have been a better option. The ISF comes with the same 14 speaker Mark Levinson system that we absolutely loved in the GS450h. In that rare moment when for some bizarre reason you do not want to hear the V8 going absolutely bonkers the sound system makes for an excellent replacement.

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One of the most comfortable bucket seats you will ever rest your bottom in. Subtle embroidered ‘F’ is classy too

All in all, the 2013 Lexus ISF makes for a fantastic car. We couldn’t quite put a finger on what they got right but there is massive fun to be had in this little japanese guy. It may not be the most practical car with space for 2 adults and 2 children (or 2 adults with no limbs) but practicality rarely features in the same equation as fun. 

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Not a lot of room in the back. But who cares?

There is something about the 2013 Lexus ISF. It isn’t a precise track machine like the BMW M3, neither is it as crazy as the C63. It is somewhere in between. Making it the most fun Lexus ever produced. If it were human, it would be an Investment banker. A smart looking extremely efficient work horse in a crisp blue suit. Once the serious business is dealt with, it knows how to let its hair down. It knows how to party. Step on it and it goes like stink with a befitting soundtrack. It has a typical Lexus feel to it when you want to travel in luxury while it knows how to be an absolute hooligan when you are in the mood for a bit of hooning. And the ease with which it switches between its split personalities is absolutely fantastic. The new iteration of the IS does not have an ISF yet (possibly due to poor sales) and Lexus have been extremely tight lipped about any possible future ISF’s. This 2013 Lexus ISF could possibly be one of the last ISF’s ever made. Do yourself a favour and rush out to Al Futtaim motors to put down your deposit. You won’t regret it.

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