I should have known this car was something special, even before I pressed the start button.
For starters, the red leather seats, red detailing on the bottom of the steering wheel, and red gearshift knob should have told me so.
LEXUS IS-F RED EDITION
POWER PLANT: 5.0-litre 32 valve DOHC V8 engine with intelligent variable valve timing, 311 kW at 6600 rpm, 505 Nm at 5200 rpm.
RUNNING GEAR: Rear- wheel drive. Eight- speed automatic transmission with sequential manual mode. Independent double wishbone front suspension, independent multi-link set-up at the rear.
HOW BIG: Length 4600 rpm, width 1815mm, height 1415mm, wheelbase 2730mm.
HOW MUCH: $151,900.
WHAT'S GOOD: Huge V8 performance, love that exhaust note, Red Edition extras make it special.
WHAT'S NOT: Umm . . . maybe too expensive for me to afford one?
OUR VERDICT: Can't say much better than "Listen to this!"
So, too, should have the metal plaque on the centre console, which said "ISF Red Edition 001". As should the ISF 001 registration plates on the outside of this low-slung and very grunty-looking Lexus IS-F sedan.
But I missed it all. Instead, I was simply looking forward to the opportunity to spend another few days behind the wheel of this very exciting car.
It's another performance model produced by Toyota's luxury car offshoot Lexus, which, in this case, has put the 5.0-litre V8 engine from its LS600L limo into its BMW 3-Series clone, the IS.
With the help of Yamaha, Lexus has also titivated the V8 so it offers an awesome 311kW of power and 505 Nm of torque.
And not only that, but the engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters that can upshift in just 0.1 of a second. The end result is a small sedan that can accelerate to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds, and has a governed maximum speed of 270km/h. If the engine wasn't governed, the car would be capable of moving past an eye-watering 300 kmh.
Pretty good recipe for some exhilarating motoring, huh? But it gets even better.
When you fire up the IS-F by pressing a start button on the dashboard, the engine explodes into a muted V8 rumble that is quite menacing, especially if the Lexus is parked in an enclosed space. A lot of that is to do with the fact that the exhaust system features four tail-pipes to pour out all that noise.
At the lower revolutions, the V8 rumble remains muted, which means you can cruise around town or out on the open road without turning too many heads.
But drop the transmission down a few gears and hit the accelerator, and things happen. The Lexus has a special air-intake control system that, once engine speed exceeds 3600 rpm, opens up a secondary intake port, which changes the length of the intake pipe and increases the intake air volume.
When that happens, the exhaust note transforms from a burble to an awesome roar that must reverberate around the countryside as the Lexus flashes past.
And I've got to admit that during my week with the Red Edition, I opened things up quite a few times. Usually with someone aboard, too - I'd find a suitable section of road, say "Listen to this!" and let the IS-F do its bit.
I've also got to admit that the usual reply from those on board was "Do it again!". It goes to show that for many motorists, nothing gets the emotions going better than an awesome V8 exhaust note.
The Lexus goes faster when it's sucking in all that extra air, too. In fact, the moment the exhaust note changes, the car literally slingshots away towards speeds potentially way over the limit.
Just as well then, that the IS-F has a track-tuned suspension and extremely powerful Brembo brakes that feature 360mm cross- drilled rotors and six-piston callipers up front and 345mm two- piston callipers at the rear.
There's also a specially tuned stability control system called Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management – VDIM – that features a Sports Mode to support high-performance driving. And for drivers who wish to push the IS-F to the limits on the track, VDIM can be switched off.
Only 10 of the $151,900 Red Edition models are available in New Zealand, and each has a personalised registration plate, the individually numbered 'Red Edition' plaque inside the vehicle plate, the red leather accents, and 19-inch 14-spoke BBS alloy wheels.
The cars also get various upgrades that are part of a 2012 facelift of the IS-F, including improvements to the suspension via the adoption of Sachs low- friction front shock absorbers that improve high-speed response to steering inputs. Rear spring rates have also been changed.
There have also been some minor changes to the exterior look of the Lexus, and our test vehicle was painted a new colour called Mercury Grey.
The bonnet, grille, front guards, front and rear bumpers, rocker panel moulding, rear spoiler and other elements all remain exclusive to the IS-F, while the quadruple tail pipes are integrated into the rear bumper.
Inside, a three-spoke leather steering wheel, embossed with the F logo is electronically adjustable with three memory settings that enables the driver to store their preferred position. Shift paddles allow the ultra fast gear changes without the driver taking his or her hands off the wheel.
For internal comfort, IS-F features an electronic climate- controlled air-conditioning system with separate driver and passenger temperature controls, automatic recirculation, and a clean-air filter with a pollen removal mode. There's also satellite navigation, and a 14-speaker Mark Levinson audio system.
Overall, it's the level of specification one should expect of a luxury sedan that retails for more than 150 grand. But despite that, I think this car is still a little special because of that big V8 shoehorned into its engine bay.
The F in its IS-F comes from the F in Fuji Speedway which lies in the foothills of Mt Fuji, and I reckon that connection is great because this IS-F is a seriously good performance car. The Red Edition stuff simply adds to all of that - quite an appropriate colour really, because it's not hard to let the red mist descend when you're behind the wheel!
- © Fairfax NZ News
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