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2014 Lexus IS F: Hot blend of track performance and road refinement

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2014 Lexus IS F

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The Lexus IS F, in 2014, continues its tradition of delivering drivers a powerful and exciting track handling experience blended nicely with a refined Lexus quality road performance that is – at least the equal – if not better than competing performance sedans in the segment.

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The 2014 Lexus IS F High Performance 4-door Sport Sedan arrives with only a few changes from earlier model years, adding a Carbon Fiber Rear Spoiler, embossing the “F” logo on all four of the headrests, switching the foglamps to LED and changing a couple of the interior seat trim combinations.

We have driven both the Lexus IS 250 F Sport Performance and IS 350 F Sport Performance models during the last year in both road track and city/highway environments. Based on those drives, it was already our view that Lexus has this blend of track capability with a refined road driving experience right.

A recent opportunity to drive the 2014 IS F High Performance Sedan for a week in and around Austin, TX absolutely confirmed our earlier assessments.

Our test IS F came to us clad in – what we will call – a bold, yet refined, Nebula Gray Pearl with Alpine Leather seating featuring Anodized Composite accents.

The base MSRP for our test IS F that included all of the F Performance features and functionality was $63,350.

Included standard on this IS F were distinctive F Sport performance styling cues that included two-inch wider fenders to accommodate the lower profile tires, a taller hood to fit the high performance V8, enlarged brake cooling vents, front fender vents, larger rocker panels and the carbon fiber rear spoiler.

Other exterior features include Bi-xenon HID auto-leveling headlamps and the LED fog lamps framing a larger V-shaped grille with trapezoidal-shaped bumper and a distinctive mesh grille lower air intake.me

On the inside, the IS F included a blue leather and silver-trimmed insert with “F” logo on the steering wheel to accent the two-tone Alpine interior and hand-finished aluminized composite trims.

Of particular note are the specially shaped 10-way power heated sport seats that are nicely bolstered to help position the driver and passenger comfortably and securely.

The standard Lexus Premium Audio System features a six-disc, in-dash CD changer, 13 speakers, USB/iPod connectivity, streaming audio via Bluetooth and an integrated SirusXM Satellite Radio receiver plus the available Lexus Enform 2.0 with App Suite on navigation equipped vehicles.

In the IS F, the instrumentation features a gauge cluster with a large central tachometer as the central focus in front of the driver. Additionally the IS F includes unique blue LED illuminated needles on the speedometer and tachometer. When the IS F is in Sport mode, the instrument lighting turns to red – letting you know you are in “Sport”.

The primary option on our test IS F was the Mark Levinson Premium Surround Sound System with Navigation ($3,410) that included the Levinson signature 300 watt amplifier and tuner with 14-speakers and the Lexus HDD Navigation System with backup camera.

The Mark Levinson Audio Package with Navigation also adds the Enform 2.0 service , with Destination Assist, eDestination, and App Suite and its available plethora of download options.

The Intuitive Park Assist (IPA) with Front and Rear Sensors was another $500.

Adding a trunk mat along with some minor accessories and freight, our 2014 Lexus IS F High Performance Sedan priced at $68,339.

IS F Power Train

With performance being the most important attribute of the IS F, its power train heart is the standard 5.0L aluminum 32-valve DOHC V8 with VVT-iE (intake) and VVT-I (exhaust) that is custom tuned for the IS F and delivers 416 horsepower at 6,600 rpm and 371 lb.-ft. of peak torque at 5,200 rpm to the 19-inch wheels through its eight-speed Sport Direct-Shift automatic transmission.

The driver can shift manually with steering wheel paddle shifters in either “D” or “M” modes for the feeling of being in control. In “M” mode, the transmission will hold each gear to the 6,800-rpm redline and execute ultra-quick shifts in one-tenth of a second that tweaks the throttle to match engine rpm with vehicle speed helping to maintain traction and control.

For improved road performance, the IS F is also equipped with a Drive Mode Selector system (Normal, Sport or Snow) for driving modes that alter the car’s dynamic control systems to sharpen performance – in the cast of Sport - or increase comfort and traction in response to the road environment with Normal or Snow.

Lexus says top speed is 170 mph with 0-60 in 4.6 seconds. Fuel economy ratings are 16/23 mpg City/ Highway with an expected average of 18 mpg.

Noting that actual fuel economy is dependent on road conditions and driver driving style – we were surprised that, with our propensity to drive with paddle shifters and stay in Sport mode, we still got 17.7 mpg around the hills of Central Texas.

And lastly, it requires that we mention that this IS F not only delivers solid power for performance, but also delivers a complimenting distinctive and not-so-subtle throaty rumble from its chrome-tipped stacked quad exhaust diffusers.

IS F Performance Handling

The 2014 IS F uses special double wishbone rear control arms, high-rate coil springs, monotube gas-filled dampers and large-diameter hollow stabilizer bars, among other learnings from their track experience, to insure the IS F performance handling matches the power train.

The Electric Power Steering (EPS) is speed sensing and is F Sport mode adjustable to match the vehicle configuration and power outputs with road conditions.

IS F uses a “staggered” wheels and tires configuration, following racecar convention, with wider, lower profile tires on the rear. (The front wheels are 19 x 8.5-inch, with 225/40R19 tires and 19 x 9.5-inch in the rear, with 255/35R19 tires.)

It adds stopping power with Brembo six-piston aluminum calipers gripping 14.2-inch ventilated and drilled rotors, while the 13.6-inch ventilated, drilled rear rotors use two-piston calipers and a Torsen rear differential provides additional traction in spirited driving.

The IS F uses an advanced chassis control system - Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system to support the car’s high dynamic capabilities. Using a combination of inputs from a variety of sensors, VDIM doesn’t merely react to hazardous handling situations but rather can anticipate the onset of a vehicle skid or slide.

In Sport mode, our favorite, the VDIM increases steering feel and allows higher dynamic thresholds before intervening with confidence.

If this sounds like we really liked this IS F – it should – we really did.

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