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The Mercury Cars Guide : January 10th 2009
6— CARSguide Classifieds 62 300 400 • carsguide.com.au Saturday, January 10, 2009 Lexus in the fast lane firstname.lastname@example.org with KEITH DIDHAM After all, the critics said this Japanese upstart, even with Toyota’s financial might behind it, would have a tough time buying its way into the established luxury car mar- ket to takeonthe big guns, Mercedes- Benz and BMW. Nissan tried to do the same thing O with its Infiniti brand — and failed. But Lexus has been a textbook success story and today its range of cars more than matches its rivals. But something has been missing from its DNA. Lexus stands for superbly crafted, plush-riding luxur- ious cars, not one for producing something with hard-edged, high performance. Enter the IS-F, a car which is more of a blunt instrument than a scalpel, which Lexus is using to take on the Germans. Lexus has finally added aggression to its makeup. The IS-F is a potent $129,000 four-seat sedan morphed from the IS 250 platform and de- signed to take on BMW’s M3 and Mercedes-Benz 63 AMG. VER the years, Toyota’s luxury division Lexus has well and truly given the bird to its critics. It’s not the dearest model in the Lexus pack, but it certainly has the biggest balls. And the standard level of equipment for the asking price means the IS F also has value for money on its side. This hi-tech piece of Japanese wizardry packs a killer punch from its 5-litre V8, developed in conjunc- tion with Yamaha, and is matched to the world’s first 8-speed sequential auto transmission. Add huge Brembo brakes, a pur- poseful growl from the exhaust when pushed and a pumped-up styling package and you have a car which turn heads. What Lexus did was take the V8 out of its hybrid GS450 saloon and hand it over to Yamaha to work its magic on the cylinder head. The car was then honed on the famous Fuji F1 racetrack. The result is is motoring’s answer to Jekyll and Hyde—a tame saloon at city speeds which transforms into a brute once the revs rise beyond 4600 when the second intake ports open and the torque comes on like a wave you could surf. This is an admirable, very desir- able, first attempt by Lexus to drive POTENT: With the IS-F, Lexus has finally added aggression to its makeup. in the fast lane of the new car market. There is room for improve- ment but this is a world-class car. No question. The IS-F does take time to become at one with. At first it almost feels mediocre, even cumbersome at city speeds, not helped by its big 19-inch wheels and fat rubber. Then there’s the looks — the IS-F isn’t the most attractive car on the street thanks to its bloated body which seems to engulf the cabin. Inside, though, there’s sufficient room for four — no you can’t seat five — in well supportive bucket seats but rear seat passengers com- plained the high window line made them feel too enclosed for comfort. The super slick eight-speed box is a novelty but has good flexibility with the seventh and eight ratios designed for lazy highway cruising. In auto shift mode, there’s almost seamless upchanging but it is not as instantaneous as the dual clutch systems we are now seeing being rolled out in performance cars. You can also shift gears manually using the paddles either side of the steering wheel. There’s plenty of electronic toys to play with as well, like the switchable electronic stability control which allows you some rear-end movement if desired, radar cruise control, a stunningly good Mark Levinson 14-speaker sound system and a dash- board straight out of a Playstation game. ON THE ROAD Find an open road, stomp on the accelerator until the second intake valves open and the IS-F growls, and changes character. This is a hard- riding rear wheel drive saloon which is easily unsettled. The car thumps and bounces on anything but a dead smooth surface so it is far from comfortable. Poise just goes out the window. The car’s 1700kg weight comes into play and has a high degree of understeer when pushed hard into corners. What’s lacking here is balance which its rivals have in spades and the steering needs more road feel. The 5-litre V8, part hidden under a sea of plastic if you dare to peek under the bonnet, is good for a staggering 311kW at 6600 revs and there’s 505Nm of torque at 5200 rpm —but much of the usable torque isn’t available at lower engine speeds so getting the best of the IS-F can be frustrating. A five-litre V8 is hardly fuel effi- cient, but Lexus claims fuel consump- tion is just 11.4l/100km. We didn’t get a chance to test the claim. Would you buy the IS-F? Maybe. It’s tempting and well priced. The car feels heavy, the ride is way too hard and the eight-speed box, despite being slick, leaves you wondering why you need that many ratios. PLATE RUNOUT LEXUS 2008 ‘MOTIVATED TOSELL’ IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT. lexus.com.au PLUS Lexus dealers must sell all new 2008 plate models. Take advantage of this and other exceptional opportunities across all 2008 models as well as 0% p.a.*fi nance across the RX Range. Visit your Lexus dealer or lexus.com.au now for this strictly limited opportunity while stocks last. 0 ACROSS ALLRXMODELS. Including RX 400h, the world’s fi rst luxury hybrid SUV. ENDS NOVEMBER 30 Lexus of Hobart 267Argyle Street, Hobart Ph: 1800 631 298 After hour enquires please call Damian Mizzen on 0412 602 677 lexusofhobart.com.au *0% per annum is available to approved business applicants of Lexus Financial Services. Available on new 2008 RX 350, RX Sports Special Edition and RX 400h models. Minimum amount fi nanced $20,000. Conditions, fees and charges apply. Not available in conjunction with any other offer. Valid L1222. LEX06808/HM
January 31st 2009