THE F WORD
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Sun, Jul 19, 2009
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
The stated HP and torque numbers are what one might even think about calling modest by today's inflated standards, but every one of them is present, on-duty, and full-sized. Stand on the gas in this four door stealth sedan and you will find yourself warping past the posted faster than you can think (or write) about it. This car, this V-6-engined machine, effortlessly did all the stuff that you might see it doing in the commercials. We've often and even (at times) loudly waved the flag for variable valve timing, every now and again going so far as calling it "one of the (engine) miracles of the age" ... that goes here. We also love very carefully controlled and contoured automatic gearboxes that hit like sticks and are tuned to the tempo (kick in and the RPMs go right to redline every upshift ... be subtle with the pedal and the transmission changes up at a much less frantic engine speed). But now comes one more performance factor that sets off the very latest, very best engines from the lesser designs: DIRECT FUEL INJECTION (ALL CAPS again). This is the most recent and for sure, hottest advanced performance/engine efficiency enhancement that will (like fuel injection itself) take a couple of years to be seen in wider use. Here, it is flat out perfect, delivering the exactly-right amount of fuel right into the center of the combustion chamber at the exactly-right millisecond.
Big brakes? Yeah, extra-thick pizza pie pans at each wheel with 20-count 'em-20 pistons handling the clamping force (that's 6-each caliper up front and 4 each at the back) these F-Sports are perfectly matched to the snap of this super-tweaked engine. In truth I never got anywhere near using 50 percent of the snubbing force available underfoot here, and I was still oft stupefied by how quickly speed could be shrugged off by these binders! If you watch road racing on television you'll never be able to really see how race cars can strip off speed (until something goes wrong) in huge chunks. If you ever get a fast ride around a race course with a real pro I'll guarantee right now that the braking part will be the most memorable part of the ride! This is part of the full package that Lexus has here laid on the IS350. If the BMWs have been bothering you, and a "Black" Mercedes just seems way too predictable ... Step right up and get your tailored trousers (or trouser suit) into the left seat of one of these sport Lexus vehicles.
You would call this car "balanced" because every component works in perfect harmony with all the others and no one attribute outshines the other. You would also have to understand that the balance point for this car is a very high one. Real race car levels that few are about to run at for any more than minutes, no seconds, at a time most of the time. Plunge into that 270 degree, downhill opening-radius on ramp on Irwindale at the 210 West and put the show into motion if only for a count of six or seven. Snap on the anchors (with a good look in the mirror first lest you inadvertently stuff some lesser-braked machine up your chuff) and get ready to get some (for me) uncomfortable but reassuring negative Gs run up your coccyx. We reluctantly (but somewhat relieved - - this SOB bid us to do stuff that we might think twice about with a lesser cloak) took this particular tester back to Toyota yesterday and it came without a price sticker so I just went to the Lexus website (www.lexus.com) and punched in this machine's name under "How Much?" What I got was seven pages of pricing (with the options not starting until mid-page 3) on this one. The Base number ($35,750) is just the beginning with a mix'n'match mélange of motoring gottahavems that include rain-sensing intermittent windshield wipers (we tried them, they work), and a voice-activated DVD nav system. The F-Sport package can add somewhere close to 5 grand to the base price of this one, with a set of trick 18' forged alloy wheels (replete with glue-stick good Michelin Pilot tires) going for $2,450 and those BIG brakes weighing in just over 5K for the set of four. The final ticket on our 350 was (by my shoes-off calculations) about $48,000 give or take.
An aside (there's a sidebar later) I've noticed through the years that many performance cars can "out run" their horns, that is not the case here, this Lex has a nice sharp loud horn, that should deliver proper notice under the proper circumstances. Worth it? If you are looking for this sort of all-around super performance and want, desire, require, demand, or just crave Lexus quality craftsmanship ... My yes! This is, however, LACar territory and you'll need to get this one out of LA proper every once in a while (or get up into the canyons at way too late for me) to get a really satisfactory ROI on the above bucks, but even on the prosaic commutes the few fleeting moments of real automotive ecstasy that this thing can attain my well be worth it to many. The F-sport engine package adds something like 15% to the 305 horsepower/277 pounds foot specifications of the 3,500cc V-6 but it just feels like so much better. The operative word with this machine is "Now!". Perfectly Lexus-built, this one is ready instantly react with blistering acceleration, flat-fast cornering, and stopping power, one at a time or all at once.
One more thing, if you think that your neighbor's fancy super-stiff front strut brace is cool, put this one up on a lift or drive over a big mirror and take a squint at the extra chassis amour that the F-Sport designation snaps on this one. No wonder the F-Sport tracks so good when provoked, it got a full cross-braced racing style sub-frame under its sub-frame. Last line: Lots of money, lots of car, no old school racing "heritage" to slop over on, but this one bears down as hard as any of them, and more aggressively than some. Luxury street racer. SIDEBAR First of all this was just supposed to be a crisp and concise follow-up (not 4 pages single-spaced) to the story that I wrote on the Lexus IS250 earlier this month. I was originally to drive only one car (this one) but when it wasn't ready. I now must assume the most likely scenario was that the Lexus PR people were busy free style wrestling with the journalist who had it previously and my week behind the wheel was subsequently messed up. As you may have read, Lexus set me up in a 250 and I loved that machine (and still do) but the 350 ... Oh my!
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2009 Lexus IS 350 with F-Sport Package Price of vehicle: $36,755 F-Sport accessories (individually priced): 19-in Forged Alloy Wheels Lowering Spring Set Bilstein® Shock Absorber Set Sway Bar Kit (AWD) Sway Bar Kit (RWD) Front-Brake Upgrade Rear-Brake Upgrade Performance Air Intake Performance Exhaust System Performance Clutch Set Quickshifter Kit Shift Knob Carbon Fiber Engine Cover Floor Mats EPA mileage specs: 18 mpg/city, 25 mpg/highway Engine type: 3.5 liter DOHC, all-aluminum V6 with low-restriction air intake Horsepower: 306 hp at 6,400 rpm Torque: 277 lb-ft at 4,800 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine/rear-wheel-drive Transmission type: Six-speed, electronically controlled, automatic Front suspension: Double wishbone, with high mount upper arms, coil springs, gas-filled shock absorbers and stabilizer bar Rear suspension: Multilink, with high mount upper arms, coil springs, gas-filled shock absorbers and stabilizer bar Wheels and tires: 19-inch front/rear aluminum alloy wheels, 19-inch ultra low-profile and ultra high performance tires Brakes: Front: 13.15-inch spiral-vented power-assisted disc with drilled rotors Rear: 12.2-inch spiral-vented power-assisted disc with drilled rotors Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) and Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) enhanced front and rear Overall length: 180.1 inches Overall width: 70.9 inches Overall height: 56.1 inches Wheelbase: 107.5 inches Curb weight: 3,527 pounds