2011 Lexus IS F First Impressions Review

Expert Reviews Lexus

By contributing editor David Colman


  • Stealth rocket
  • Vastly improved computer traction control
  • Revised suspension settings ideal for aggressive driving


  • Could do with a good tarting up in the looks department
  • Restricted legroom for back seat occupants
  • F resale has not been strong to this point

The “F” in the nomenclature of this Lexus stands for Fuji, Toyota’s home race track. More specifically, the shape of the letter F replicates the first turn at Fuji, because turns at speed are what the IS-F is all about. For 2011, this Lexus hot rod has undergone a truly remarkable transformation from tentative chrysalis stage to full adult incarnation.

2011 Lexus IS-F

The single most important factor in the improvement is the sea change revision to the computer program controlling handling and traction control. Since its inception in 2008, the F has verged on performance greatness, but fallen short of the mark, handcuffed by the overly conservative traction and handling limitations of its Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management (VDIM) system. Whenever you started to drive the F the way such a rocket is meant to be driven, the VDIM system would beep incessantly at your antics while cutting power and applying brakes. The original F was impossible to drive anywhere near its limits.

Cut to the 2011 model and the infuriating Nannyism of IS-F 1.0 is a thing of the past. Select “Sport” mode from the dash menu, and you can drive the Bridgestone tires off the new F without so much as a peep from the VDIM system. If you really want to get the car cooking at a track day event, you can hold the “Sport” button down for 3 full seconds to eliminate all traction control assistance.

2011 Lexus IS-F - electroluminescent gauges

Not only are the limits of adhesion now achievable, but those limits are much higher than before thanks to myriad changes in suspension configuration. The F handles far better than its immediate predecessor due to splendid forged 19 inch diameter BBS wheels that are wider than ever at 8 inches front and 9 inches rear. Shod with ultra sticky Bridgestone RE 050A rubber (225/40R19 front, 255/35R19 rear), the gun metal BBS alloys feel supremely planted no matter how tight the turn. A superb new Torsen rear limited slip differential keeps power flowing to both rear wheels with uncanny precision.

In addition, Lexus has completely revised the suspension settings of the F for 2011. Springs and sway bars are stiffer front and rear, damper settings are more sporting, subframe and engine mounts are stiffer than before, and the F now sits an inch lower than it once did. The ride feels authoritative without being harsh. Every untoward suspension movement is immediately snubbed by the stiffer underpinnings. Consequently, the F goes exactly where it’s pointed with no hesitation or uncertainty. This is now one of the finest handling four-door sedans available at any price. For $62,507 it seems like an unbelievable bargain compared to the much more expensive German offerings from BMW and Audi that will be hard pressed to keep this IS-F in sight for more than a minute on any curvy backroad.

2011 Lexus IS F - Bi-Xenon™ HID headlamps and LED daytime running lights Stacked Quad Tail Pipes BBS 19-inch forged aluminum wheels


  • ENGINE: 5.0 liter DOHC V-8
  • HORSEPOWER: 416 @ 6,600 rpm
  • TORQUE: 371 lb.-ft. @ 5,700 rpm
  • FUEL CONSUMPTION: 16 City MPG/ 23 Highway MPG
  • PRICE AS TESTED: $62,507


David Colman has been writing vehicle tests for 25 years. His work has been featured in AutoWeek, the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, and Marin Independent Journal. In 1987, he helped start Excellence, The Magazine About Porsche, which he edited for many years. He has been an active participant in racing and Solo events since 1961. More car reviews written by Colman can be found at autoeditor.com

Lexus IS F Photo Gallery

2011 Lexus IS-F

2011 Lexus IS F Specs

LexusOfficial website for Lexus cars, hybrids, and SUVs – www.lexus.com

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