In the pantheon of great V8 super saloons, many will see the Lexus IS F at best as a bit-part player. After all, what they’ve taken here is the second-generation IS, in other words the dullest version of one of the greyest cars the firm ever made – and that’s saying something – and enlivened it with a course of steroids. So, while it may well be beautifully made, and the dealers polite and welcoming, at heart the car lacks the style, flair and panache we’d expect from a first division four-door rocketship.
However – and it’s a big however – those steroids included a 423hp 5.0-litre V8 transplant that revs to 7,000rpm and transformed this dullard into a thing of refined brutishness. Its power, with no nasty turbo to spool up, is instant, thrilling and addictive. On most roads, certainly most real everyday roads, it enjoys complete dominion over other traffic. Performance is in the order of 0-62mph in just 4.8 seconds, and the top speed is a more than adequate 168mph. An eight-speed automatic gearbox of rare civility makes all that seem rather easy, too, and its accurate steering and excellent chassis balance mean corners can be attacked with gusto – sideways if needs be. Despite its relatively sober-sided appearance – bonnet bulge and cooling gills aside – this is actually a hugely enjoyable and highly exploitable car.
It isn’t a BMW M3 killer, not quite – it isn’t as sharp to drive and the ride is too fidgety – but it is a pretty good effort. It’s also excellent value, and of course it’ll never let you down. The one we’ve found in our classifieds has done a mere 58,000 miles, has a full service history, a long warranty and looks temptingly wicked in its black livery on matching 19-inch BBS wheels. It’s £22,995, which seems a fair price for something so quick and potentially so naughty, and dammit so full of V8 vigour. Inside you get a suitably sporty and adequately luxurious interior that, in the language of the trade, is fully loaded, and even includes Isofix fittings, so you can strap young Harry and Hermione in the back and let them enjoy some sideways action too.
And that’s a huge part of the appeal of a V8-engined saloon car like this one – it can do practical and it can do speed. It can potter to Waitrose one day and hammer around the Nurburgring the next, although if you do that don’t forget to make sure you’ve removed all your shopping first.
SPECIFICATION – LEXUS IS F
Engine: 4,969cc, V8
Transmission: 8-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 423@6,600rpm
Torque (lb ft): 373@5,200rpm
First registered: 2011
Recorded mileage: 58,000
Price new: £51,000
Yours for: £22,995