Long Term Arrival: 2008 Lexus IS F

Surely make you lose your mind, no? Well, assuming that a year with Lexus's new bad-boy would give us the answer, we ordered one for our long-term fleet. Plus, as the first Lexus production car to wear the "F" badge-a designation that will adorn future high-performance Lexi aimed at Audi's S, BMW's M, and Mercedes-Benz's AMG models-the IS F, with its exclusive powertrain and chassis, seemed an ideal candidate for a year of flogging.

We say flogging because, with a 416-horse, 5.0-liter V-8, an eight-speed auto that can shift gears in as little as 0.1 second, and a sport-tuned suspension, the IS F won't be driven like any other Lexus. The F's 2UR-GSE engine, based on the LS 600h L's 2UR-FSE V-8, utilizes unique aluminum cylinder heads (from Yamaha) as well as titanium intake valves, a water-cooled oil cooler, and a head scavenge oil pump, all devised for better high-speed and high-load driving. And, as we discovered at the test track, where the IS F recorded 0 to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds, the quarter mile in 12.7 at 112.3 mph, and 0.90g lateral acceleration, those three high-tech features weren't installed just for show. Same goes for the Brembo brake system, whose drilled and vented rotors (14.2 inches front/13.6 inches rear) and monoblock calipers (six-piston front/two-piston rear) halted the 3806-pound F from 60 mph in just 112 feet.

2008 Lexus IS F

Compared with its competitors-namely, the $69,785 Audi RS 4, the $58,625 BMW M3 sedan with DCT, and the $57,275 Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG-the $56,765 IS F is competitively priced, especially considering it's the only one, save the costly Audi, to come standard with forged 19-inch wheels, a $1200 option on the M3 and unavailable on the C63. Our well-equipped example, loaded with such features as front knee airbags, bi-Xenon headlamps, fiberglass-and-aluminum composite interior trim, two-tone leather-wrapped sport seats, and 10-way power front seats, came with four options-headlamp washers ($100), a nav system/Mark Levinson audio package ($3990), a precollision system with dynamic radar cruise control ($2850), and a trunk mat ($73)-that pushed the tally to $63,778.

After just a few weeks behind the wheel, amassing over 2300 miles in the F, we've thus far managed to keep our minds intact, although, predictably, it's been near impossible to stay out of the fast lane.

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