Used Car Reviews

Used Vehicle Review: Lexus IS F, 2008-2013

Vehicle Type

A rocket sedan that’s a measure more reliable and trouble-free as it ages than some of its German competitors.

Performance Sedan


Lexus dropped an F-Bomb when their rorty-snorty IS F performance sedan hit the scene in 2008. Designed to bring the Japanese brand’s presence into a European-dominated market of rocket sedans, it competed with machines like the BMW M3, Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG, Cadillac CTS-V, Audi S4 and others.

Work with chassis tuning, performance, and advanced, track-validated technologies culminated in the award-winning 2008 Lexus IS F, which packed a V8 engine, exclusive support systems, a killer look, and a skillset that make it feel totally at home on a racetrack.

The IS F rides a significantly revised suspension system that builds on the architecture of the standard model IS with enhanced stiffness, road feel and anti-dive, anti-squat geometry. A revised power steering system is also fitted. Massive and durable cross-drilled brakes with cooling ducts and a full antilock system are also on board for drama-free stops in any situation. Motorsports validated and engineered for high resistance to heat, the IS F braking system is factory-ready for hard driving.

Feature content could include a massive Mark Levinson stereo system, climate-controlled seats, navigation, Bluetooth, push-button start, back-up radar, USB audio input, automatic climate control, xenon headlamps, and a power-adjustable steering column.

Note that a 2010 or newer model gets upgraded equipment in the cabin, as well as an improved rear differential. In 2011, the suspension was revised for improved ride quality, too.

Engines / Trim

Under the hood, a 5.0-litre, 32-valve V8 generates 416 horsepower and 371 lb-ft of torque, enabling 0–100 km/h sprints of less than five seconds. An advanced, electronically-controlled eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle-shift functionality drives the rear wheels. Driver-selected downshifts are enhanced with precise automated throttle blips that match engine rpm to the IS F’s speed in the blink of an eye. Don’t miss the intake sound enhancer, which opens a flap within the intake system to blast the meaty growl of the five-litre engine into the cabin at full throttle.

What Owners Like

Owners tend to appreciate the unique and exclusive styling, second-to-none sound effects, performance and equipment levels relative to the price, and the fast-shifting transmission. The Mark Levinson audio system is a universally loved feature in the owner’s community.

What Owners Dislike

Gripes include a cabin and seating that may prove overly snug for larger drivers, and a track-rat ride that often sees the IS F come across as more stiff and taut than comfortable.

Here’s a list of owner reviews.

The Test Drive

Though the IS F looks to be a fairly solid performer as it ages, shoppers are advised to keep a few things in mind during the used shopping process.

First, remember that this was once a $70,000-plus performance car, a fact that will be largely reflected in the repair and ongoing maintenance and running costs. Expect to pay top dollar for tires, brake components, premium fuel, tune-ups, and insurance. Be prepared with a contingency fund to maximize your enjoyment of IS F ownership, ensuring that you can afford to both purchase, and run, this machine.

Second, as it goes with virtually any used performance car, approach any used IS F assuming it requires new brake pads, brake rotors, tires, and a full fluid change and tune up, until you prove otherwise, with the help of a mechanic and a look at dealer service records that prove all of the IS F’s maintenance requirements are up to date. If service records aren’t available, and especially if you’re considering a higher-mileage unit, budget for a full tune-up and fluid change, including the transmission, differential and brake fluid, to be safe.

Do not stretch fluid change or maintenance intervals in a car like the IS F, and be sure to follow all factory-prescribed maintenance tasks religiously while you own the vehicle. Here’s some more information about maintenance items including valve lash adjustment and spark plug replacement, with a discussion about whether or not to DIY.

If you’re after a little confidence, here’s a thread where numerous IS F owners encourage a potential buyer to “go for it,” citing trouble-free reliability.

That said, the IS F is a machine, and like all machines, it’s made of part and components that can wear out and break, especially if not properly maintained.

On that note, be sure to have a mechanic check the IS F’s water pump for signs of a potential leak, especially if you’re considering an older unit. A leaky water pump may be evidenced by low coolant levels, or the presence of coolant, or dried-up coolant residue, around the pump assembly itself. Look carefully, using a flashlight, for signs of a pink liquid, or crusty pink buildup, on or near the water pump, and ask a mechanic for help if you’re unsure how. If any current or past leakage is detected, budget to have the IS F’s water pump replaced before you purchase. If you’re a DIY enthusiast, here’s a thread that may be helpful.

For maximum protection against potentially frustrating electronics issues, be sure to have the IS F’s battery and charging system inspected professionally before your purchase, confirming that the battery is healthy and charging properly. Some owners have reported less-than-stellar battery life, alongside numerous frustrating problems caused by poor battery condition, when various vehicle systems don’t get enough power.

Be sure to feel the IS F’s transmission throughout your test drive, and to be on the lookout for signs of slippage, hard shifting, or surging and flaring between gears. Be sure to shift gears, manually and automatically, at light, moderate and full throttle. Though issues reported are rare, it seems like some problems reported with gear-shifting may be caused by low transmission fluid levels.

Be sure to listen to the IS F’s ride on a variety of surfaces, noting that clunking, banging or popping sounds from beneath the vehicle typically indicate the need for some attention to the suspension system. Though the life expectancy of a vehicle’s suspension components is affected by numerous factors, this thread suggests that the IS F’s shocks may have a lifespan of about 100,000 kilometres or so.

Other checks should include all door locks and power window switches, a check for proper functionality of the audio system, confirming that the subwoofer isn’t blown, and a check of the lighting system, to make sure that the IS F’s potentially pricey to replace xenon headlights aren’t burned out. Finally, if you detect any difficulty shifting from Park to Drive to Reverse, or vice versa, note that a bad brake pedal switch may be to blame, and that it’s not a pricey or difficult repair.

The Verdict

The Lexus IS F owner’s community paints a picture of a rocket sedan that’s a measure more reliable and trouble-free as it ages than some of its German competitors. Most notably, the IS-F appears free of frustrating, niggling electronics issues, and problems with computer modules, wiring and the like. The most commonly reported problems are not serious, and should be easy to identify on a test drive or pre-purchase inspection.

A list of recalls.

Crash Test Ratings