Just picked up the astonishing Lexus IS F. With a grunt-filled 5.0 litre V8 crammed into the tight IS250 engine bay, and with 311kW and 505Nm under the toe, the first impression is one of a seriously quick car. The eight-speed auto (yup, eight) with 'sport' mode and paddle shifters also points to a high performance intent. Bury the shoe even briefly, and things happen at an incredible rush.
But the funny thing is, it's not the tear-away power that makes the greatest first impression: it's 'the car' itself - the way it looks and feels and sounds - that fills the senses.
In striking blue, on 19-inch rims, with massive bonnet bulge, pumped guards, and four wild pipes at the rear, the IS F looks simply sensational; far better 'in the metal' than it appears in photos. And the V8 growls like an ill-tempered bear at idle, rising to a sonorous bellow when stretched.
Even better, the interior is every bit 'premium Lexus'. In some Lexus models, the styling detail might not appeal to everyone but there is something about Lexus quality that is universally recognised; it oozes from everything you touch. The IS F is beautifully trimmed and the gloss patterned-metal highlights throughout, gleaming below a hard clear covering, are quite stunning. It is also loaded to the armpits with luxury features and techno-nutso functions.
Of course, at $129 big ones, you'd expect it to be pretty darn good. At that money, we will be looking to see whether or not Lexus has succeeded in putting together the total luxury-performance package - whether the drive matches the promise. And how close it is to its natural enemy, the M-badged Bavarian blasters.
So, look out for the full review coming late next week. We'll be putting it around the coast and into southern NSW. It promises to be a tasty week in the saddle.