$20,000 Bargains: The First Lexus F Model Is Now Remarkably Affordable


Yes, you can now find a Lexus IS-F for less than $20,000.

Last week, we featured the V8-powered Mercedes SLK 55 AMG, which can now be had for less than $20,000. This week we are featuring another V8 car, which helped Lexus kick off its performance F brand 10 years ago. We are of course referring to the IS F, which was Lexus' attempt to create an M3-rivaling sport sedan. In the past, we've discussed the IS-F as an excellent used car, that could be found for less than a fully-loaded Accord. Amazingly, a higher mileage IS F can now be had for less than $20,000, which is staggeringly good value.

Lexus discontinued the IS F back in 2013, so allow us to remind you what made this car so special. We'll start with the history of how this car came to be. Back in early 2004, Lexus had just stopped production on the IS 300, which would be replaced by the IS 250 and IS 350 in the US. Lexus knew that it wanted to build a performance version of this new model, and gave engineer, Yukihiko Yaguchi, a small team with a limited budget to work with. Some test cars were spotted using the 4.6-liter UR-FE engine from the LS 460, and were nicknamed the IS 460. The IS F debuted at the 2007 North American International Auto Show, along with the LF-A supercar.

While not as radical as the LF-A, the IS F was a complete departure from what people had come to expect from the Lexus brand. Yaguchi had previously worked on the development of the Toyota Supra, and decided to call his new car the IS F because the car's suspension tuning had taken place at the Fuji Speedway in Japan. The IS F had many changes that differentiated it from a standard IS. First, it had a bulged hood, which was necessary to fit the larger 5.0-liter V8 engine. The car also had sharper curves, bigger air vents, and a one-inch lower stance. Lexus also gave the car a faux quad exhaust setup, which has been used on all subsequent F models.


On the inside, the IS F had braided aluminum panels, steering wheel paddle shifters, and F emblems as well as different seats from the standard car. The biggest change was the high-revving V8 engine up front. This 5.0-liter unit developed 416 hp and 371 lb-ft of torque, which was comparable to the BMW M3 and Mercedes C63 at the time. The engine could rev up to 6,800 rpm and was mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. This set up isn't too different from the current RC F and GS F, which both use modified versions of the IS F drivetrain. The IS F could hit 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and reach a limited top speed of 170 mph, although it is rumored to hit 200 mph without the limiter.

Now we get into the whole reason for talking about the IS F, the amazing realization that these cars can now be found for less than $20,000. Unfortunately, there are a few caveats to that. Our online search only turned up 2008 and 2009 model year cars. In 2010, Lexus added a few upgrades to the car including a Torsen limited-slip differential, standard USB connectivity, Bluetooth streaming, better voice commands, and standard XM Satellite Radio. Enthusiasts may not care about some of the technology upgrades, but the limited-slip differential did make a noticeable difference on the IS F. These sub-$20,000 cars also have quite a bit of mileage on them.

We aren't talking unreasonable numbers, but most of the cars we found did have over 100,000 miles. Although we found one with less than 100,000 within budget, and a few that were just over the $20,000 mark. We aren't saying that a used performance car with high mileage is going to be cheap to maintain, but Lexus does have an impeccable history of building reliable cars. Most of the owners on Lexus forums have reported no problems, even on higher mileage cars. There are some expensive pieces to replace, such as the 14.2-inch cross-drilled rotors and pads and Bridgestone tires, but these are things that should be expected of a high performance car. The IS F is truly a used luxury bargain.


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