Faisal Sheikh

Admirer
Messages
584
Reactions
1,009
IS500 F-Sport observations from an RCF owner's perspective

Background:


I was in the dealership to get a full service done on my Lexus RX450h and was surprised at the lack of inventory. Very few cars outside in the lot and the dealership had only 3 cars in it. It was pretty much empty other than that. One of the three cars was this Lexus IS500 F-Sport (other than the Lexus ES300h as well as an NX).

I took the following pictures and had a short 20 minute drive while waiting for the shuttle service.

Observations:

I will give strictly objective observations. Being an owner of the RCF, that is important so that any subjective opinions would be interpreted as biased and I would much rather not want to let my own personal opinions overshadow what I saw objectively. Hopefully, it is useful if someone had the same questions I had.


Just sitting and checking out the car here are a few:

- Looks very nice. Much nicer in person than in pictures. Very modern design on the lights. Really love the lights. The grey color looked nice in the dealership and in the outdoors.
- Standing at a distance, it is hard to distinguish from an IS350 F-Sport especially from the front or front 3/4 angle as the hood bulge seems to be the only thing that told me it was an IS500 F-Sport.
- I did not see the silver transmission cooler that was infamously installed and subject of controversy in the pre-production prototypes (being very noticeable behind the grille).
- Despite having shorter front doors, I actually found it much easier to get in and out of the IS500 than in my RCF. For my RCF I have to turn my back towards the seat and fall back while in the IS500 I could easily enter sideways and exit as well, I looked at it closely and it is mostly because RCF has high leg bolsters and very thick/wide door sills (due to rigidity beams running underneath) so the front seats are farther away from the door.
- IS500 seats are nicely bolstered and the cockpit has a nice snug feel. The seats are pretty soft. Much more cushy than the F-seats. However, definitely the F-seats really seem to have a lot more bolstering and harder feel on the back and bottom.
- IS500 had a lot of red everywhere with the Nulux material (synthetic material). The piano black material looked a bit odd and shiny. It looked a bit plasticky,
- Gauge cluster is same as the IS/RC with the moving gauges. Looks a bit dated now. Different from the RCF's fixed gauge cluster with two screens. I really prefer the RCF/GSF cluster.
- Back seat has decent size. It seems about the same size as the RCF back seat if the front seats are in the same position. Obviously, the back doors give easy entry/exit.
- Here is the surprising part (and I know why). The IS500 is actually 2 inches longer than the RCF, but the IS500 felt smaller even while sitting still in the cabin. I really thought hard why I was feeling it. After a little while, I realized the very long hood of the RCF with a big power bulge at the top creates the illusion of "a lot of car" in front of you. The IS500 has a bigger cabin and shorter hood so looking ahead, only a rather short hood is visible.

Driving impressions:

- It is already known outside IS500 sounds pretty much the same as a stock RCF from the outside. I did not find anything different.
- Inside, the sound is actually very different from the RCF. Looks like the active sound control pumps in this high pitch noise at around 5500 - 7300 rpm to create a high pitch screechy noise that gets louder as the rpms climb. We don't have it the same way in the RCF. I was not a fan of it, to be honest. It just sounded too digital.
- Just like above, while sitting still the IS500 despite being 2 inches longer, felt a bit smaller than the RCF in the drive. It was mostly because of the bigger/wheel tire package on the RCF and the very long hood with a big bulging power dome that always is in plain sight while driving. It gives you a feel of size coupled with the heavy steering, wider tires/wheels while the IS500 feels smaller and more compact (when it is not).
- Steering feel in SPORT+ is tuned to be considerably lighter than that of the RCF in SPORT+ where RCF's steering gets heavier/stiffer in SPORT+ and then more heavier/direct as the speed goes up. The IS500 seems to remain on the light side even in SPORT+. I think the RCF steering column is more rigid/damper-less as well since it feels to translate more of the road imperfections than the IS500 steering does.
- Transmission software tuning felt definitely different than my RCF. Even with fully warmed up in SPORT+, the transmission does not shift as hard/whiplash as it does in my RCF. It is more relaxed and smooth even in SPORT+ focused more on being comfortable even full-throttle.
- Acceleration is hard to compare since my RCF has a few bolt-ons and my car has 11K miles while this IS500 F-Sport was barely broken in. I cannot objectively compare it as it won't be a fair comparison.
- Chassis/suspension has a dramatic difference compared to the RCF. IS500 Felt considerably softer and had very noticeable squat/dive/roll, which is not perceptible in my RCF. Even in SPORT+ with AVS at full stiff, IS500 was gliding over bumpy patches with much more ease than my RCF with non-AVS which bobbles my head quite significantly with short/rapid suspension strokes. It felt significantly softer/more compliant than my non-AVS RCF on PS4S tires.
- Handling wise, it is hard to compare on a 20 minute drive, but immediately jumps out that it is softer. Significant pitch/dive/roll than the stiff/flat feel in my RCF in the turns, Though, drove beautifully. The IS500 felt planted with good steering response/turn-in and good nose authority at slow to medium speeds. Also, I have a TVD so in slalom mode, the nose wants to turn-in aggressively even at the slightest of inputs so it is hard to compare against LSD car on the streets.
- Braking is definitely where I found the biggest difference with those monster Brembos on RCF with 6-pistons front and 4-pistons rear. The IS500 brakes more progressively and has a more squishy feel while in my RCF it has a hard initial bite and digging deeper, if I am not light on the pedal, it throws me forward hard.

Summary:

All in all, it is a great car especially at the price point. I agree with all that has been said and what has been known. A Lexus IS with a big motor from the RCF with its power/performance while being very comfortable for of a daily driving car that hauls 4 people in comfort. All of that package for $78K CAD MSRP as spec'ed (about $20K CAD less than a carbon/TVD RCF). I already own an RCF so for me it is a no-brainer as the RCF definitely feels more high-performance/sportier even at slow speeds, but for a new buyer I could totally see a compelling argument of value for IS500 considering you get all of that for $20K less.

Verdict:

I am sure someone might be wondering what I think about this question: what are the pluses of IS500 has over an RCF? I would simply say, price/value, 2 extra doors and the driving feel of a smaller car than it actually is (like I said, it is actually longer by 2 inches). On the track, it is different with wide run-offs, but on the streets with small roads and slow speed tight turns, having a long stretched/bulging hood making the front axle farther away combined with wide tires/wheels (as front seat is closer to the rear) makes me nervous about where those curb are? In the IS500, I did not feel it was an issue since I am seeing very little of the hood and the front wheels are closer from driver's vantage point makes it feel like the corners of the car are closer to you.

DSC_1052.JPG


DSC_1051.JPG


DSC_1050.JPG
 
Last edited:

Faisal Sheikh

Admirer
Messages
584
Reactions
1,009
The RCF is already said to be a better daily than M4, so I thin the IS 500 is even better for daily, where comfort turns out to be always more valuable to me.

Thanks. Yes, that is correct. An IS500 F-Sport owner told me my review was spot-on so I am glad I did not p*ss off any IS500 F-Sport owners LOL
 

Levi

Expert
Messages
1,834
Reactions
2,142
Thanks. Yes, that is correct. An IS500 F-Sport owner told me my review was spot-on so I am glad I did not p*ss off any IS500 F-Sport owners LOL
I am getting old. I start liking comfort alot more. One reason is that also the traffic, with a sporty drive, I tend to drive aggressively, which is fun but can also be irresponsible. A comfortable or simply bad car has also never prevented me from driving that way, even driving a panel van I can drive it in getaway style. And then there are the roads, where on each section you wish you had a different car. Adaptive suspension is their for that, but then I feel like put more energy and reflection in selecting the right mode than simply enjoying the drive. I like a well adjusted conventional suspension, no modes.

Then there are Toyota/Lexus hybrids, the easiest cars to drive slowly without getting frustrated. The German car tend to be too harsh, thus frustrating to drive slow but not as enjoyable to drive fast after all.

As drivers cars, I think GR86 and IS 500 are among the best of what is for sale.
 

Faisal Sheikh

Admirer
Messages
584
Reactions
1,009
Understood. My thoughts are, IS500 has a very good balance between sporty high-performance nature and comfort. It is strikes the right medium for 99% of the people.

I am getting old. I start liking comfort alot more. One reason is that also the traffic, with a sporty drive, I tend to drive aggressively, which is fun but can also be irresponsible. A comfortable or simply bad car has also never prevented me from driving that way, even driving a panel van I can drive it in getaway style. And then there are the roads, where on each section you wish you had a different car. Adaptive suspension is their for that, but then I feel like put more energy and reflection in selecting the right mode than simply enjoying the drive. I like a well adjusted conventional suspension, no modes.

Then there are Toyota/Lexus hybrids, the easiest cars to drive slowly without getting frustrated. The German car tend to be too harsh, thus frustrating to drive slow but not as enjoyable to drive fast after all.

As drivers cars, I think GR86 and IS 500 are among the best of what is for sale.
 

Faisal Sheikh

Admirer
Messages
584
Reactions
1,009
The guy keeps referring to the engine as "same as the one in the ISF". Maybe, he should research a bit. It is a completely different engine from the ground up. Only the bottom end block is shared. Everything else is different and also the parts are not swappable. The peak power arrives at a much higher rpm for a broad torque plateau, which is why the redline is 600 rpm higher.