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A special thanks to our very own ISFChamp for providing us this great review!

The face-off between ultra-capable small sports sedans from Mercedes-Benz and BMW is nothing new. As you likely know, the original M3 and the Cosworth-powered 190E 2.3-16V started one of the most heated rivalries in auto-racing history, each company countering the other with more power, more speed, and bigger, wilder spoilers. When the 190E became the C-class, AMG took over where the Cosworth car left off and both manufacturers stepped up to six-cylinder engines. For 2008, the fight gets a few more firsts. The BMW has its first V-8 and the Mercedes, well, it promises to be more than a straight-line muscle car for the first time since AMG started tweaking the C.

Neither of those things is as headline-worthy as this: Finally, Japan has an honest-to-goodness answer to Germany's legends. The IS-F has been a glint in Lexus' engineers' eyes ever since the company commissioned Rod Millen to squeeze an LS430's V-8 into the first-generation IS for the 2003 SEMA show. And now here it is, complete with a punchlist of Lexus-like one-upsmanship. With 416 hp, it tops the M3 by a deliberate two horses. With an eight-speed transmission, it out-gears the Mercedes by one. Then there are the massive stacked exhaust outlets, but they speak for themselves. (They ask, "Why?") Still, we're skeptical. Can Lexus really crank a jar of wasabi out of the vanilla factory?
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