2008 Lexus IS-FEnlarge Photo
The first production vehicle in the ‘F’ line — expected at dealerships as soon as December of this year — is the IS-F. Described as not just an IS500 but an IS completely re-engineered with high-performance in mind, the IS-F is edgier than anything that Lexus would have released in its main model line.
There's a 400-hp, 5.0-liter V-8 underhood, mated to a specially calibrated eight-speed automatic transmission that allows full torque converter lockup in second through eighth gear. The transmission also has precise throttle blips when a downshift is commanded. Lexus anticipates a 0-60 time of less than 4.9 seconds.
To make the power more usable, and more fun, the IS-F employs a new three-mode version of the automaker’s VDIM stability control system—one that’s normal/safe, one that allows a little more sliding, and another that allows it to remain off.
The IS-F gets a host of improvements aimed at customers who really do intend to take their vehicle to the track. Sticky sport rubber is used, a scavenging oil pump makes sure that the special cylinder heads are protected during high-performance, high-G driving, and engine oil and transmission fluid coolers are included.
Big Brembo brakes (six-piston in front) are standard, matched with a high-friction surface, and custom-designed, 19-inch forged alloy wheels complete the package. Besides the ‘F’ badging, there are other hints to indicate the added power, including a dual exhaust with quad tailpipes, wider front fenders, a larger hood, and a larger grille and rear spoiler. Distinctive sport seats are exclusive to the IS-F.
And exactly how exclusive will the IS-F be? Quite so, if you can look beyond the similarities to the lesser IS. Deborah Meyer, Lexus VP of marketing, said that the ‘F’ line is specifically targeted for enthusiasts. “We won’t expect a lot of volume out of this,” she said.
2007 Lexus LF-A Concept Toyota
2007 Lexus LF-A ConceptEnlarge Photo
When Lexus originally unveiled the LF-A concept two years ago, there was much talk about creating a “brand within a brand” similar to the ‘F’ brand, except with hybrids. But a decision was apparently made soon after that not to go that route, probably because a green performance line might have a confused (or conflicted) image to overcome. Hybrids aren’t completely out of the high-performance scene for Lexus, though; the ‘F’ brand “eventually could evolve in the long-term future to have hybrids,” added Carter.