Lexus Brings Big V-8, Chassis Dyno, and More Mojo to SEMA

October 16, 2008
Everyone's getting in on the SEMA action, it would seem, and even Lexus, long the maker of unobtrusive and smooth luxury conveyances, is going to wear a muscle tee and flex a bicep or two this November in Vegas. It seems they have carmakers like BMW and Audi in their sights, and it sounds like they've pulled out a few stops to prove they care about aggressive styling and burning rubber, too.

Just like Toyota did for its Venza AS V also to be on display at SEMA, the firm is reaching out to Five Axis to present show-goers with a gussied-up Lexus GS 460, the vehicle that they say is headlining their stable of altered vehicles at this year's show.

The next SEMA-appropriate news is an enlarged IS F V-8 in Lexus' Project IS F, now up to a magic 5.75 liters (that's HEMI and Chevy 350 domain, and curiously, the same displacement as Toyota's top Tundra engine, though the company claim it is a bored-and-stroked version of the 5.0). This project engine delivers more horsepower (we'll take it) and more torque (more low end, please) than the production IS F delivers, but no word as to whether it is intended for production in these fuel-conscious times.

Next to its booth, from noon Tuesday until 3 p.m. Friday, Lexus folk will do some un-Lexus-like boasting and gratuitous burning of gasoline, strapping a production IS F to a chassis dyno and performing full-throttle runs through a simulated quarter-mile. "Power shifting the 8-speed Sport Direct Shift transmission is encouraged," they tease. Lexus is even using the Motor Trend Proving Ground, a small test track adjacent to the Lexus booth, in order to give attendees a chance behind the wheel of an IS F and and F-Sport-equipped IS 350.

Inside Lexus' SEMA booth, an IS 350 with a concept body kit, various F-Sport accessories, and the production '09 IS F with a few updates and styling changes will be featured. In a refreshing bit of "anti-bling" action, according to ICON 4x4 Design's Jonathan Ward, Lexus is also displaying LX 570 concept, which they claim "brings a stealthy and functional look to the LX."

Lexus began making inroads with the performance community with the introduction, last year, of its swoopy IS F with a stout 5.0-liter V-8 backed by an eight-speed automatic. "We followed up with the F-Sport line of performance accessories for the IS 250/350 and judging by the market's overall response, there was clearly some pent-up demand," said Lexus' national engagement marketing manager Brian Bolain. National engagement...was that one of the contentious issues in last night's presidential debates?

We say, bully for the sober and serious folks at Lexus for getting down and dirty at SEMA. The firm has tried for years to capture the magic of the BMW 3 Series, and maybe by stepping out of their lab coats and laying some rubber, they'll inch ever closer to the vaunted visceral driving magic from Germany.--Colin Mathews

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