Lexus IS500 F Sport revealed – naturally aspirated V8 sports saloon is back

It’s a recipe that AMG, BMW and Audi say no longer appeals, but Lexus has gone its own way, with an almighty catch

This is the Lexus IS500 F Sport, a high performance derivative of the Lexus IS compact executive saloon that packs a frustrating combination of elements including a compact rear-wheel drive chassis and a naturally aspirated V8 engine. We say frustrating because it’s a combination we’re unlikely to see in the UK. Lexus has no plans to offer the IS here in any form.

Lexus UK made the decision upon the reveal of the new IS that it wasn’t going to bring the car to these shores, instead focusing on its SUV and hybrid model lines. This is an attitude that’s clearly not been adopted elsewhere, however, and the new IS500 F Sport proves that the brand isn’t done with high performance models just yet. 

The IS500 F Sport’s 2UR GSE 5-litre V8 also shows up in other high performance Lexus models like the RC F, and produces a peak of 472bhp at 7100rpm, and 395lb ft of torque at 4800rpm. Power is then sent via an eight-speed automatic gearbox to the rear wheels exclusively – there’s no selectable all-wheel drive here. 

While these figures aren’t far off those of cars that some might consider rivals such as the new BMW M3 Competition and Mercedes-AMG C63 S, the key differentiating factor that sets the Lexus apart is where the big numbers are produced in the rev-range. Performance against the clock has the car reaching 60mph in 4.5sec, over 0.7 down on a contemporary M3 Competition. 

That IS500 F Sport moniker does suggest that this high performance saloon will not be a direct competitor to the elite German competition, the car instead targeted lower down the performance car hierarchy. This is reflected visually in the bodywork that’s shared with lesser IS models available abroad, with only the quad exhaust pipes, unique wheels and bulging bonnet signalling the performance intent.

That does not mean it’s all engine and no tech though, as the F Sport still features a Torsen limited-slip differential, adaptive dampers, forged 19-inch wheels and an uprated brake package.

While it is a shame the UK will probably go without this desirable new model, it does reaffirm the Lexus brand’s commitment to high performance cars that are just as much about enjoyment as they are luxury and eco-friendliness. Tellingly, Lexus also suggests this will not be the only high performance F Sport model, which suggests that, just like Toyota before it, the brand could be ready to roll out a new performance product offensive. We'll have to wait and see how many actually reach UK roads. 

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