Lexus has plans to take its F performance label to even greater heights, according to officials. That’s one of the key reasons the IS 500 F Sport Performance wasn’t a full-blown IS F, Lexus executives said.
Speaking before a gathering of Lexus enthusiasts at the IS 500 Launch Edition’s, uh, launch at Sebring Raceway, group vice president and general manager of the Lexus division Andrew Gilleland reaffirmed that the IS 500 F Sport Performance is the first in a line of high-performance but sub-F cars (at 5:11 in the video below). “There will definitely be more vehicles. There’s a lot more coming where this came from,” Gilleland said, eliciting cheers from the gathered crowd of enthusiasts.
Gilleland then pointed at Lexus product planner Cooper Erickson and told the fans, many of whom had brought their own tuned F cars to the event, “If you want to see more of this,” gesturing to the IS 500, “Go bug the s–t out of him.”
Erickson himself then took to the stage and discussed how the IS 500 came to be and the future of the F designation (at 6:17 in the video). First, he acknowledged that sedan sales are challenging. He also described the 2021 IS’s chassis as a combination of the GS and RC platforms, which grew the track 1.4 inches wider. “If it’s part GS and part RC, then why can’t we drop a big-ass V8 in it?” Erickson wanted to know.
“Nobody’s doing that. But, we can,” Erickson continued, “Because we do an amazing job with our hybrid products. So from a CAFE, greenhouse gas and emissions standpoint, we can manage having a V8 in a car like this when nobody else can.”
However, it still required approval from the mothership in Toyota City. So during an event at Pebble Beach, Erickson told Lexus chief engineer Koji Sato that he wanted to bring back the IS F. “Let’s put the V8 in it, Let’s do an IS F,” he told Sato.
At first, Sato’s reply seemed like a no. “We have new plans for F,” he explained. “F will be higher. Only Akio [Toyoda] can approve F [cars].” The CEO is known for being one of the few carmaker heads that actually moonlights as a racing driver.
Erickson said that even if the IS F was off the table, he still wanted a V8-powered IS. “So what if we call it IS 500 F Sport? Who can approve that?”
Sato’s reply: “Cooper-san, I can approve that.” Apparently the rest is history.
Gilleland then took the mic to reaffirm and build upon Erickson’s statements. “This is the start,” he replied when asked if there’s more F cars coming, “We are performance oriented.”
“The brand’s changing,” Gilleland added. “[The IS 500] starts to inform what that brand change looks like.” He then stated that the change wouldn’t be limited to just cars, but SUVs as well.
Another interesting tidbit: The IS 500 switched to lug bolts instead of lug nuts, saving 1.5 pounds on each wheel. The BBS wheels are lighter than the standard IS’s by another 4 pounds per wheel, meaning engineers shaved 20 pounds of unsprung weight. While prevalent on other performance cars, the only other Lexus to use lug bolts has been the LFA. In total, the IS 500 has a better power-to-weight ratio than the original IS F (8.2 pounds per horsepower vs 9.1).
Lexus clearly wanted enthusiasts to know they are taking performance seriously. Back in February we reported that an IS F, LS F, and LC F were coming. The first part of that mostly came true. If we are to take these execs at their word, it looks like the rest could soon follow.