Last year’s reimagined front-engine rear-wheel-drive IS struck the perfect balance of sportiness and sophistication, making it the best IS to date. However, Chief Engineer Naoki Kobayashi and his team at Lexus International have been working on something truly special exclusively for the North American market. Enter the first-ever Lexus IS 500 F SPORT Performance, which dials up the sports sedan formula to eleven with the addition of a powerful 472-horsepower naturally aspirated V8 engine and ferocious quad exhaust system. It expands the IS family and ushers in a new era of F SPORT Performance models that will appeal to passionate driving enthusiasts that crave higher levels of performance over the standard F SPORT models.
A Rare Breed: Lexus F SPORT Performance Line
As the first model in the new Lexus F SPORT Performance line, the IS 500 engine provides a boost in displacement and performance over the IS 350’s 3.5-liter V6. With a push of the engine start button, its naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 engine roars to life, providing a not-so-subtle reminder that something special lies beneath its raised hood. The IS 500 has a maximum output of 472 hp at 7,100 rpm and 395 lb.-ft. of peak torque at 4,800 rpm. Despite the drastically more powerful engine, the vehicle tips the scales at 3,891 pounds, gaining only 143 pounds of additional curb weight over the standard IS 350 F SPORT. The IS 500 is capable of delivering a 0-to-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds and has a manufacturer-estimated 24 mpg highway rating. Other IS 500 performance enhancements include a throaty quad exhaust system with dual-stacked tailpipes that perfectly amplify the new V8 engine. This exhaust not only sounds ferocious but is inspired by F models, like the RC F.
IS 500 uses the same eight-speed Sport Direct Shift automatic transmission found in the IS 300 and IS 350 RWD models. It also features drive mode select Sport S and Sport S+, which provides advanced engine and transmission mapping to enhance performance. Sport S+ also adjusts the amount of EPS steering assist and damping force to deliver sportier handling to match the updated powertrain settings. Custom Mode is also available, offering multiple combinations for powertrain (Normal/Eco/Power), chassis (Normal/Sport), and air conditioner (Normal/Eco).
Starting with 2022 IS 500, Lexus F SPORT Performance models will come adorned with unique black badging on the sides to distinguish them from F models.
Building on Lexus Driving Signature
The new 2021 IS launched an era of vehicles developed at Toyota Technical Center Shimoyama with a uniform Lexus Driving Signature. Since Lexus launched, the tactile feel, behavior, and execution for each model have been driven by the vision and efforts of the Chief Engineer. Moving forward, the efforts of the CE will be focused on elevating the vehicles to a new standard of performance and handling as developed by Lexus International President and Chief Branding Officer Koji Sato and Master Driver and Brand Holder Akio Toyoda. The ultimate goal is to deliver a new generation of Lexus vehicles that is more balanced, refined in control, and confident than ever before. Linear steering, brake responses, and optimized handling with exceptional ride quality are the result of heightened focus on tuning of the chassis and its interactions with the control surface through diligent evaluation at a test facility unlike any other.
The all-new IS 500 builds on the improvements made to 2021 IS with a focus on delivering confidence and a linear connection between driver and vehicle. The IS 500 will come standard with the IS RWD F SPORT’s Dynamic Handling Package (DHP), which includes Adaptive Variable Suspension (AVS) and a Torsen® limited-slip differential (LSD) that improves handling and performance thanks to enhanced traction when cornering or exiting turns. The LSD helps maintain straight-line stability as well. Engineers have also improved the IS chassis performance with the addition of a Yamaha® rear performance damper. This damper reduces dynamic structural distortion, delivering increased comfort at low speeds, and additional stability and agility at high speeds. Brake cooling enhancements have also been made over the standard IS 350 F SPORT with additional aerodynamic cooling and larger 14.0-inch two-piece aluminum front rotors and 12.7-inch rear rotors.
The Devil’s in the Details
The IS 500 features subtle exterior enhancements to help set it apart from the standard IS 350 F SPORT. The hood has been raised nearly 2 inches and receives sculpted center character lines, while the front bumper and fenders have been lengthened to help accommodate the vehicle’s naturally aspirated V8 muscle. IS 500 will come standard with exclusive 19-inch split-10-spoke Enkei alloy wheels. Not only are they beautiful and intricate, but the wheels are also approximately 1-pound lighter per wheel in front and 2 pounds lighter per wheel in the rear, compared to the standard 19-inch F SPORT wheel. Other exterior updates include a revised lower rear diffuser accent that accentuates the quad exhaust system, as well as dark chrome window trim. Tying these visual and performance cues together is the black IS F SPORT rear lip spoiler.
Inside, drivers are greeted with black F SPORT Performance badging on the heated leather-wrapped steering wheel and door sill scuff plates. It also comes standard with the IS F SPORT accelerator pedal, brake pedal, and footrest, but the combination instrumentation meter receives an updated startup animation that is exclusive to IS 500.
Enhanced Lexus Safety System+
The IS 500 inherits the updated Lexus Safety System+ 2.5 recently launched on 2021 IS. A number of key features that are part of the Lexus Safety System+ have been enhanced, along with the addition of a few new features.
For starters, the Pre-Collision System (PCS), which includes Frontal Collision Warning (FCW), Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), Pedestrian Detection, and Bicyclist Detection, features an enhancement to the lens camera and millimeter-wave radar elements to expand the response range. By enhancing the radar and camera capabilities it is now possible for the system to help detect not only the vehicle ahead but also a preceding bicyclist in the daytime and even a preceding pedestrian in daytime and low-light conditions. At intersections, the system has the capability under certain conditions to recognize an oncoming vehicle or pedestrian when performing a left-hand turn and is designed to activate typical PCS functions if needed. Additional PCS functions include Emergency Steering Assist (ESA), which is designed to assist steering within the vehicle’s lane as cued by the driver.
All-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC) can be activated above 30 mph and is designed to perform vehicle-to-vehicle distance controls down to 0 mph and can resume from a stop. DRCC also includes a new feature that allows for smooth overtaking of slower vehicles. If traveling behind a vehicle going slower than the preset speed, once the driver engages the turn signal, the system will provide an initial increase in acceleration in preparation for changing lanes and; after the driver changes lanes, the vehicle will continue acceleration until it reaches the original preset driving speed.
Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist (LDA w/ SA) is designed to help notify the driver if it senses an inadvertent lane departure at speeds above 32 miles per hour via steering wheel vibrations or audible alert. It can also take slight corrective measures to help keep the driver within the visibly marked lane. When DRCC is set and engaged, Lane Tracing Assist (LTA) is designed to provide a slight steering force to help steer to the center of the lane to assist the driver with staying in the lane using visible lane markers or a preceding vehicle. LTA alerts the driver with a visual warning and either an audible alert or steering wheel vibration. In the new IS, the lane recognition performance, which makes LTA possible, has been improved with enhanced recognition of line and road edge, lateral G performance, and enhanced control and stability after a lane change.
Additional Lexus Safety System+ 2.5 features include Intelligent High Beams, which detects preceding or oncoming vehicles and automatically switches between high beam and low beam headlights. Road Sign Assist (RSA) is designed to acquire certain road sign information using a camera and navigation maps when data is available and displays them on the multi-information display (MID).