Power and control: Brought to you by the letter ‘F’

The motoring press knew something special was afoot within Lexus when spy photos were published of disguised, high-performance versions of the then-new second-generation IS model being tested on the Nurburgring in 2006. Their suspicions were partially confirmed when Lexus filed trademark applications for an ‘F’ emblem later that same year.

‘What could it mean?’ they probably asked themselves. Speculation that it stood for ‘Fast’ or ‘Flagship’ evaporated in October 2007 when Lexus hosted a press event at the Fuji Speedway and revealed the imminent launch of the new IS F luxury sports saloon at the North American International Auto Show in January.

There it was explained that ‘F’ was indeed an alpha designation for a new high-performance division for Lexus but its meaning was actually a subtle reference to the Fuji Speedway venue, chief test site for the manufacturer’s performance development team. Meanwhile, part of the actual shape of the logo was inspired by the acute curve of the first corner.

Unusually for Lexus, the powerful new IS F had been developed through the efforts of a small, skunk works team led by chief engineer and designer Yukihiko Yaguchi. His impressive CV included working on all four generations of Toyota Supra and developing the Toyota Chaser, a domestic market model with a balance of luxury and sportiness that is often regarded as the inspiration for the IS F.

Heart of the IS F beast was a 5.0-litre V8 (2UR-GSE) jointly developed with Yamaha, an engine also employed in the flagship Lexus LS 600h. It makes use of Toyota’s prized D-4S system, which combines direct in-cylinder injection and port injection methods to produce a maximum output of 417bhp and 505Nm of torque at 5200rpm. This rocketed the car to 62mph in 4.8 seconds and on to an electronically limited 168mph top speed.

The transmission was an eight-speed Sport Direct Shift automatic that uses lock-up technology from second gear onward for smooth and rapid shifts effected in 0.1 seconds, while downshifts use a blipping control to match the engine speed at high revs.

The bodyshell of the IS was engineered from the outset to handle more power. Nevertheless, the styling of the IS F was significantly different from that of the base car. To accommodate the V8 engine the front overhang was lengthened and the bonnet line was raised, while the front wings included vents to assist the cooling of the Brembo-made brakes. Interestingly, the forged 19″ BBS wheels were also designed to improve brake heat dissipation, being handed to ensure an equalised effect on both sides.

The only notable spec changes since the car’s launch included adding a five-pinion Torsen limited-slip differential and modifying the engine to meet Euro 5 emissions standards.

Lexus will continue to produce the IS F at its Tahara plant until the end of the 2013 model year. But since the introduction of the new third-generation IS, the question running through the minds of Lexus enthusiasts must be, ‘When will the next high-performance ‘F’ model appear?’

See the LFA and IS F go head-to-head in the video below
[youvid embded=’t’ vid=’8dH8-bNsoMk’]


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