When the Lexus F sub-brand was announced back in 2006, we were excited to see a dedicated performance-oriented offshoot from the Japanese brand. The legendary 2008 Lexus IS F was not your average Lexus; with a 416-hp naturally aspirated V-8 underhood, it aimed to compete with the BMW Ms, Mercedes AMGs and Audi RSs of the world. The IS also underwent extensive development at ionic racetracks like Germany’s Nürburgring and Japan’s Fuji Speedway. The F marque debuted with high expectations and big rivalries.
Then came the F Sport brand, a line of performance accessories that started at the 2007 SEMA Show in Las Vegas that morphed into a sportier-looking trim level available on most of the Lexus lineup, and just recently, the F Sport Performance moniker. So far, the F Sport Performance treatment only applies to the IS500, a new V-8-powered IS sedan that isn’t a full-blown F model, despite sharing its basic mechanicals with the old IS F. More confusingly, the F Sport treatment is unevenly applied to various Lexus models; on some, it brings handling enhancements—genuine upgrades to the car’s athleticism—and on others, it’s merely a style package.
Lexus is using the SEMA stage once again to expand on the F sub-brand while clarifying the various levels of F that will be available going forward. The new four-tier F system that applies to future Lexus models is as follows: F Sport Design, F Sport Handling, F Sport Performance and F. Those adjectives will surely help customers suss out how F’d their cars will be—i.e., whether they’ve signed up for some F Sport style, some extra performance, or a full helping of all things F like on the RC F coupe.
The F Sport Design motif will be the tamest, aimed at those who appreciate a sportier look. Enhancements will include unique front and rear bumpers, a fresh grille, and special wheels.
F Sport Handling builds on the Design kit, adding an adaptive suspension that has been developed for a sportier drive (the Lexus ES300h F Sport hybrid we recently tested would qualify for this status). F Sport Performance is a step above Handling, adding a higher-output powertrain, like in the IS500, and serving as a stepping stone to full-blown F models, which will remain the pinnacle of the sub-brand. F models such as the existing RC F coupe receive total performance makeovers with upgraded brakes, advanced aerodynamics, and lightweight materials in addition to saucier powertrains.
Lexus plans to announce more details on the F sub-brand soon, but we’re excited to see what’s in store. With more and more SUVs getting high-performance powertrains, it wouldn’t surprise us to see an NX F in the near future.
Hiraku & Townsend Bell Street Performance IS500
While the main Lexus news at SEMA was the F brand announcement, the luxury automaker nonetheless showed off a few cool builds. The white Hiraku & Townsend Bell Street Performance IS500 uses a 472-hp 5.0-liter V-8 breathing through an A’pexi N1 Evolution Extreme Quad Ti-Tip exhaust system that will wake up your neighbors.
Using Hiraku rocker panels, a roof spoiler, rear spoiler, front fenders, and a front lip spoiler, this IS500 will turn heads. If those weren’t enough aero elements, the Rotiform LAS-R wheels and their transparent aerodiscs will sure get the attention you want.
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