We’ve been waiting for nearly a year and, finally, it’s time. Lexus has officially unveiled the hotly anticipated IS 500 F Sport Performance, complete with the automaker’s tried-and-true, 472-horsepower, naturally-aspirated V8.
This against-the-grain release takes everything that automakers have been pushing for the past year, namely electrification, and tosses it out the door. Instead of offering battery power, the IS 500 packs big performance from a traditional, large-displacement engine with eight cylinders of gas-gulping fury. Perhaps this is a case of an automaker using its dependable powertrain to pump a few extra ponies out of an adored platform, or maybe—just maybe—it’s a nod to the last line of large internal combustion engines offered in Lexus’ family of luxury performance sedans.
It seems odd in 2021 for an automaker to be releasing a new sedan with eight cylinders, especially as the market turns towards electrification. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to see electrically-assisted powertrains used as a replacement for displacement, similar to how turbochargers became the new hotness in the ’90s.
But let’s be honest—there’s just something about a proper V8 under the hood of a big sedan that screams Lexus, and when your right foot can tantalize all of your senses with a single press, you get a gentle reminder of what it means to have a bit of unbridled fun in a 3,800-pound car. And that’s exactly why it would make sense for Toyota’s luxury arm to give its well-loved family of IS cars one final hurrah before embracing a new battery-powered future.
More and more automakers are clearing the way for what feels like the final examples of performance-oriented sedans powered by an internal combustion engine. Even Cadillac chimed in, offering consumers its flagship CT5-V Blackwing with a row-your-own gearbox before things give way to the almighty EV.
The IS 500 launch feels like a page from the same playbook, utilizing the powerplant from the RC F and adding an extra set of doors—all because the world needs more performance sedans. However, there may be another secret hiding behind a curtain somewhere in Lexus’ research and development center.
See, Lexus coined the brand new IS 500 an “F Sport Performance” model, which is a sort of middle ground between the mostly-cosmetic F Sport and full-on F models. This could potentially signal that there is a more potent family member lurking in the shadows. Perhaps an even more powerful successor to the defunct IS F? Recall that Lexus is rumored to be developing a twin-turbocharged V8 with 661 hp that could be used in a series of high-performance F cars, though this powerplant has yet to rear its head.
We asked Lexus if it had plans for any additional V8-powered sedans in the future outside of the IS 500; however, the automaker declined to comment on its future products.
Whatever the future might bring, we’re certainly stoked that Lexus decided to grace us with another V8-powered sedan. It’s not often that we get to see a new performance sedan period, let alone one with a high displacement, naturally-aspirated, eight-cylinder motor. You know what they say, though: in for a penny, in for a pound. Let’s cross our fingers that this means a proper IS F is still on the table for dessert.
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