Lexus does the impossible: Naturally aspirated V8 IS 500 revealed

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Words: Matthew Hansen
23 Feb 2021

We’ve been told that naturally aspirated V8s are dead, never to be seen again in the world’s motoring showrooms. By and large it’s true, although Lexus it seems hasn’t quite received the memo.

Overnight the firm revealed what could well be the IS 500 F Sport Performance — the heralding of a new brand-within-a-sub-brand for the Japanese car-maker and becoming quite possibly the the last naturally aspirated V8 sports sedan ever made.

The reveal comes after wild speculation about Lexus revealing three new V8-powered ‘F’ models by the end of the year. This IS 500 is not an ‘IS F’ successor. However, it may well represent the rumour mill’s scuttlebutt coming to fruition.

While the announcement is likely to generate a lot of enthusiast excitement,it’s worth remembering that none of the ingredients in play are new. Under the bonnet is a familiar V8 from past Lexus’ — the 351kW/535Nm unit having previously been seen in the likes of the RC F.

It comes paired to an 8-speed automatic, and can hit 100km/h in around 4.5 seconds, making it a smidge slower to the mark than its LC 500 cousin and a fair chunk slower to the ton than the base BMW M3 that its power output is so comparable to.

As previously reported, the IS’s platform is largely carried over barring a fairly comprehensive update. It’s the same here, too. The IS 500 does end up getting adaptive variable suspension and steering under the ‘Lexus Dynamic Handling Package’. Rear damping has been handled by Yamaha, and power reaches the rear wheels via a Torsen limited-slip differential.

Despite all of this, the 500 is not sold in its press material as a true performance sedan alternative to the AMG and M-car sports sedans of the world. Instead it’s intended to be a more middling luxury peddler that just happens to be powered by one of the most interesting engines still being produced.

Wrapping up all of this are a tasteful array of virtual changes, including new lightweight Enkei 19-inch wheels, a stacked quad-tipped exhaust system not dissimilar to what the IS F used to have, and plenty of F branding across the cabin.

There’s one big, frustrating, and sad caveat to all of this — the IS 500 F Sport Performance is currently a North American market exclusive. This means it’s sadly an unlikely starter for the New Zealand market. Still, our fingers, toes, and eyes are crossed.

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