Turn up your audio... this thing sounds incredible.
While most mid-level performance sedans have downsized to turbocharged sixes or even four-cylinder engines, Lexus is bucking convention by squeezing a roaring V8 into its tiny IS. The 2022 Lexus IS 500 was announced earlier this year as the first entrant in a new lineup of "F Sport Performance" branded models. F Sport Performance cars will sit above the styling-only F Sport trims but below the fully-fledged F models. Adding this mid-level performance moniker frees up Lexus to fully unleash the F brand, likely with more power than we've ever seen before.
At a Toyota/Lexus event in Texas, CarBuzz was allowed to ride shotgun in the new IS 500 F Sport Performance. Sadly, we didn't have a chance to drive the car, but we did have professional racecar driver Townsend Bell to show us what it could do on Eagles Canyon Raceway.
Let's get some housekeeping out of the way. The car we rode along in (pictured above) isn't true to what customers will take home. As you can see, this particular IS 500 features an eye-catching livery meant to look like a Lexus racecar. Other modifications include Rotiform wheels to match the wrap, different tires, an aftermarket exhaust, and the carbon fiber wing from the RC F Fuji Speedway Edition. So although this car is slightly different from the production model, it's not too far off from what the customer experience will be like.
Our time in the passenger seat revealed some pleasant attributes of the IS 500, most notably, its exhaust note. The aftermarket setup certainly played a factor here, but the IS 500 is quite easily the best sounding car in its class. That V8 wail trumps anything offered by Acura, Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Genesis, Infiniti, or Mercedes-Benz. Keep in mind, the IS 500 competes with mid-performance options like the TLX Type S, S4, M340i, CT5-V, G70 3.3T, Q50 Red Sport, and C43, not upper-level models like the M3, CT5-V Blackwing, or C63.
Since the IS 500 is not a fully-fledged F model, it's clear that Lexus tuned it to be comfortable on the street, not a hardcore track weapon. There's plenty of lean in the suspension, though a professional like Townsend Bell was easily able to take it to the limit of grip without pushing too far. We detected some understeer through the corners, but Bell told us it's easy to make the car rotate using the throttle or a well-timed downshift.
Because the V8 is naturally aspirated, drivers need to wring it out more than they might in a turbocharged car. The peak 472 horsepower figure isn't reached until 7,100 rpm, while the peak 395 lb-ft of torque doesn't come until 4,800 rpm. It seems like Lexus programmed the eight-speed automatic transmission with some long legs so that you can enjoy every last rev from that glorious eight-cylinder powerplant.
Though we didn't get a chance to drive the IS 500, we did receive a bit of commentary from our racecar-driving chauffer. "This is going to be such a great daily driver," Bell said. "It feels refined like the IS 350 F Sport I have at home. But it has a completely different character compared to the old IS F." CarBuzz should have a chance to get behind the wheel of the IS 500 later this year, but this little taste has us excited for the last V8 sports sedan in its class.