Is it too good to be true?
The future of the naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 from Toyota and Lexus has been confirmed: it will be phased out and a new twin-turbo V6 will take its place. The announcement shouldn't have come as a big surprise, but it's still sad to hear nonetheless. However, before that V8 takes its final bow, Lexus might launch a certain model variant that will surely please brand enthusiasts and could even give the likes of BMW some trouble.
According to Japanese language Carsensor.net, a V8-powered Lexus IS 500 is reportedly in the works specifically for the North American market. A right-hand-drive JDM version is not planned. If true, think of the IS 500 as a last hurrah for not only the V8 but also the current generation Lexus IS sport sedan.
Revealed back in 2013, the third-generation IS last underwent an update for the 2016 model year and instead of being replaced outright, it'll receive yet another significant refresh for 2021. The plan would be to continue with the current IS for another three years until the fourth-gen model arrives. Interestingly, the report claims the new IS won't switch to the brand's rear-wheel-drive architecture or even the RWD platform that will underpin the next Mazda 6, which is being co-developed with Toyota.
Instead, the plan is to turn the Lexus IS into a Tesla Model 3 fighter. If so, it will be the first Lexus model to utilize the new e-TNGA electric vehicle architecture.
Going from a naturally aspirated V8 to an all-electric powertrain would be a major change, but there is some logic here. Lexus also just announced the discontinuation of the GS RWD sedan, which also means the GS F is finished. It's powered by that same V8 and the IS provides Lexus with the opportunity to keep that engine around a little while longer. A Lexus IS 500 could potentially produce a hearty 475 horsepower and 395 lb-ft of torque. Think of it as the Lexus IS F we've been hoping to see return for years.
For the time being, Lexus has not applied for the IS 500 trademark in the US, though that could change at any time. Allowing the IS to fill the void that'll soon be left by the GS F would enable Lexus to stay in the high-powered sports sedan game for the next few years. Again, this is merely a rumor for now but it doesn't sound so far-fetched.