A V8 is back under the hood of Lexus’ smallest sedan, one which introduces a new performance trim for the brand.
What one hand giveth, the other taketh away. Last year, Lexus killed off the GS mid-size sedan, including the sporty GS F and its raucous V8 engine. But the Japanese brand just couldn’t continue without an eight-cylinder, four-door model. Say hello, then, to the 2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance.
SEE ALSO: 2021 Lexus IS 350 Review: First Drive
As that long name suggests, this more powerful IS model is not a dedicated F model like the RC F, or in fact the original IS F, which kicked off the Lexus sub-brand in 2008. Instead, think of F Sport Performance as a halfway-house, between the mild F Sport and wild F models in the brand’s enthusiast hierarchy. In Lexus’ own words, the IS 500 “ushers in a new era of F Sport Performance models that will appeal to passionate driving enthusiasts that crave higher levels of performance over the standard F Sport models.”
Lexus’ 5.0-liter V8 sits under the IS 500’s newly vaulted hood—it’s nearly two inches taller to clear the big eight-pot. This sweet-singing engine has seen duty in the RC F and sublime LC. Here it cranks out a healthy 472 horsepower; torque is rated at a maximum of 395 lb-ft. Unlike lesser IS models, the IS 500 FSP is rear-drive only, though it does stick to the same Aisin-sourced, eight-speed automatic transmission for shifting duties. Hitting the benchmark 60 mph takes just 4.5 seconds. Lexus is estimating 24 mpg highway; that’s the same as the RC F, which posts 16 mpg in the city and 19 mpg combined.
The optional Dynamic Handling Package found on other IS F Sport models is standard here, which includes a variable suspension and mechanical Torsen limited-slip differential. A performance-tuned Yamaha rear damper joins the suspension lineup as well.
Rounding out the mechanical upgrades are larger brake discs, with two-piece, 14.0-inch items on the front axle, and 12.7-inch rotors out back. They sit behind unique 19-inch Enkei wheels. The rolling stock isn’t just pretty: it shaves around 6 lb in unsprung weight, helping the IS 500 tip the scales at 3,891 lb, or 143 lb more than the V6 car.
Those wheels aren’t the only clear clue you’re looking at the highest rung on the IS ladder. The 500 brings back the unique stacked quad-exhaust setup of the original IS F, for starters. The raised hood is a more subtle nod to the power within, while black badging marks out F Sport Performance models from either F Sport or F trims.
Inside little has changed, given that the IS just received a thorough refresh mere months ago. There’s an F Sport Performance badge on the leather-wrapped steering wheel, a unique start-up sequence in the digital instrument panel, and … that’s about it. Hey, we’re just happy Lexus finally brought back a touch screen.
The IS 500 FSP will carry the same standard Lexus Safety System+ 2.5 suite of driver assists. This includes an enhanced pre-collision system, dynamic cruise control with stop-and-go functionality, lane departure alert, lane keep assist, automatic headlights, and more. The IS 500 also comes with subscription versions of Lexus Enform Safety Connect (three years) and Lexus Enform Service Connect (10 years).
When we drove the IS 350 late last year, we enjoyed the sport sedan’s newfound dynamic poise, but felt it was crying out for more power. Lexus has answered the call, with the only naturally-aspirated V8 four-door package in town no less. How the softer F Sport Performance approach compares to the likes of the BMW M3, AMG C63, and even the new Cadillac V-Series Blackwing models, remains to be seen. We’ll know more about the IS 500 F Sport Performance, including pricing, options, and colors, ahead of its expected arrival in dealerships this autumn.
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