LEXUS IS 500 F SPORT – SHOW GUN
LEXUS IS 500 F SPORT
From the manufacturer: For more than 20 years, the IS has provided a dynamic bond between driver and machine for guests across the world. With the launch of the all-new IS in 2021, Lexus expanded on that legacy by sharpening the driving performance fundamentals through the introduction of Lexus Driving Signature, a key pillar for the Lexus brand. Then, in 2022, the all-new IS 500 F SPORT Performance brought an undeniable presence to the lineup with its naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 generating 472 hp and 395 lb.-ft. of torque.
SANTA CLARITA, CA – Our first drive in the 2022 Lexus IS 500 F Sport, from Los Angeles International Airport to our townhouse in Santa Clarita, was 33 miles; it took us, as we left the airport at the onset of rush hour, almost two hours – at an average speed of roughly 20 miles per hour. My second drive was to the Pomona Fairplex, just off the 210, in order to attend the Grand National Roadster Show. The fairgrounds, whose buildings were chock full of both rods and customs, was a perfect destination for this particular Lexus, which sits chock full of V8 power, upgraded suspension and a multitude of visual mods or upgrades. Thankfully, all of that is wrapped in an almost innocuous package, not too different from the company’s IS 300; that spec targets professional singles, newly married couples or – if having kids – the children’s nanny.
While my time, in company with automotive journalist Preston Lerner, was necessarily short – Preston’s busy, while I pretend to be busy – the Grand National knocks you over with its acres of creativity. From the occasional rat rod or unrestored barn find to a custom-fabricated homage to the belly tank speedster, this is a show that not only speaks to our collective automotive passion, it shouts with a Surround Sound speaker system aimed at your ears and its wiring plugged directly into your butt. For a kid attempting to digest Rod & Custom magazines – and rod and custom magazines – in my pre-teen years, the GNRS was everything and anything I might have hoped.
Of course, in the mid-‘60s Lexus wasn’t on anyone’s radar; in fact, Toyota’s Corona, at that point, wasn’t on anyone’s radar. And while the IS sedans have done a credible job of serving as a 3 Series alternative for those looking for any (ANY) alternative to the ubiquitous BMW, the IS doesn’t really move any needle in the Lexus showroom. The company’s ES provides the bulk of sedan sales, and those sales are microscopic when compared to the SUVs and crossovers moving out the door. But don’t overlook the IS 4-doors, especially when labeled IS 500 F SPORT.
In combination with an aggressive refresh in 2021 (see the introductory note), Lexus introduced the IS 500 F SPORT Performance for 2022. Having seen the monies to be made when injecting somewhat prosaic sport sedans with real horsepower (as BMW has done with its M Division and Benz does with AMG), Lexus took a look at YouTube and concocted one of its own. From the outside you’ll be hard-pressed to see the difference, beyond a rather obvious bulge in the hood, a modified grille for better intake and – of course – a widened stance appropriate to the upgraded wheels and rubber. But beyond our test vehicle’s Grecian Water (blue) exterior, there’s little to draw the attention of either your peer group or the constable.
Behind the wheel, it’s as business-like as Obama’s second term – which is when the IS interior was presumably spec’d. Despite its debut in the 2022 model year, this remains a relatively analog treatment of the genre, with instrumentation presenting the necessary info clearly, and buttons performing as buttons will. I especially liked the seating, which is almost GT-like in its positioning, but not claustrophobic – as some Grand Touring cars can feel. There’s room in the rear for adults, but not for those making a run to their Big & Tall outlet; for them, there’s UberX.
With 472 horsepower and 395 lb-ft of torque under its expanded hood, things happen as quickly as you would want them to happen. According to the Lexus press release 60 miles per hour is reachable in 4.4 seconds, after which you’re on your way to a 149 mile per hour (electronically limited) top speed. Out of respect to the machinery we didn’t try either, but I can vouch for the IS 500’s efficiency; in a roundtrip between Santa Clarita and Palm Desert I had guessed, based on the estimated range posted after a fill-up, that we’d need gas (Premium, thank you!) before returning home. Instead, we had almost 90 miles left in the tank after those 300+ miles of driving. To be sure, this was at 75 and not 100+ miles per hour, but the IS 500 was almost frugal, while the range was helped by its 17-gallon tank.
On a wheelbase of 110 inches and an overall length of 185 inches, the IS 500 almost fits a compact descriptive. But with its meaty V8 it can pack a mighty punch, and when contrasted to any number of expensive EVs its price of admission – roughly $60K – seems almost a bargain. In fact, I could almost get my head around 84 monthlies.
I’ll have a talk with my wife…and you should have that talk with yours.